Thursday, December 27, 2007

Winter Memories


We have been enjoying a new winter tradition this year: iceskating! The local rec centre has a "loonie" (one dollar, for the non-Canadian readers) parent-and-tot skate on Monday, Wednesday and Friday mornings from 9:45-10:45.

We go on Monday mornings and finish with a little treat from the vending machine and a race down the hallway to the parking lot. Alley wins everytime, since I have to carry skating gear while pushing Soul-baby in the stroller! We have loved this new winter part of our life.

The first day, I wasn't sure how it would work out with both kids. I was planning to watch from the sidelines as Alley braved the ice. But as I observed other families on the ice, I realized I could safely take Soul-baby along in the stroller, as long as he had a helmet.

I am proud of our Alley's courage to try something new. Even during her first morning on the ice, she pushed off from the wall without hesitation, and determinedly learned how to balance. She used the walker for our first few times and braved a few falls.

And a couple of weeks ago, she announced that she wanted to skate "on her own", without the walker. She is improving every week and enjoys the other kids who venture out on Mondays. I see her carefully watching other skaters more skilled than herself. She learns from them, often challenging herself to try new moves and spins.

She wants to start learning to play hockey! We cringe (slightly) at this new interest, especially since the gear is so incredibly expensive to buy!! But, we'll take it one day at a time, and I'll keep my eye open for the odd piece of equipment at the local MCC and Value Village. Afterall, that's where we found all our iceskating gear.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Advent and Regaining Balance



As the new year draws in, I feel coaxed to reflect, and renew. Our Advent this year has felt like a mixture of sand and water. Buckets of water flow through, from the endless supply of ocean waves, drenching our family with joy and goodness in this season. Some splashes also absorb into pockets of melancholy and damp darkness as the days grow shorter and shorter.

On the way to church Sunday, we marveled at the sun just peeking above the mountains at 10:15 am. Some mornings, the sky lightens at 11am. And nearing 3pm, it dips its head again for rest.

These dark days have a double affect on me. In one sense, they draw me to nestle and curl and sip tea in quietness (in between the general mayheim of a family day!)

In another sense, they terribly depress and de-energize me, contributing to the general stresses of the day, and making them feel insurmountable.

And so, the weeks of Advent have been a time of expectation, of waiting for that which is liftable, to be lifted. The services of Christmas bring me hope and lift my winter spirits. My soul looks forward to the bright tinkling of Christmas glasses and strings of warm white lights around a family feast table.

This month has held many things: Christmas tree cutting and decorating, outdoor-light-stringing, car trouble, snowstorms, Advent dinners with friends and family, the beginning of a home-based business (more on that later), iceskating at the rec centre, the transition back to maternity nursing (one shift/week), health challenges in our family, a complete diet change, and the realization that some things are more important than others.

I have felt some imbalance this month, as I stand (and teeter) beneath the larger-than-normal flow of ocean water. But this morning feels like a shift toward firmer footing. I am thankful for this moment to reconnect in this space, to sip jasmine green tea and to visit some of the deeper currents of our month.

I want to acknowledge two blogs that have brought me much comfort and inspiration over the month:
Please do visit them when you have a chance.
Just Delicate Needles
It's so delicate, the light.
And there's so little of it.
The dark is huge.
Just delicate needles,
the light, in an endless night.
And it has such a long way to go through such desolate space.
So let's be gentle with it. Cherish it.
So it will come again in the morning.
We hope.
--Rolf Jacobsen
Translated by Robert Hedin
(and borrowed from Soulemama)






Monday, November 26, 2007

Two Poems




I have been impacted recently by these two poems and would like to share. I find them beautiful, beautiful. Enjoy with me...


A New Way of Struggling

To struggle used to be
To grab with both hands
and shake
and twist
and turn
and push
and shove and not give in

But wrest an answer from it all
As Jacob did a blessing.

But there is another way
To struggle with an issue, a question.

Simply to jump
off
into the abyss
and find ourselves
floating
falling
tumbling
being led
slowly and gently
but surely

to the answers God has for us
to watch the answers unfold
before our eyes and still
to be a part of the unfolding.

But, oh! the trust necessary for this new way!
Not to be always reaching out for the old hand-holds.

(Susan W N Duack)


The Prayer of One Ready for Birth

God who creates something
out of nothing
Compassionate Shaper of Clay
Tiller of the Soil
Midwife God
I am ready to be born

I'm giving up the darkness
of the womb
I'm waiting for the life
that you alone can give.

A little light
slipped through a crack last night
and covered up my fears

A promise leaned against my heart
last night
and told me it was mine.

And you were in that promise LORD
And you were in the light.

It's enough to give me hope again
I'm giving up the night.

(Macrina Wiederkehr)

Monday, November 19, 2007

The Holy Longing

I was introduced recently to an exquisitely nourishing soul-book. My moments with tea, in my red chair in the corner, have been rich this week, as I've weaved my way through The Holy Longing, by Ronald Rolheiser.

Rolheiser writes for those in search of a Christian Spirituality. For those of us who have been confused by certain expressions of organized Christianity, especially the aspects that seem contrary to the God we have experienced, or the God we imagine is holding us in the palm of his hands, and is able to hold all that is "us", all that is created and human.

In the dedication, Rolheiser writes:
"For Henri Nouwen, 1932-1996, our generation's Kierkegaard. By sharing his own struggles, he mentored us all, helping us to pray while not knowing how to pray, to rest while feeling restless, to be at peace while tempted, to feel safe while still anxious, to be surrounded by a cloud of light while still in darkness, and to love while still in doubt."

To me, this communicates the grace of God, that my trust can propel me even while I am confused, that my creator does not expect me to understand all. It is okay to feel small and to approach with handfulls of questions. It is okay to keep walking toward the light, to take one step closer, to procede as far as the light shines in that moment.

In the reading of this book, I have felt my inner thoughts understood and expressed. I have felt relieved at points, that my questions are not "bad" or "dark", but part of my yearning for truth, for authenticity.

I especially appreciate the section on the "nonnegotiable essentials" as I navigate my way through the many expressions of Christianity I have experienced thus far. I am trying to find a clear way through, past the confusing inconsistencies and disagreements.

From Thursday-Sunday, I will be away for an Advent Retreat at a beautiful property nearby. I will take two books along, including The Holy Longing. And will settle into the largeness of a God I believe can hold me, and will lovingly accept my questions.

