Monday, August 29, 2016

A Question

I have a question for you.  Over the past several years, I've noticed comments drop off considerably.  Part of that is probably the security measures that have to be taken in order to prevent spammers from completely taking over.  Other things might be Facebook, etc.  It just seems a lot harder to have a conversation on a blog.

What would help?  I know that in order to get you to answer that question, I am asking you to possibly deal with whatever is causing you to refrain from commenting in the first place.  Would an easier comment moderation/security help (and this might mean moving to a Wordpress site for that to be possible).  Do you hate my wallpaper or choice of font and so can't stand to hang around?   Would posting from a Facebook page devoted to the blog help facilitate conversation by moving it there?  I so want to hear from you, and I know that there are people out there...I see it in the stats.

Please let me know what would help.  I want to write more, but I want to also hear from you.  Thanks in advance.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Starting to Click

After several years of moving, my definition of "home" has evolved into "Home is where you know which grocery store to go to."  If I am on vacation, I could care less where the grocery stores are.  If I need to eek out a life for me and my family, even for a short time, I do need to know which grocery stores have what I need/want.  Grocery shopping inevitably mean cooking.  Cooking means doing dishes, wiping down counters and cabinets, taking out the trash, and sweeping/vacuuming.  Definitely NOT a vacation.

(This is also why I have become very resistant to "vacations" involving camping, timeshares, or apartments/rentals.  They are infernal, diabolical lies!  Lies, I tell you!)

 For a while, getting meals on and off the table is all that we do. But at some point, something just clicks and I start doing more than just subsisting.  I start making things that I could buy or things that can't be bought, at least the way I really want them. Now, don't get me's never anything complicated.  But I open up to doing something MORE.

At various times in life, this has meant different things.  When the kids were little, I made baby food for a short time:  nothing complicated, just steaming veggies, pureeing them and freezing in an ice tray to thaw later.  That was only necessary until I knew they were not allergic to the basics, and then baby food simply became whatever was on my plate, mashed with the back of my fork.  A few years later, I dabbled in sourdough, but soon we were practically drowning in pancakes and muffins to use the extra batter that was constantly being produced.  It was like that scene in the Magician's Apprentice where Mickey is fighting a flood of water that keeps coming...but only sourdough and more sourdough (oh, but they were amazing pancakes and muffins).  Then I discovered Nourishing Traditions and my countertop became home to jars for brewing kombucha, separating whey, and lacto-fermenting sauerkraut (I am REALLY good at just letting things rot on my counter.  It's probably my gift, and now I could do it INTENTIONALLY!  What a world!).

Coming back from overseas and the nomadic drama and trauma that followed, the focus has been on recovery.  The way we've embarked on our new life has been slow and anything but deliberate.  So when I decided to buy a bag of almonds and make my own almond milk for my dairy-allergic family, I thought about how I could soak them to get rid of the phytic acid, and it wouldn't have junk like carageenan or added crud vitamins, but it didn't feel momentous.  It wasn't until I was straining the fresh milk that I had slipped into doing what I do when I am really and truly home, as opposed to someplace I am just staying for a while.

And it was pretty cool.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Chicken Night

The night of grocery shopping is usually eating out.  I've done enough.  But the night's chicken night.  I love chicken night.

The logic in it is simple.  I have uses for whole chickens, but I don't have the freezer room, so they get cooked first and the rest of the meat goes in the freezer.  If we are cooking one chicken, we might as well cook two.

Maggie roasted them tonight.  She coated them with olive oil spices.  She decided to try thyme, basil, garlic powder, and salt.  This was a mixture I'd never tried, and it was dreamy.  Nestled side by side in a 9x12 Pyrex dish in a 425 degree oven, breasts down, they became golden and toasty, juices running into the pan so that the white meat was immersed in the juices,soaking up the flavor of the herbs.  Amazing.

Accompanied by roasted cauliflower and sugar snap peas, a salad, and iced tea, it is one of my favorite dinners.

