Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Soaking up Summer

First time using a skim board...he loved it.

The Oregon Regency Society Pittock Mansion Party, an afternoon of loveliness.
Taking a turn...
Blind Man's Bluff

Smoke bomb protection.
Master Consumer of Frosting  

   I've been pondering Psalm 78 with a renewed awareness that if I do not learn to praise God in the gloaming, I will never know the spirit of gratitude when things are going great. I will only wake to a world filled with the wonder of gratitude, if I've intentionally created the habit of gratitude. There's a Light that shines the way through dark places and it's accessed with a spirit of gratitude through the sufficiency of His grace. This I am learning. This I am trying to live.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Birthday Girl!

In her new dress for a special party! More pictures to come...
At Sylvia Beach Hotel
Reading the book/card her dad made for her.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Guided in the Dark

    A final reflection on Learning to Walk in the Dark.
   We are birthed in the darkness and brought forth into an even harsher darkness, but one day the darkness will give way to the Light. 

   I set my feet in a dark world, often not of my choosing. I was born here, but without a choice of my landing pad. Yet the direction I embark upon, is entirely of my own choosing. Or is it? Search and Rescue Coordinators inform me, that years ago people always headed down when lost. They descended in search of water. But today, when lost, we are likely to scramble up, seeking a cell signal. When I'm lost, what direction do I point my compass? I'm an up kind of girl, when I'm not down, that is. When lost, many questions are posed: should I look inward, outward, or upward? What's my bearing: men, me, or the Messiah? What do I listen and look for, when lost in the woods? It's tempting to sit and scream into a dark wood. But maybe, being lost is the way to finding found.

    They will not hunger or thirst, neither will mirage [mislead] or scorching wind or sun smite them; for He Who has mercy on them will lead them, and by springs of water will He guide them. Isaiah 49:10 (AMP)

   Maybe the paths I wander, searching for (living) water, remind me of other yearnings within that require filling. I am thirsty for connection with God and others. Maybe the thirst, if I listen, will point to a spring in the wilderness. A wild spring, hidden and discovered, only when I am thirsty enough to stumble down paths not normally taken. Desperate thirst causes me to look and listen for the Light in the woods that shows the way through, and desperate thirst enables deep filling. Be still. But, there's always something rattling around in the woods that scares me stiff. Maybe what threatens is simply an illusion or an impostor?

   I meander up to the house, lost in thought. The call of a hawk, down low and near, startles me. Is he there, in the fir? Looking through the dim light, reveals a pesky and mischievous blue jay. He is a threat to no one: not mouse, kitten, chicken, and of course not men. But for one moment, I'm sure the sound of this presence is ominous for a beloved pet; it's simply an illusion. Much of what is spoken over you and I in this life feels like a curse, or even worse, is a curse. Words. They rattle us in the dark. But, these words will not alight. What rests upon us will be words of Life. Breathing and living. Creating and caring. Safe in the woods.

    You have as little to fear from an undeserved curse as from the dart of a wren or the swoop of a swallow. Proverbs 26:2 (MSG)

Prayers muttered in the darkness of procedure rooms and answers...

   I abide in the darkness. You can too. Peace is possible in the unknown, which is pregnant with possibilities. You know fear in the darkness, but I know only light. In the darkness, let my light lead you. I will never leave you nor forsake you. My plans are perfect for you – you are being perfected in my plans for you. Though you walk through the valley of the shadow of death, fear no evil, for I am with you. Your darkness is not dark to me, it is an opening into the ways of Life. Reality is not as it always seems. Sometimes there is more to darkness than meets the eye. You have to look with the eyes of your heart in order to see what is Real. My paths of darkness lead to ever greater Light. I am healing inner places. They are not dark to me. I will do exceedingly beyond all that you ask or imagine if you will trust me. Walk confidently into the darkness. I AM there.

   Thankful...a young girl on the eve of her 11th birthday who handled an MRI with IV and barium and contrast well. For the dove that met us on the wire at the car shop before the MRI, for the loaner Rover to take up to the hospital, for the gal in the waiting area who taught C another crochet stitch as she waited for procedures, for the dove that flew right in front of us three times in the cafeteria window, for a finished and ready Rover upon return to the shop, for being able to stop at almost 70 mph when the guy in front of me slammed on his brakes (For who knows what, I wasn't tailgating.), for the sky that opened up and gave us a glimpse of divine light and shining blue on an otherwise pouring day, for a watered garden, so I didn't have to water or think of plants, for the rainbow over the line of firs last night, for the deer in the yard, and for a birthday. So very blessed.

They will say of me, ‘In the Lord alone are deliverance and strength. Isaiah 45:24

Monday, July 14, 2014

The Darkness Within a Harsh Light

   Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know. Jeremiah 33: 2,3

Until the dawn arises...
    Just now in the darkness, what am I afraid of? The light of day shines full, but the darkness hangs around. She's hard to banish, and doesn't obey like the moon succumbing to the sun. She lingers and lurks, and this darkness speaks to me.