I highly recommend this book as a companion as we enter the Advent season, in preparation for the mystery and wonder of the Nativity.



Thursday, November 15, 2007

The Great Fish Oil Mishap

I'm not sure why I included this picture. I suppose because it shows the ocean, where varieties of fish come from. And this is a post about fish oil: COD LIVER OIL, to be precise.

You see, a couple of weeks back, one of us (I won't say who) was attempting to take the goat's milk carton from the fridge door. We have two shelves on our fridge door and they are removeable and interchangeable. As the carton was lifted, it nicked the edge of the shelf above and sent all the contents crashing against our STONE, kitchen floor.

One item that shattered with gusto, was a 1/2 liter, glass bottle of $60.00, lemon flavoured Norwegian COD LIVER OIL. And the bottle was nearly full.

I had recently purchased it through our Naturopath and it was to keep us in tip-top nutritional shape during the coming winter.

The house filled with an overpowering lemon scent and I was initially relieved. Lemon isn't too bad, in fact most cleaning products use lemon to cut odors like fish.

But, the world continued to turn. And the next morning, we awoke to the most putrid, rotting fish smell. Walking into the kitchen was like sticking your head in a pail of old fish guts. I mean, seriously! It was overwhelming at best! It filled the house.

You see, I made a mistake. I attempted to wash the towel that was used to sop up the mess. I simply couldn't part with it and decided to try a washing machine rescue. I even washed it on hot, which amplified the smell. BAD idea. REALLY bad idea!

Our washing machine smelled horrible. So, after three washes of empty, large load sized, hot water with vinegar cycles, it started to smell a little better. And I attempted a wash of clothes.

Again, bad idea!

Everything came out smelling like good old rotting COD. Merciful Days!

Since then, I have washed with vinegar and borax and each load gets a tad bit better.

But, the moral of this story is:
**Store fish oil in a safe, out-of-the-way place in the fridge.
**Don't sop up the mess with anything you might want to keep.
**Vinegar is the answer to most smelly cleaning issues.
**Burn lots of incense to cut the smell and purify the air.

And all-in-all, remember that when insane things happen like THIS, it's always good to laugh, smile and think of it as a good story.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Keeping Dreams Alive

My husband and I just returned from our weekly date night. We have decided to have a non-negotiable night out together during which to reconnect as a couple. We have also decided to alternate who plans the experience. Tonight was my night to plan.

First off, we went to the local library and purused the books and magazines for sale. Every so often, the library staff clears out old stock and sells it all for dirt cheap. We both love to thumb through magazines , tearing out pictures as we go, and collecting them into collages. I especially love this. But we've decided to make some collages together, to "dream board" our ideas and dreams for interests and aspirations for our life together. We snagged about 20 great magazines (Living, Architectural Digest, GardenWise) for less than $1.50! Nice!

We then attended a slide presentation (free and at the library) by two remarkable individuals: Anne Brevig and Martin Vennesland. Anne Brevig is the author of a book that chronicles their adventures together called 9 Years on the 7 Seas. She told astounding stories of their years at sea: easing through pirate invested waters, docking in Morroco so Martin could receive emergency back surgery, getting caught in a 2km long fishing net near Iran. I loved listening to her thick Norwegian accent and uniquely honest and straight forward style of storytelling.

At the completion of the talk, the woman who introduced Anne and Martin drew two names of individuals who would each win a copy of Anne's book. My husband's name was drawn, so we now have a gorgeous and inspiring coffee table book about sailing. What a surprise blessing!

In this season of starting a business at home, finances are especially tight. And we have found it difficult to dream. So much of our energy is put toward making ends meet, and trying to have perspective and contentment in the midst of the strain. So tonight felt like a gift. It was inspiring to step aside for a time, and to allow ourselves to dream. And to know that God loves our hearts, and loves the dreams that stir passion for life inside of us. He longs to give us vibrance and blessing and is with us in the journey. These glimpses help us slog through on our way to more financial peace in our life.


Homeschool Room

I took a few more current pictures of our homeschool room and decided to share.I would still like to get my working area more organized and decluttered. But for now (and with our budget) it is working GREAT and I am thrilled to have a little "work" corner of my own. This is (again) the reading tree with a cozy corner chair.
My side of the room: office desk, white board and filing cabinet. My computer and phone will eventually move down here.
A few maps and chalkboard/whiteboard for the kids.
This is my little Soul-baby area. Alley dives it to play as well. But this is especially crucial for entertaining him while engaging in more concentration-heavy activities with Alley.

Monday, November 05, 2007

A Beginning




I have started creating a homeschool room. This is the book reading tree. It looks a little different now, with a big chair in the corner instead of the bookcase. But, it gives some idea. Our library is slowly growing. And we are working into the rhythm of daily reading times together in the big chair.

We decided to put Alley into preschool one afternoon a week for a 3 hour block. It is at a local church, a few blocks away. We wrestled with the decision at first, wondering if it would interfere with our goal to homeschool. Would she get too used to a school environment? Would she then be ancy at home?

Gladly, our fears have been relieved by the positive experience we are having. Ms. Joanne is a wonderful, loving woman. She has taught for years and has created an inspiring, creative atmosphere for the kids to learn in. I learn much from her discipline and teaching style. She is a really good fit for Alley's personality and brings out different sides of her. I feel like I am able to observe Alley in a different light one day a week, to learn what she gravitates toward in a group setting, how she responds to different types of leadership/teaching. And since it is only one day, the bulk of her learning still happens at home.

Sometimes, as I weed through all the info coming my way, I feel confused when it comes to how to *start* homeschooling. I'm sure I will revisit this many times as we grasp our personal philosophy more clearly in the coming months before diving into Kindergarten.

But in the meantime, I am reading Charlotte Mason and Susan Wise Bauer. I am weaving my way through the wonderful homeschooling blogs. And in our home, we are reading together lots and lots, and talking about the whys of this and that. We are getting into the rhythm of all-day-every-day learning. Alley reminds me to carve out plenty of time for creative/artistic play. And I quite like it.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

First Blogiversary!

It's hard to believe a year has passed as mamamonk. What a surprise source of joy it has been to reveal and find myself in this space. I want to thank you, my friends and gracious fellow-journeyers, for visiting from time to time, for taking the moments to step in for a glimpse and listen.