Then the work starts.  We pick all the meat off the bones, saving the breast meat for salads and chicken salad, which is what the rest of the cauliflower is going into as well.  The dark meat is going into the freezer to wait for a soup.  The bones will be in the freezer too, for stock.  Those juices that in the Pyrex are strained and the herbed chicken fat will be used for sauteing veggies.

And then there's the dishes.  It's more work than I like to do on a warm night in an oven-heated kitchen, but it will be worth it.

(Pictures would've been nice, but I decided to write about it after it was all cleaned up).

Saturday, January 09, 2016

Making Green Tea

In Singapore, we went to a tea house where we were taught the basics of the Chinese tea ceremony.  The instructor told us that it was much less formal than a Japanese tea ceremony.  He showed us how to use all the utensils properly and then left us alone to enjoy several potfuls while the rain poured down outside.

Photo: Neptunati

I'm not going to go through the process now, though I might at another time.  A friend of mine mentioned looking up how to make green tea on the internet and how she'd "been doing it wrong," and to be honest, at home we forgot all about making green tea any differently than black tea, because we didn't have the cool drainage trays, bowls, or utensils.  I figured that we had it covered because our electric kettle had a "green tea" setting.

I came upon this site  "How to Make Green Tea."  which shows how to brew green tea many different ways, yet the basic process was very much like we learned in Singapore at the tea house.  It is important to add more tea leaves than you would be used to if you were using tea bags or making black tea.  Then, pour hot water over the tea and let it steep.  Fill your cups and then pour off the rest in order to keep it from steeping too long and getting bitter (which is why I am not as fond of green tea).  Then, pour more hot water over the same leaves and repeat, lengthening the time for each steep, until the leaves have completely spent their flavor.

This site shows how to brew green tea without shelling out a ton of money for the accoutrement.  There is an informative video that shows brewing with a simple teapot.  And if you are enjoying your tea alone, it even describes making green tea using a little bowl both as your cup and brewing device.

Ceremony is nice, in fact, it is quite beautiful, but it is also great to see the same routine narrowed down to the simplest components.  I just learned one more thing that will enrich my 2016.

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Stranded in Goroka

The line at Kundiawa
The road workers
Scenes from the drive
Markham Valley on the way to Lae
Two years ago today, according to my Facebook feed, we were approaching our first Christmas overseas -- our only Christmas overseas, and we were stranded in Goroka.

After seminary graduation at the end of November, we all embarked upon a cross-Papua New Guinea trip.  Harry, Donna, and my family were all headed to Lae to get things we each needed to move forward with our work.

I love road trips, and driving in PNG took them to another level.  The Highlands Highway is a two lane highway that travels east-west across the center of the country, snaking to and fro through some pretty impressive mountain ranges.  Some places it is paved, others it is not.  Because of daily rains, even with asphalt, it is littered with giant potholes and obstacles. Lanes are only suggestions - cars drive where the potholes aren't, on either side of the road.  The highway goes through villages where people walk alongside the road or sit and watch the traffic go by.  Pigs or dogs can dart out at any moment.  As isolated as it feels, it is astounding that there are ALWAYS people everywhere along the road.  They usually  smile and wave at us, and it would be rude to not smile and wave back.  A drive was always a good cure for a bad mood.  It was hard to do that much smiling and waving and not start to feel better.

November had been very rainy, and the Highlands Highway had literally collapsed just east of Kundiawa.  The line of cars went on for miles. Semi-trucks weren't getting through at all, and the only smaller vehicles that were getting through paid for the privilege, but that meant they were paying to take on the risk.

I think Jeff enjoyed this part a bit.  Okay, a lot.
It sounds selfish, but the only way to get things done in PNG is to put yourself forward.  This was sometimes a challenge coming from a culture where we have been conditioned since preschool to stand in line and wait our turn. Jeff could astound me how well he could assert himself when he had motivation.  He led our little convoy down the right side of the road to the very front of the blockade.  The machines that were there clearing the road were out of the way; our way was open.