    Occasionally, in the dark, the whippoorwill calls. He's not native, but we hear him nonetheless. I think him a dastardly bird, an omen, not a song. But I can't escape it: he sings in the dark. His eyes gleam, as does his song. Does he sing of the darkness, or in spite of it? What am I compelled or inspired to sing in the dark? Will I sing, no matter what?

   Saturday night, I hear the owls. Once in awhile I hear one, but two is unusual. They call to each other. Responsively, their soft hooos echo through the window into our room, and I hear Him saying, "I am here. Call on me." Will I? Converse in the dark? Surely, the darkness is alive. Calling.

   Near midnight, on another evening, I close up forgotten chickens. It's pitch dark, but for the beam of my flashlight, and I'm startled by white petals caught in the light. Daisies open in the dark, their petals in full bloom. Who knew? And I wonder: Do I bloom full in the darkness? Do I remain open?

   There's treasure obtained by venturing into the darkness, for treasure of worth is not stored in day light spaces.

   I will give you hidden treasures, riches stored in secret places, so that you may know that I am the Lord, the God of Israel, who summons you by name. Isaiah 45:3

     A solitary raven pokes for worms and hops like a robin. I hold out fists. No. Open hands. I think like Elijah. Fill me. Give me. Manna for the dry riverbed of my soul. I receive like the hunted, a wild manna, given and known, only in dark barren places. The darkness delivers a special manna that day does not.

    Walking the dark path is a gift few possess. I know only a few who have navigated the dark path daily, praising in the darkness. Like the whippoorwill, their songs remind me that the darkness is not nearly as dark as I imagine it to be. There is life in the night. Alive, there is One who calls into the darkness, our darkness. Walking in the dark with God, these darkness docents have accessed a light many of us have never beheld. They have learned. I am learning, that there's life in the darkness. We are not alone. I am not alone. God is in the shroud, but I must go up the mountain, in the dark, to meet Him.

Learning to Walk in the Dark by Barbara Brown Taylor

Adjusting to the Dark by Pastor Susan Garlinger from the Night Vision Series, Seeing God in the Dark

Coveting prayers for Doernbecher procedures this week. 

Wednesday, July 9, 2014


I am not a photographer.
I am a watcher. 
I gather memories.
I scoop up moments.
I look to remain thankful.
Loveliness flees my mind far to quickly.
Lately, the lens is angled and soft. 
All is blurry, but one: the moment in the middle.
The soft lens makes more palatable the hard days we face. 
I drill down.
The essence in front of me. 
Find joy in curve of cheek and bend of eye.
Simple and small, made large. 
I see the world really there, not just the trial. 
A world that is soft and luminous with light. 

Blessing me...

Monday, July 7, 2014

A Monumental Fourth!

 It was hot, hot, hot, but we had a lot of fun.
 He used that squirt gun all weekend.
 Time to work.
 Time to ride.
 Time to hit the river for some float time.
 There was fireworks, then fire, then a finale, and then more fire!
Thankful for volunteer fire fighters and water tankers.
Speaking of water...getting even for one to many squirts.

More horsing around.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Ann Coulter's Hating Soccer: An American Soccer Mom Response

Timbers Camp 2014
Dear Ann,

This past weekend, America celebrated independence, freedom, and democracy. At the same time, many Americans celebrated and enjoyed World Cup Soccer. As the mother of a nine year old who adores soccer, I'd like to offer an American soccer mom response to your America's Favorite National Pastime: Hating Soccer.

(I've included your letter in bold and my responses in italic.)

I've held off on writing about soccer for a decade -- or about the length of the average soccer game -- so as not to offend anyone. But enough is enough. Any growing interest in soccer can only be a sign of the nation's moral decay.

Yes, our nation is in moral decay, Ann. She is struggling to remember who she once was, what she was founded upon, and by whom (immigrants). Soccer is not a sign of our decay, nor have we lost our compass. We still have a compass in America, but that compass is often the individual will of one vs. the wisdom of a selfless and collective community working to achieve life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness for all – not just one.

(1) Individual achievement is not a big factor in soccer. In a real sport, players fumble passes, throw bricks and drop fly balls -- all in front of a crowd. When baseball players strike out, they're standing alone at the plate. But there's also individual glory in home runs, touchdowns and slam-dunks.

In soccer, the blame is dispersed and almost no one scores anyway. There are no heroes, no losers, no accountability, and no child's fragile self-esteem is bruised. There's a reason perpetually alarmed women are called "soccer moms," not "football moms."