I look forward to what this next year holds.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Exploring the Capital and Re-Centering







I returned this week, from a visit to Canada's capital city Ottawa. Some dear friends of ours have moved from British Columbia to Ontario within the last two years and have settled in the Ottawa area, where they are involved in Parliament. We really miss having them nearby! In the meantime, they have welcomed a beautiful baby girl into their family who I desperately wanted to meet.



My husband was generous to let me travel to Ottawa for a visit. I took Soul-Baby with me and Alley stayed back to hold down the fort with dad. Bry was able to work his at-home schedule around Alley's afternoon nap and early bedtime.They invented yummy snacks like "honey nuts" (mixed nuts drizzled with honey), played Candyland, went iceskating, and had a relatively peaceful few days. Alley was not excited about being "left behind" from the chance to ride on a plane. Because of this, we talked every night, gave kisses over the phone and she asked me to share details about each day.



At night when she crawled into bed, she wrapped herself in our big, cozy, orange blanket and pretended it was a mama-hug.



For me, the trip was rejuvenating and memorable. It was so good to have time with dear friends, to see their new corner of the world, to meet their daughter. We were able to do a few side trips to see other mutual friends and new babies and to enter, for a time, into different ways of living and seasons in eachother's lives. It was wonderful.



When I returned home, I felt refreshed and excited to jump into daily life. Cooking and doing dishes with Anne felt like a treat, especially because it was in her home, and felt communal and full of teamwork. Laundry was a fun adventure in their co-op housing unit. We walked in the sun along downtown city streets to buy food from the local grocery store. It felt effortless to cart our babies around from one task to the other, because we were TOGETHER and in the same season of life. The sense of community and friendship I felt, carried with me into my home as I eased back into cooking and doing laundry and picking up the many little things that end up on the floor throughout the day.




I walzed around inspired and joyful...for a few days.



And then wham! I felt discouraged and lonely, like a solitary pioneer slogging out the routine of home life and motherhood.



This dip in my perspective has intrigued me to stop, re-center and focus my heart . Yes, I do think our society is too individualistic at times. Yes, I would like to have someone next door in the exact same season of life who I can form a cooking/laundry co-op with. Yes, chopping vegetables and folding underwear is so much funner while having a good conversation with a friend. But, the reality is that it is MY home and MY stuff that needs to be done each day. I can't run from it.




And we all have our stuff. There are easier ways to do things, and I am learning slowly what they are. But at the end of the day, I have control over how I respond to daily work at home. And I have to take responsibility for how I choose to manage my home and how I consistently (or not) apply what I am learning.




I know I am not alone in this, and I know there are many home managers out there who have found easier ways to get it all done and are generous with sharing what has worked.


When I have a dip, I suddenly think we need to change our life NOW! I can be impatient and hasty in my ideas. My highly rational husband helps me pause and reflect on what I need. He sees emotions and reactions as personal feedback about my personality and needs rather than an immediate call for drastic action. I am more short term in my thinking. He sees the horizon and knows where we need and want to be. And I am grateful for this. He grounds my wild desire to just sell it all and move onto a boat.



But when I have a dip, it also communicates to me that I DO need to make a change and DO need to get refocused on my priorities and dreams for how we want to live.



So, this week, after experiencing a lonely "I need a house keeper and personal chef!" episode, I have slowed down and tried to take some time to plan out the month. I have explored things like once-a-month cooking and once-a-month shopping, but have not yet buckled down to do it. Some friends are starting up a cooking guild they call Heart and Soul: "cooking together is more fun than cooking alone!" I might join them for the next one, if I'm still in need of a communal kick-start.



But in the meantime, I am exploring ways in our current life situation, neighborhood and season of life to be more intentionally connected and to streamline some of the more mundane tasks of home management. I know I am not alone in this and have done my fair share of complaining and co-miserating. I can talk about my woes all day long if I want to (and drive us all crazy). But I also know there are many home managers out there who have found easier ways to get it all done and are generous with sharing what has worked. And my husband is a great teammate when I am able to ask for the help I need. So here starts a renewed exploration into the ART of home making. You might say I'm developing a new "craft".




I have come across many blogs on the topic, and websites galore. Here is a short list of some I have found helpful in the past and desperate present:












What has helped YOU? I welcome any suggestions for further resources along this journey. I will add to the list as I find others that are helpful.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Unexpected Joy


It is morning, my feet slide onto cold wooden and stone floors. I move groggly toward the kid's room, where I can hear them giggling and playing together in Soul-Baby's crib. We move toward the living room, the orange fleece blanket drawn around us. We three cuddle in the corner burgundy chair and wait for the warmth to ease into our bones, to still us against the chill.

I put on Ben Harper and fill the tea kettle. Soul-baby pads around the living room rug with his sister's bright pink (lined with feathery, fluffy stuff) princess slippers with a triumphant smile on his face. His bulbous, round belly is pushed out like a pregnant monkey, his shoulders held back making him strut like he's a cool cat gangster. I swoop him up as he thuds by and hug him until he lets go.

The rain pelts our windows from all sides. A wry smiles curves on my lips as I realize the adventurous day before us.

See, my husband is in Vancouver for two days, with the Toyota, volunteering for the Writer's Festival. And on Thursday afternoons, Alley enjoys 3 hours of Preschool at a nearby church. It is especially nearby on a sunny day or when I drive her. But today, 30 minutes in the pouring rain, pushing a stroller, calls for a hearty breakfast and a strong cup of coffee.

I load them up, bundled and wrapped in fleece blankets. I scrounge around for the rain cover and draw it tight over our double jogger. They seem cozy and dry, and Alley is so excited to prance her toy horse for show-in-tell, that I can barely buckle her in.

The air hits us first. It is crisp and tinged with a smokey fireplace smell. Rain runs down my cheeks in refreshing steadiness. I am immediately transported and awakened by the sensual symphony of Autumn. I am suddenly excited. With each step I am reacquainted with an old friend, my favorite season. Every tree is a wooden palette exploding with fiery reds, burnt oranges and vibrant yellows. We crunch through piles of leaves. I hold up a changed Maple leaf for the kids to see. It is nearly a foot wide and high and the deepest shade of yellow. Beautiful.

I gather leaves on the way, take in the sight and smell of puffing chimneys. And settle into this changing season, glad for it's arrival.