Jeff steeled his will and made to go, but was stopped by a worker who was very upset.  In Pidgin, he hollered at us "You white skins come here and you don't respect our laws."

"I respect your laws," Jeff responded in his most diplomatic tone. "I am a missionary, and I am just trying to care for my people," gesturing to us and the two cars behind us.  The man calmed down.  Missionaries are respected in PNG.  They know we are trying to help, and usually do not get much gain from being there, and unlike a lot of the businessmen, we respect the nationals.  A culture so centered on family and tribe, it is hard for them to fathom that we would leave everything to come be with them.  Jeff spent a few minutes commiserating with the guy, and then the guy told us he would let us know when we could go.

We waited for over an hour.  I'm pretty sure the foreman received tokens of appreciation from all three of our cars. He pointed the way we should go, and it seemed impossible or at least insane.  It just looked like sludge and piles of loose dirt, precariously close to the edge of the highway.  Jeff threw the Land Cruiser into low and shot forward.  At one spot, we had to swerve sharply to ascend a mound of mud and caught air at the crest.  I could hear the mud splash underneath our tires as we landed, and the edge of the road and the precipice loomed a little too close for comfort, but we all made it and were on our way to Lae.

With our business done in Lae (which is a series of other stories), we headed back toward home. The road was still blocked at Kundiawa, only now it was completely impassable.  Abandoning any thought of repair, the road crew had cleared the road away and started building that stretch of the highway anew, adding huge pipes underneath to channel the river that had wreaked such havoc.

So we stopped at Goroka, at the New Tribes mission in Lapilo and made ourselves at home for the next several days.  Some of it was nice.  The guesthouse had a bathtub, and the internet was fast enough to do things we couldn't do at home.  But it was a restless layover.  Donna needed to get back because she was due to leave on furlough, and so every day that the road was still closed was bad news.  At two days from her flight date, Harry drove her to Kundiawa where she trekked across the construction to where Anton was waiting to bring her home.  Harry was also feeling restless so he decided to go back to the coast to Madang where he could do some repairs on mission properties there.

If we had to be stuck anywhere, I am glad it was Goroka. Goroka sparkles in comparison to Mount Hagen when driving east. The roads seem cleaner and more organized. They city actually has trash cans along the roads.  The grocery stores and supply stores are new and huge.  Goroka is the first refreshing stop driving west as well.  After the oppressive heat and smells of the Ramu Valley, the cool air and beautiful hillsides seem otherworldly.

After Harry left, we went grocery shopping, and it was the first time we heard Christmas music. Somehow, in the midst of our travels, we forgot about Christmas. We were in the third week of Advent and there had been nothing to really point the way, until then.  November was full of graduations, and then we were contending with sweltering heat in Lae.  Nothing had said "Hello!  It's Christmas!"   I am usually the Scrooge of the family, and even I began yearning for Advent hymns and all things Christmas.  Getting home and back to Timothy Congregation became urgent.  We felt like we were floundering, and needed church and our traditions to steady us.  Even though our Christmas things were still in a container somewhere on the ocean (or more likely, still sitting at the Port of Los Angeles), we ached for lights and Christmas trees; anything that would restore our sense of time.

A couple of days later, there were rumors that it might be possible to get through Kundiawa. We gave it a shot, and it worked.  A few hours later, we were in Mount Hagen getting supplies for the next few weeks, including a fake Christmas tree.  Any other year, a fake tree would've been unthinkable to Jeff.  Now, that little tree WAS our Christmas.

 A couple of week after we planned to arrive, we were home. we set up the little tree and decorated it as much as we could, with a Singapore Airlines toothbrush and a few Kina coins hanging off of it (they have holes in the center, so we could put string through them).  We waited for the fourth Sunday of Advent and church with anticipation.  What would they sing during Advent?  What traditions would be here?  We could barely wait....