Soccer is a team sport. It does not worship at the feet of “one.” In our culture, which leans towards selfishness, not selflessness, it is a refreshing game. Yet, no player will arrive at the professional or collegiate level without having given his or her everything. Their all, all the time. They practice as much, if not more, than the players of other sports, and they will run. Anyone who can run for 90 minutes straight, all out, has my admiration. They will run until their lungs are bursting and then they will run some more, all while controlling a small piece of leather between their toes. It is an all or nothing game, for both the team and the individual. Without individuals who step up and give their all, the team will never achieve their objectives.

There are winning heroes and losers, but you have to pay attention to see them. Thus far, soccer doesn't have nearly the inflated egos that some sports struggle to contain. Thank God, my kid is watching.

Here's the picture of a hero: She is the girl who never misses anything with her eyes and ears, and who's feet are in perpetual motion. Her team has pounded away at the other team for the last 45 minutes with no success. They will not give up one inch of their space. The goalie of the defending team has got fire coursing through her that incinerates the ball's chance of ever getting to the net. But this girl persists. She keeps looking, listening, and running, and when the moment arrives, she will not miss it. She may miss opportunities, but she will not miss this one. With perfect timing and precision, she will find a way to send that small ball of leather through the bars at the exact right angle. Perfecting that angle, perfecting that kick, has taken her years, and today she will use every ounce of her training. The dues she has paid, will be paid back to her and her team. Her understanding of the power she needs to apply, and what she needs to hold back, the angle of her kick, it's all there. It all comes together. She will persevere and bring in the game winning score, and they will go to the World Cup.

Regarding accountability, what of a player's accountability to their team, their family, and their coach? In addition, they are accountable to their fans, just like any other team sport or team player. No one is without accountability, some just choose to recognize it exists and others do not.

Do they even have MVPs in soccer? Everyone just runs up and down the field and, every once in a while, a ball accidentally goes in. That's when we're supposed to go wild. I'm already asleep.

I'm sorry if the game bores you. I really get it, because that's what football does to me. If you end up stuck at a soccer game, I'd recommend taking along Why Soccer Matters by Pele or Go for the Goal: A Champion's Guide to Winning in Soccer and Life by Mia Hamm.

(2) Liberal moms like soccer because it's a sport in which athletic talent finds so little expression that girls can play with boys. No serious sport is co-ed, even at the kindergarten level.

Boys and girls do play together, but only while very young. Further, isn't this what the women of your generation have fought for the girls of this generation to achieve? Isn't this what we've wanted all along? Soccer builds strength of habits and equality into boys and girls. It's a win-win for our girls and our boys. They will remember the equality long after kindergarten.

(3) No other "sport" ends in as many scoreless ties as soccer. This was an actual marquee sign by the freeway in Long Beach, California, about a World Cup game last week: "2nd period, 11 minutes left, score: 0:0." Two hours later, another World Cup game was on the same screen: "1st period, 8 minutes left, score: 0:0." If Michael Jackson had treated his chronic insomnia with a tape of Argentina vs. Brazil instead of Propofol, he'd still be alive, although bored.

Even in football, by which I mean football, there are very few scoreless ties -- and it's a lot harder to score when a half-dozen 300-pound bruisers are trying to crush you.

While it may be hard to score in football, it's no less difficult in soccer. Anyone can carry a ball around with their hands. However, scoring against a Portland Timbers player with a ball between your toes is another matter altogether. You should come to Portland and watch them play. Ask to meet them. If you do, please invite me.

(4) The prospect of either personal humiliation or major injury is required to count as a sport. Most sports are sublimated warfare. As Lady Thatcher reportedly said after Germany had beaten England in some major soccer game: Don't worry. After all, twice in this century we beat them at their national game.

So warfare, humiliation, and threat to one's life is what makes good sport? Americans must rethink their habits of violence, or these habits will eat our children alive. Last year, when a boy in my son's second grade class told me that he plays Grand Theft Auto, I shuddered inside. I knew he would never come to play, and I wept for his lost childhood. What are we as a nation? We need to decide soon. That video game is American. Born and bred. What is your personal responsibility to reduce violence in our nation? What is mine?

Soccer teaches my son hard work, perseverance, teamwork, and joy. These are character traits I admire and want him to grow in as he grows. Soccer is helping us instill values. I ask of all sports: Where is the athlete that will aggressively give his all without showing aggression to fellow players? Where is the athlete who pursues excellence, but not at the expense of others?

Baseball and basketball present a constant threat of personal disgrace. In hockey, there are three or four fights a game -- and it's not a stroll on beach to be on ice with a puck flying around at 100 miles per hour. After a football game, ambulances carry off the wounded. After a soccer game, every player gets a ribbon and a juice box.