*****************************************************************************************

No spring nor summer beauty hath such grace as I have seen in one autumnal face.-- John Donne

Autumn is a second spring when every leaf is a flower. --Albert Camus

Delicious autumn! My very soul is wedded to it, and if I were a bird I would fly about the earth seeking successive autumns. --George Eliot

Oh, good gigantic smile of the old earth this autumn morning! --Robert Browning

There is a harmonyIn autumn, and a lustre in its sky,Which through the summer is not heard or seen,As if it could not be, as if it had not been!-- Percy Bysshe Shelley

If winter is slumber and spring is birth, and summer is life, then autumn rounds out to be reflection. It's a time of year when the leaves are down and the harvest is in and the perennials are gone. Mother Earth just closed up the drapes on another year and it's time to reflect on what's come before.-- Mitchell Burgess

Monday, October 15, 2007

Why Not?



I am in the process of learning a very important lesson about parenting. It has taken me some time to get into the rhythm of having a daily schedule, something that provides structure (and ultimately freedom) to my days at home with my family. In many ways, I have become an order loving, aspiring woman and am slowly decluttering many layers and levels of my life.


The flipside of this newfound order, is that in trying to keep it up, I can sometimes forget what it's all for.


So that's where my four-year-old comes in.


This morning, in the fresh-breaking dawn light, I awoke to a high-pitched squeal and excited exclamation, "Today is a party day! Wake-up, Mama! I need streamers and tape and all kinds of decorations!"


I groggily opened my eyes and asked "What?!"


"Mama, it's a party day! Let's celebrate!" And this morning, for some reason, a voice in my head asked "Why not?"


So, we pulled out the streamers, and decided it was the day's birthday. Because after all, a new day is born each morning, right? So we hung them up with electrical tape (that's all I could find) at various angles and heights around the house. For a birthday cake, we piled our pancakes high and lit a firecracker candle with glee.


The whole day was party-themed. We played games, sang Happy Birthday, had a family dance party to Irish jigs (The Chieftains) and generally maintained a celebratory spirit.


And you know what? I don't think any of us will every forget it. At a few points during the day, I thought to myself, "We should do this kind of thing more often. After all, this is what I imagined parenthood to be. And it can be this way when I say 'why not?' more often and 'not today' less.


At the end of the day, while peeling streamers from every nook, I felt thankful again, for the way my children teach me to greet life with open arms, to leave no rock unturned.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

One Tough Mother

These little people in my house are hard to be tough with sometimes. But they know those moments when mama ain't got no backbone. And they wiggle right into those moments with the strongest wills they can muster. They find the Achille's heal with swiftness and precision. Do you relate to this at all?

That's why I was inspired by a session at the MOPS convention lead by Julie Barnhill, the author of ONE TOUGH MOTHER.

Just for the record, Julie Barnhill is hilarious. I was laughing so hard my side ached. She is "raucous and refreshingly real and relevant" and honest about the challenges of being a mother.In her talk, she outlined ten non-negotiables for how to stand firm and be the mom with confidence, love and firmness.

1) Be the boss without apology.*Do not delegate, abdicate or relegate your responsibilities as mom. Be consistent, firm and fair. Say what you mean and mean what you say.

2)Delight in your perfectly ordinary child. *Don't give into the stress to always have an extraordinary child. Delight in the ordinary moments. Don't pressure your child toward unattainable ideals.

3)Stop tinkering with the inane.* Decide on what really matters. Focus on TO BE rather than TO DO.

4) Say no like you mean it.* "I understand you would like that, but no.""Thank you for asking, but the final answer is no."

5) Get a hobby other than your children.

6) Love them like crazy. (truly, madly, deeply)* Develop a family "always". For example: "Our family always shares with one another."

7) Remember that it is all worth it.

8) Leave nothing unspoken.* "I am so glad I had you." "I will always be your mom."

9) Face your own Giants.* Step up and own it when they've been wronged. Step up and own it when they are wrong.

10) Never give up.* You are only a failure if you give up forever. :)

Friday, September 28, 2007

Alternative Pathway



In light of my recent post, I thought I would spend some time reflecting on a few available alternatives to Hormonal Birth Control. My husband and I have used all 4 methods to varying degrees and have settled on 1 that we find appropriate for us. Some are more precise and effective than others, but all 4 honour a woman's body by working with her natural rhythms. And there is great potential for self-education in each charting method. The umbrella term is "Natural Family Planning" and I will break it down into four types of NFP.


Some folks confuse the term "NFP" with "The Rhythm Method" or "The Calendar Method" which I find misleading and inaccurate. The "rhythm" and "calendar" methods are typically hit and miss and revolve around a woman approximating her windows of infertility and fertility based on the numbers on a calendar, rather than on evidence obtained from personal signs and symptoms.


1) FERTILITY AWARENESS METHOD (FAM):

My husband and I started out with this method. I learned a great deal about my body and cycle and found it a good place to start. The book that supports this method is called
Taking Charge Of Your Fertility. The author, Toni Weschler, has a Master's degree in Public Health, and does a great job of highlighting the basic elements of NFP. She goes into detail about the harmful effects of hormonal birth control and educates the reader about ways to use FAM with or without barrier contaceptives (condoms, foams, gels, diaphragms etc). It is widely used by people who are making the decision toward NFP for health, rather than religious, reasons.


I do have one main concern about this method. Charting revolves around three physical signs: basal body tempature, cervical fluid changes, and cervical position changes. FAM encourages the use of all three signs. Personally, as a nurse doing night shifts, and as a newlywed on my honeymoon, I found the tempature very hard to monitor consistently. Basal Body Tempature needs to be measured at approximately the same time each morning for it to be accurate. Also, it is a more concrete sign than cervical fluid changes, and many couples rely on the tempature aspect of the chart above cervical fluid. Cervical fluid changes are always more accurate than tempature alone.

Some users really like having all three signs to check against, but they must use all three consistently, with no sign taken above another. And if the signs are in conflict, accurate cervical fluid changes should always take precedence.

2) SYMPTO-THERMAL METHOD and SERENA-

When we were first learning the ropes of FAM and engaged to be married, we took a course on the Sympto-Thermal Method with a Serena-using couple. It is similiar to FAM in that it incorporates all three physical signs. The terminology is different. For example, they use "cervical mucous" instead of "cervical fluid". Personally, I feel more comfortable with the FAM terminology. The Serena charts are slightly different, but overall, we found it is very similiar to FAM.


3) BILLINGS OVULATION METHOD-


The book that supports this method is called The Billings Method - using the body's natural signal of fertility to achieve or avoid pregnancy by Dr. Evelyn Billings & Ann Westmore.