....And the songs were the same eight or so songs that we sang EVERY Sunday since we arrived, sung with boisterousness, energy and love, but the same songs all the same.  And they were the same songs on Christmas Eve.  And they were the same songs on Christmas Day.  Nothing was different.  Nothing besides the sermon itself marked the birth of Christ and the liturgical year.  It was more disappointing than I ever could've have imagined.  It was our first encounter with culture shock.

There were still good things, we were able to feast and sing with other missionaries and friends who knew Christmas carols, and returning to our regular life rhythms provided comfort as well.  And ahead of us were new things -- moving to the new house, working with our friends and neighbors, and the coming school year when Jeff began teaching. 

Friday, September 04, 2015

Dear A: Your Country is Not Exploding

I have a friend whose family lives overseas. Sometimes, when big things happen in the news, it is hard to put it into perspective.  It's easy to forget that when news happens, normal life is still going on, too.  The subsequent reaction to the Center for Medical Progress's investigative videos is one of those things.  To them, and especially to their teenage daughter, it feels like "my country is exploding."  It is hard to watch from afar.

Dear A:

Over the last couple of months, we are finding out that so many terrible things, far worse than we ever imagined, are being done to little babies in the name of "freedom." It's horrible. It's awful.

But our whole nation is not exploding. In fact, for the first time in a long time, there is hope.

There is a saying "Those who don't know history are doomed to repeat it, and those who do are doomed to know that we are repeating it," except it isn't always tragic to know that we are repeating it. Sometimes, it is a comfort.

I know history.  I know that within the history of mankind, there is a continual cycle of committing atrocities against another people -- a people that can be defined as "other," and then gradually, realizing that the people are not so "other," and then they repent and they stop.

It's not even unusual for cruelty to be proclaimed as a virtue.  Look at "The Irish Question" that the British contended with.  Look at colonialism in many countries.  Look at the Holocaust or the Armenian Genocides.  These are just recent examples.

In our own country, there are many examples too, but the most clear is slavery, and that is often what Pro-Life advocates try to use to highlight the evils of abortion.  For the sake of our own comfort, Americans enslaved many and treated them horribly based on the color of their skin.  Even the slaves who were treated well still had the most basic of human rights denied them.  The laws and the Supreme Courts sided with the slave-owners, even binding the consciences of those who were opposed, making them obligated to turn in slaves striving for freedom even when they had reached so-called "free states."

As time went by, more and more realized how terrible slavery was, especially when contrasted with "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness."  Eventually, the reality becomes too clear.  And when reality is that clear, and evil is seen for what it is, people become willing to work in one way or another for what is right.  It was not a quick process though.  It took a few hundred years.

Planned Parenthood has been killing babies for decades.  We all know that and have been helpless except in our prayers and our outreach to mothers to try prevent each individual abortion.  The selling of body parts, of killing babies being born alive, of making profits off of them -- this has also been going on for thirty years.  But now we know.  We can't unknow.  And so many people who have turned their eyes to abortion before can no longer do so. When hearts and minds change so do laws.  When laws change, court decisions are reversed.

The strength of the U.S. isn't that we are always good.  It's that we have the means as a people to change our minds and change our government.  We do that every election year.

I know it looks like evil has suddenly appeared, but it's hasn't. It's been hidden, but it has been there all the time. We've needed this "explosion" to bring it out in the open. Historically, investigative journalism has been good at doing that (think: Upton Sinclair's The Jungle, the works of Nellie Bly, and the journalists who brought about Watergate).

Now we can see it. For the first time in decades, we have a greater hope than we have had in a long time.  The stubborn will continue to refuse to watch the videos, to remain in the dark, and to not even seek the truth.  But others are changing their minds about abortion, and even more are disillusioned with Planned Parenthood. 

This particular outcry may not bring about the end to the practice of abortion, but it is already bringing about fewer abortions.  These videos are making us aware that it was worse than we could've imagined.  And when we are aware (and appalled), there is hope we can change.  Pray.

note:  I also know that if we continue to equate "good" with pleasure and ease instead of virtue, we will go the way of many cultures that no longer exist, so we are back to "doomed to know that history is repeating itself."