This method is based around cervical fluid changes and awareness of physical sensation changes at different times during a woman's monthly cycle. It is a more simple method and very user- friendly. As with any method, it is important to buy the book and learn from an instructor in your local area who can give clear, specific information and guidance in the early months of learning NFP.


I have been very impressed with the effectiveness of the Billings Ovulation Method in third world countries. Mother Theresa taught women in India with great success. And Billings has been used in China (with a 99% success rate!) to educate women about their bodies and to empower them to have more control against the forced abortion laws.


Here's a little blurb from their site:


"The Billings Method is the most modern natural way to achieve or avoid becoming pregnant. Once four commonsense guidelines are learned it is applicable whether a woman has short or long cycles. It can be used by a woman who is breastfeeding, approaching menopause, recovering from stress or coming off contraceptive medication.
It teaches women to recognise their own individual pattern of fertility and infertility and to understand that they are infertile more often than fertile throughout their reproductive years.
They learn to recognise the fertile phase of their menstrual cycles, when conception may occur. It also gives valuable information to the couple so that they can make decisions about their joint fertility. "


This method includes biomarkers (cervical fluid and sensation changes) similiar to the Billings Ovulation Method but is more scientific, thorough and slightly more complicated. It doesn't use basal body tempature at all. The observation and charting system is very precise and thorough, which takes some getting used to. But it is the most accurate approach to observation and provides users with a sense of security in knowing no sign is missed.

We have chosen it as our method of choice. It requires dedication, but is very effective and satisfying once you get the hang of it. Learning the method is costly at first. But once you have learned with the help of a practitioner, you are prepared for the rest of your child-bearing life. And the initial fee is good for years of support from a qualified instructor.

Here's a little blurb from their site:

"The CrMS is not a contraceptive system. It is a system of true family planning The information obtained for monitoring the phases of fertility and infertility can be used to either achieve or avoid pregnancy. Users of the CrMS know their fertility status on any particular day and are given the freedom to utilize that information as they so choose."



Those are some of my thoughts about what is out there. I welcome any comments or questions, or personal stories about what has worked for you

Monday, September 24, 2007

Muffled

A couple of years ago while working a night shift on the maternity ward, I picked up a Macleans Magazine and began to read. The front cover displayed a young girl, maybe around age 14, dressed in a loose T-shirt and looking gaunt and troubled. Inside was an article that disturbed me. It revolved around a variety of new birth control pills that would be made available within the year. One claimed to provide ultimate freedom for young girls "suffering" with menstuation and fear of unwanted pregnancy. Advertisements stated they would only have to "deal" with a period three times a year, on a seasonal, rather than monthly, cycle.

I have been an advocate for women's health for years. And this has often included taking every opportunity I can to educate friends and fellow women about the dangers and health risks of using hormonal birth control: pills, shots and rings. So, I was extremely interested in the article and mulled over the potential health effects this new pill might have.

I kept the magazine in my file drawer, and have thought about it often over the last two years. I have wondered what ever became of the new, upcoming pills. Regretfully, I got busy researching other things that felt more desperate and immediately applicable to my life (like how to discipline a strong-willed two year old!) And up until now, I hadn't heard anything new.

But today, I received a disturbing email from a friend. And it has made me want to take a look at these new "luxuries" that are availble for women of child-bearing age.
MENSTRUAL CYCLE-PLEASE READ!
PASS THIS ON EVEN IF YOU DO NOT USE IT

Recently this past week, my cousin Nicole Dishuk
(age 31...newly graduated student with a doctoral degree about to start her new career as a Doctor...) was flown into a nearby hospital, because she passed out.
They found a blot clot in her neck, and immediately took her by helicopter to the ER to operate.
By the time they removed the right half of her skull torelieve the pressure on her brain, the clot had spread to her brain causing severe damage.
Since last Wednesday night, she was battling.. they induced her into a coma to stop the blood flow, they operated 3 times.
Finally, they said there was nothing left that they could do. They found multipleclots in the left side of her brain. The swelling wouldn't stop, and she was on life support..
She died at 4:30 yesterday. She leaves behind a husband, and a 2yr old Brandon and a 4yr old Justin.
The CAUSE of DEATH -they found was a birth control she was taking that allows you to only have your period 3 X's a year... They said it interrupts life's menstrual cycle, and although it is FDA approved... shouldn't be - So to the women in myaddress book - I ask you to boycott this product & deal with your period once a month - so you can live the rest of the months that your life has in store for you. Remember, you have a CYCLE for a reason!
The name of this new birth control pill is Lybrel. If you go to Lybrel.com
http://www.lybrel.com/ , you will find at least 26 pages of information regarding this drug. The second birth control pill is, Seasonique. If you go to the website of, Seasonique.com http://seasonique.com/ , you will find 43 pages of information regarding this drug. The warnings and side effects regarding both pills are horrible. "

Now, I am skeptical of forwarded emails like this one. So I did a little research. It turns out that quite a bit about this email is true. Nicole did die of a stroke. And she was on Librel. However, "snopes" and other "urban-legend-debunking" websites are not able to access confidential medical information to verify ALL the claims of this email. All that to say, this email might not be 100% correct. Regardless, I am extremely concerned about the growing number of women in their 30's on the pill, who, with no other medical conditions or concerning histories, die of sudden strokes. And it concerns me that one of the major side effects of the pill is : death by stroke.

So, if you can, take a minute to check out the websites. And please make an informed decision in regard to hormonal birth control!

I would value any comments from lurkers and readers. I think this is a major issue for women in our era. And it concerns us on many levels.


Friday, September 21, 2007

MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers)

I am writing from a beautiful resort hotel in Orlando, Florida. I arrived at the Gaylord Palms yesterday just after lunch. I am here until Sunday with a group of four other MOPS International Leaders for the Annual Convention. There are 5000 women here! It feels unbelievable to be in a place with so many WOMEN! Salvador, Go Fish and a group of "Stomp-like" performers entertained us last night. Matt Redman lead worship and a variety of gifted speakers shared their vision with us.

Today is packed with seminars that we have signed up for. And tonight at 5:30, there is an opportunity to sing with Sara Groves, in a back-up choir. I'm not sure if I'll be the first 100 out of 5000, but I'm going to try.

I am starting a MOPS group at our church this year, starting on October 16th. And let me just say: I am incredibly glad to be here for encouragement as I start! I am learning a great deal from the talented women around me who have been involved with MOPS for years.

My first experience with MOPS was last year when I attended a local group as a participant. My friend Mary invited me and it seriously opened my heart and forced me to breathe and relax. The first meeting felt like a hot bath and massage and I realized how stressed I had been, how much tension I carried on my shoulders. As the coordinator shared her heart and validated our experieces as young moms, I felt like my heart was literally melting, stretching, and yawning inside.

The slogan is "MOPS: Because Mothering Matters. Better Moms Make a Better World." The focus this year is "Dwell Well from the Space You Call Home." The topics and curriculum for the year revolve around "Heart, Home and Planet." They encourage us as women that when our hearts are filled up with God's love and vision, our home is affected. And when we build and nurture loving, God-desiring home environments, we affect the world.

After the talks, 6 of us came back to our room and we talked and shared until 3 am. Karumba! We are insane, but it was incredible. Two women shared their life story up to this point. We listened and hugged and cried in solidarity of their journeys, of the winding roads that have eventually lead them to a place of love and hope, a place where they know they are Queens.

I am so thankful for this gift of being here.

Friday, September 07, 2007

Four Going on Fourteen


Our big girl is a whoppin four! Her big request was to have her first pony ride. We arranged for an hour-long ride on Angie, one of the ponies at Matsqui Stables. Alley loved it! She wanted to trot the entire time. It was a family effort as mom, dad, grandma, grandpa and auntie took turns leading (RUNNING!) Angie by the rope, around and around the corral.


"Mommy, on my next birthday, will I be fourteen?" I chuckled at the irony of such a question. My husband and I frequently joke that we already have a teenager. Our girl is emotional and witty and full of sass and sometimes we slap our heads in amazement, wondering how we will weather her true teenage years.



Alethea has been talking about getting married. She wants to marry me, somedays she's happy to marry her brother. Other times she asks her dad when they can get married. We try to explain the natural order of things, that sisters don't marry brothers, and that mommy and daddy are already married to eachother, which means we won't marry anyone else.



So, the other night at dinner, my husband asked "Alley? Do you want to fall in love and get married someday?" Without hesitation, she answered, "Yes, Please! Who?"


And so it goes! Needless to say, we have our work cut out for us. I suppose now we should work on an arranged marriage!


We are delighted with our girl. She is full of love and spunk and vinegar and we treasure these days when we still have her in our home. She's like a year-round fireworks display, bringing lots and lots of spark.


Saturday, September 01, 2007

Birthdays


Thursday, August 30, was my 28th birthday.

Over the last couple of months, I have been on a path toward knowing myself and my loved ones more honestly and wholly. It has been excruciating at times. But as I step into another year of life, another year older, my prayer is to continue even further forward into the light and darkness that is me, that is we, that is us. As I am more open to myself, I see that God is strong enough to carry all that is ME. And I am freed up to be more open to others. There is more space in my own soul to carry and truly SEE the souls of dear ones in my life.

On my birthday, I learned more nuances about myself that I didn't know as deeply before. I realized that I am sensitive when it comes to how I celebrate/am celebrated on the day itself. I've discovered since getting married that an important part of my identity is to be a "low maintenance", "go with the flow" kinda woman. And I suppose in some areas I am pretty flexible and laid back. But sometimes this expectation causes me to stuff my emotions and to be out of touch with how I really feel, who I really am.

Over the last 5 years of marriage, I have seen my "princess-self" come out in my expectations for my birthday. I love to celebrate in general and do so any chance I get. And I am happy to be the one to create celebratory festivities. But there's just something about the day of my birth. I have grand expectations that don't involve ME lifting a finger. Ya know the old saying: "queen for a day"? Well, you get the idea.

All that to say, I had high expectations for my birthday. At the end of the day, looking back, I was able to see that it turned out just fine. I enjoyed many calls, emails, cheerful messages on facebook, a dinner at my in-laws home, marshmallow roasting and a thoughtful card from my husband in the evening. It was a full day. But for some reason, I felt lonely and overlooked, and I figuratively held my breath all day, waiting to be dissapointed.

The next morning when I awoke, I was perplexed by how expectation-tinged the day before had been. It seemed in my mind, that every acknowledgement was simply a trailer to the main event. But what is the main event? I don't even know. And I'm not sure why I wait for it, whatever it is. And though I wanted to have different emotions and perspective, it was hard to shake how I was REALLY feeling and it seemed important to take a look at and listen to the responses bubbling up in me.

Shadowed Perspective. Unrealistic Expectation. Discontentment. These are mindsets I am struggling through right now. This is part of my path of discovery: letting the real stuff emerge so I can keep what is healthy and redirect what is unhealthy, with lots of Divine intervention.

That night (last night) my dear friend Mary organized a party for me with 9 girlfriends at a local Pub/Microbrewery called Mission Springs. Because it wasn't the day itself, I felt so freed up to enjoy and have no expectations and we had a blast! I must say that even if I had maintained lofty expectations, her and everyone's thoughtfulness would have exceeded them! We stayed from 8- midnight, talked easily over pitchers of margaritas and yummy food, and enjoyed a night out without children underfoot. It was a wonderful time.

And here I am tonight, 28, and feeling full and content with my life. It's funny (and downright unnerving, irritating, disconcerting) to ride the waves of emotions some days. And yes, sometimes I am a princess. Sometimes I am a "high maintenance" woman. And ya know what? I am okay with that. And I think my husband is too. As long as I don't deny it. It's all about not denying it.

"Fundamental change is not a casual occurrence. We cannot casually commit to the process of spiritual transformation...Our entire being is called to the task, for the journey from density to light involves every aspect of who we are." Marianne Williamson

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Summers in British Columbia


Because our winters are grey, dark and dreary, our summers are GREEN and GLORIOUS. And this means that we don't spend an extra minute indoors that we don't have to. This also means that I am a deliquent summer-blogger!

Our summer has been full to brimming with camping trips, music festivals, reunions, gardening, berry (strawberry, raspberry and blueberry-almost time for blackberry!)- picking and general summer shananagans.

With the added space of the downstairs, we've been painting walls and murals on walls, posting old fridges and stoves on "Craigslist" to sell, hiring "Dale the Cleanup Guy" to truck away two large pickuploads of general junk and parts of the two outdoor sheds we tore down. Whew!

Once again, I will need to post a few things in retrospect. More frequent posts to come!

This past weekend was our 2nd annual Feast Collective. Last year, a dear friend (Carrie) blogged about the feast. This is what she wrote:
About three weeks ago now I was able to be part of the most interesting hippy event. It was a reunion of sorts, with a philosophy. My first year out of university I lived with three other girls in what became known as the "llama lodge"... It was a great year of family as we all pitched in for meals and parties and sadnesses and joys. Community at its rawest!!! Since those days all of us vagabonds have shuffled around, and this "Feast Collective" was to be a reuniting of that community, atmosphere and people.
As we got together to roast a pig, prepare a feast, take care of children added to our original numbers, camp in the rain, sit by the fire, swim and play on logs in the lake, share stories of what has been and hopes for what may be .... I was amazed at what a dedication to vulnerability and honesty could do to meld a group of disconnected strangers together. Beyond catching up, there was a sense that for these days we could carry each others lives and all they entailed. With the reality of not being able to keep in touch with everyone it was amazing that such a sense of connectedness and support could be felt throughout the weekend. But then... that was the philosophy behind the whole reunion."


Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Looks like an incredible film


My sister sent me a link to the film BELLA today. Please check out the website and consider promoting it in your city--


I received a link from my sister today to the movie BELLA. It looks like an amazing film. It recently won the People's Choice Award at the Toronto Film Festival.

I poured a cup of tea and watched the four video segments. Lots of goose bumps on my arms and tears in my eyes by the end. Well done movies with meaning make me feel hopeful. If you have a minute, spend some time reading the story and watching the trailers.

My husband attended a Leadership conference last week. It was organized and put on by Bill Hybels, the pastor of WillowCreek Church in Chicago. The Producer for Bella was introduced during the final conference day and able to share his story about working on Bella.

So, needless to say, we are excited to actually SEE what we're excited about:).

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Best Birth Scenes

I have recently watched two movies with incredible (realistic!) birth scenes. There's a lot of harsh content and violence to get through in both films. But I don't regret seeing either one. In fact, they are remarkably well done.

1) CHILDREN OF MEN
2) APOCALYPTO

There you have it. Are there any other great birth scenes out there that you've seen?

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

UTAH, IDAHO, OREGON & WASHINGTON

This will be my final roadtrip post. I have enjoyed sifting through the hundreds of photos during the trip (digital photo technology is wonderful!), remembering some of the meaningful moments
and sharing them here on my blog. But, summer marches on and there are many other things to write about. So, here we go.
We continued our roadtrip north to the South and North rims of the Grand Canyon. They are vastly different, and my dad made us promise to visit both. We lingered on the rim, watched the mules and hikers ascend sweat-drenched and sun-reddened, ate icecream cones at the old-fashioned soda fountain and generally marveled at the immensity of the GRAND Canyon.

Since I lived so near it during my childhood, I have probably been there 10 or more times. Though familiar, it was just as spectacular as I remembered it and especially so as I watched my husband and children gaze down toward the tiny Colorado River at the bottom.

The North Rim was more rustic and geared toward serious back-country packers/explorers. The main lobby of the Grand Canyon Lodge overlooks some of the most awe-inspiring geology and vistas in the world. We were stunned by the extreme, rugged beauty and angles of light, so different from the Southern perspective.


We ate dinner in the open air at a picnic area off the main road. There were no guardrails, and a serious dropoff just beyond our table. Our quiet and powerful mover and shaker was on the go and ran so dangerously close to the rim that we decided to tie him (with a loose rope around the waist) to a tree. He was free to roam and we were free to eat our meal without mortal fear for our child!
We camped on the South Rim for two nights, explored the surroundings, listened to the ranger talks, roasted marshmallows. After the kids were asleep, we rested in our hammock between two trees and sipped small bottles of Cabernet Savignon.

Our day at Zion and Bryce Canyon National Parks was refreshing. We hiked The Narrows, and drove leisurely to each lookout along the path at Bryce Canyon.

While in Utah, we looked into the possibility of renting a YURT at one of Idaho's State parks. Ponderosa State Park had one available for 45 bucks a night, which we gladly scooped up. Below, is the view out the ceiling window. It was cozy and warm with a double bunk bed, futon, table and small heater.

The next morning, we stumbled upon an amazing restaurant called The Pancake House in the neighboring town of McCall.


From Idaho, we drove the back roads (Hells Canyon Scenic Byway) into Eastern Oregon. We visited our dear friend Katie for two nights at her home in Enterprise, Oregon and one night at a gorgeous cabin on the Imnaha River. Below is a picture of Alley and Katie picking produce for our dinner from Dr. Boyd's (her dad's) greenhouse. It would take me a few posts to pen all the events of our visit. Suffice it to say that we had a full and wonderful time.

One of the more interesting aspects occurred around 5 am the first morning we were there. I woke up with Soul baby and resettled him to sleep. I felt really rested, so I decided to stay up and brew some coffee. The smell of smoke was heavy in the air, and since the previous day had been unusually cold, I assumed someone was burning their wood stove.

I peeked out the window and saw the sky dark with smoke. I walked outside and noticed the smell had a different, more chemical quality to it. I started to walk down the street, in my pajamas, toward the cloud of smoke. It led me to downtown Enterprise, where a large brick building, attached to the fire station, was in flames. There were at least 10 firemen holding water hoses from different angles. The flames were licking so fiercely and destructively that I started to cry. What an unbelieveable sight.

The entire building (a saddle shop below and apartments above) was destroyed. The feeling I had watching a huge building reduced to ashes has stuck with me. It has reminded me to live deeply and fully now, to not be attached to possessions and to have compassion on those who have experienced a similiar tragedy. If I could only save two things in a house fire, I realized it would be our family pictures and my journals. Writing this reminds me that I need to get them together into one box.

Our final visit with friends was in Wenatchee. Mark and Wendy fit us into their lives the same week they were moving across town! We had a wonderful time , enjoyed Wendy's delicious cooking and watched with joy as our kids had a blast together. Wendy and I have simliar (horrible) pregnancies, and with their third on the way, we had a lot of shared experiences to catch up on.

It seemed appropriate after all of this, that we had a full week with extended family at our "every- two- years" reunion. My heart felt especially appreciative for the friends and family we have, the relationships that exist outside of possessions. We had a blessed, life-giving time with everyone at a retreat center/family camp in the Wenatchee National Forest.

And after a month on the road, we returned to our cozy home and Alley exclaimed "It's our house! I'm so excited to sleep in my own bed again!"

And we agreed.




Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Phoenix, Sedona and Flagstaff, ARIZONA


After Tucson, we drove a short 2 hours to Phoenix, where we luxuriated in three days with our dear friends Aaron and Natalie.

Natalie works full time from her home on all the varied details of Warm Hearth. Shortly after their two years in Armenia as Peace Corps volunteers, she was able to purchase and create a sustainable, holistic, group home for the orphans she had poured her life into. She discovered toward the end of her stint, that 8 of her "kids" would be sent to Psychiatric institutions, as they had outgrown the orphanages. At the time, there were no long-term group homes in Armenia to meet this desperate need. So, together with friends and family, she was able to begin a revolutionary model of care in January 2006.

She and Aaron have created an artistic, welcoming home of vivid colour and we were thankful for the chance to *see* more of their daily life: watering the plants twice a day, cooking in the darkened kitchen to avoid the sweltering heat of the desert summer, music, Natalie's harp in the corner, loaves and loaves of strawberry bread, ice-cold beer.

Alley and Soul-baby fell in love with their super cute dog Shadow. Alley wanted to be with Shadow every waking minute.

From Phoenix, we drove the back way to Mormon Lake, through the forested, weaving towns of Pine and Strawberry, Arizona. The drive was gorgeous, but took us WAY longer than we thought it would. We subsequently had a very "toad" camping experience that first night, arriving in the pitch dark, just after 10 pm. We had never set up our new 8-man tent, the kids were sleepy, cranky and tired and we were exhausted and in need of food. But somehow, we set our jaws and shuffled through the night and in the morning, awoke rested and ready for another day. The campground host "Max" was a delightful older gentlemen. We arrived just after the long weekend and were the only guests he had. So, he went out of his way to be welcoming. He brought us a large pile of leftover firewood for free, brought icecream bars for Alley and spent leisurely time telling us the best backways and shortcuts to the various sights we wanted to visit.

We spent the first day in beautiful Sedona, a flaming, red-rocked expanse and God-made feast for the senses. My family and I camped, fished and cliff jumped at Grasshopper Point during my childhood and once again, it felt full circle to return there with my own children, to see them cooled and coaxed by the same currents of Oak Creek. A young girl was standing at the top of a low cliff, staring down at the deep pool, afraid to take the plunge. And I remembered my own fear as a child, paralyzing me against responding to the encouragements from my brother to "just jump!" These poignant memories rose and settled, and circled their way around my growing and changing self.

We escaped from the noontime heat into the coolness of The Chapel of the Holy Cross . My husband and daughter lit a prayer candle together and I snuggled with Soul-baby and listened to the Gregorian Chants.
In the evening, we met up with some dear friends Kira, David and Timber and shared a potluck dinner at Wheeler Park. Afterwards, we drove up to Lowell Observatory where we watched a movie on astronomy and gazed at stars through a massive telescope. Flagstaff has a no-street light ordinance to diminish "light pollution" in honour of the Astronomers who research there. I remember as a child, we would sit on the grass under the light-pricked arch of black sky with a map of the constellations. It felt like we were in heaven with lights all around us. There is nothing like the Flagstaff night.

On our way to the Grand Canyon, we stopped at Sunset Crater and Wupatki. Alley was fascinated by the Pueblo Ruins and quickly jumped into imaginative play, pretending it was her own house. We walked around slowly and I asked her what she thought each corner was used for. It was a wonder-filled time to see it through her eyes.


Thursday, July 12, 2007

Tucson, ARIZONA


It seems time for another installation from the road. In some ways, our roadtrip seems far away as we live out the dailyness of our present existence. But the blessings we received from the road, continue to carry us even now.

When we arrived in Tucson, we were greeted by a gorgeous array of colourful perrennials outside my parent's home. They are lovingly tended by my green-thumbed mama. My parent's entry-way courtyard brims with flowering vines. A restful, tinkling fountain flows, surrounded by crocus' and wetland-loving lilypads. Birdfeeders and hanging candles highlight the curving paths. And a rod-iron garden table with two chairs lingers to the side in the cool shade from the mesquite tree.

My parents, older brother Jeff, his wife Lisa and their 5 beautiful children welcomed us. We met our newest niece for the first time. Alley excitedly asked if she could hold her tiny cousin, and Lisa warmly obliged and helped Al find a comfy position of the couch where she could get acquainted. They live in San Antonio and it is always a treat to have time together and to watch the cousins play. I was glad for a few chances to catch up with Lisa and Jeff, to hear of their farm, Jeff's busy medical practice and Lisa's adventures in homeschooling and gardening.

A dear friend (Meg) and I met up for coffee and gelato at the Casas Adobes Plaza, a beautiful collection of shops and cafes down the street from my childhood home. We had a chance to renew our friendship and to share our dreams in hope for one another.




The main event of our time in Tucson was my youngest brother's highschool graduation from Pusch Ridge Christian Academy. He graduated with honours as a National Merit Finalist, played a sweet guitar duet for the ceremony and was acknowledged for his acheivemnts and full-ride scholarship to Baylor University. I was proud of my "little" bro who measures in a 6'5". Since we are 10 years apart in age, I often feel I have missed out on a lot of the milestones of his teenage life. It was a joy to become aware of his involvements and abilities and to celebrate the completion of an era for him. I experience a great deal of joy when I get to watch my brother grow into a man before my eyes.

Another dear friend (Mel) and I had some cherished time together. We caught up on her business as a Flamenco Instructor and weaved together the stories that bridge our long-distance friendship. As always, we had to say goodbye much too soon.


My mom and I spent a morning at Tohono Chul Park, one of her favorite places in the world. Nourished by Prickly Pear tea and a delicious breakfast in the cafe, we walked leisurely around the gardens, looking at the native flora and fauna of the Sonoran Desert.




My Dad and I walked together the four mornings (Early! Before the desert heat) we were there. I loved having a chance to be involved in his daily routine, to see the Mama Dove he sees every morning and to hear his thoughts on the world and politics.


During an impromptu visit with my Grandpa and Uncle Mark, we were able to pick grapefruit from the trees I used to make forts beneath as a child. Alley loved it and ran around, swinging from branch to branch. It was a gift to be in my Grandparent's home again, to pay respect to my Grandma and to feel her lingering presence.

And before we knew it, we were packing up to hit the dusty north-bound trail.