In professional sports, if there is a personal disgrace it's almost always due to the lifestyle or actions of the player. A life dissolving before our eyes. Dysfunction and pain on display. I don't have any need or desire for my child to watch that. What lessons are there for him in that? Work hard for your dreams and then watch them crash and die hard due to drugs, alcohol, and the promiscuity that comes with fame? Thanks, we'll pass. I am your average soccer mom who is happy with knowing normal people and looking for mentors who model hard work and yes, normalcy too.

One day when he gets to high school and then hopefully goes off to college, I want him to remember we've instilled habits in him that he can use to direct his time. When Sunday afternoon rolls around, will he sit in his dorm room gaming all afternoon or will he go kick a ball around with his buddies? I know what I hope. He will have to determine the course of his path and his choices, but we hope to instill good habits while we may. 

As for snacks, these days we usually pass out Gatorade and cookies, or yes, a juice box. If I don't splurge for the Gatorade, I feel guilty about it (not really :-). I learned this year that chocolate milk is the perfect recovery drink, but not all us can drink dairy, but I'm sure the American Dairy Association would be all for it.

If he gets a trophy, and not all coaches pass them out, it is because of the goodwill of the person who coached them, and to some of those kids, that trophy means the world. They, may or may not, ever get an academic award, but that trophy will sit in their room and before they close their eyes at night, they will think of their team's successes. They will also think of their losses. Maybe they will ask why and work harder next time. My son's trophies sit on his dresser and they are treasures to him. He does not ask me when he can have the latest video game, but when we can kick a ball around together. He asked me while I sat writing this. (Now, that's guilt.)

(5) You can't use your hands in soccer. (Thus eliminating the danger of having to catch a fly ball.) What sets man apart from the lesser beasts, besides a soul, is that we have opposable thumbs. Our hands can hold things. Here's a great idea: Let's create a game where you're not allowed to use them!

Most people can use their hands; using your hands doesn't make you or I special. It is our hearts and minds that make us special. Our souls. Our hands only make us special when we use them to build up souls. When we use them to write life. May I share this St. Francis of Assisi quote:

He who works with his hands is a laborer. He who works with his hands and his head is a craftsman. He who works with his hands and his head and his heart is an artist.”

Further, if I'm honest with myself, I recognize I can't control everything in life. This son of mine was born with soccer balls on the brain. Maybe it was the balls painted on his room walls, or the fact that he was always toddling around the obstacle course of the dog and his sister, but he never stops moving and there is always a ball near his feet. I hear them slam into the garage door, or the porch, or the side of the house, or they smack underneath the counter top bar, or fly down the hallway. I can seek to contain where the ball is used, but I cannot control the love of soccer that seems to have been born within him. This is not for me to determine, but to embrace.

(6) I resent the force-fed aspect of soccer. The same people trying to push soccer on Americans are the ones demanding that we love HBO's "Girls," light-rail, Beyonce and Hillary Clinton. The number of New York Times articles claiming soccer is "catching on" is exceeded only by the ones pretending women's basketball is fascinating.

I note that we don't have to be endlessly told how exciting football is.

I am not connected to girls' soccer, and I'm sure there are some girls who's parents are pushing soccer on them, but for those I see at soccer camps and on the field, they don't seem force fed. By the time you get to U12, it is generally about who wants to be there. Sure, there are tiger parents everywhere, but soccer parents are generally good people who just want to invest in their kids.

Further, if the options are presenting my girl child with a Barbie doll or a soccer ball, I would choose the latter. Each to her own. That is okay. We treat our children separately and the young woman in our house is not thrilled with soccer. She supports her brother in it, but it is not “her thing.” We try to be equal about opportunities for each of them, but yes, she goes to most of his games. We are together as a family. We hit the snack shack. She tries to ignore my cheers by reading. Maybe I'll recommend the Pele or Mia Hamm book to her.

And I do I sympathize with you. I can't stand football. Can't. Stand. Football. But, I don't believe football lovers are decaying our society. I just think they should give real futbol a chance.

(7) It's foreign. In fact, that's the precise reason the Times is constantly hectoring Americans to love soccer. One group of sports fans with whom soccer is not "catching on" at all, is African-Americans. They remain distinctly unimpressed by the fact that the French like it.

Soccer is multi-cultural and played all over the world. Soccer is not defined by skin color but by self discipline and perseverance. I love that! It will not rise, nor fall, with our nation and our fads. Soccer will remain: a ball, a child, a goal, and friends. That's a win to me.

And what other sport has spurred on the creation of the One World Futbol? Check it out. You will love it. That I can buy my child a soccer ball and give one away encourages me. That we can share a soccer ball, all while learning about another country and another child encourages me. If soccer can give back, even just a little, it's good for the souls of our children. Let them laugh and play ball. Life is hard. Oh, and the One World Futbol is totally dog proof. Soccer indestructible. Buy a futbol today. Give one away.

(8) Soccer is like the metric system, which liberals also adore because it's European. Naturally, the metric system emerged from the French Revolution, during the brief intervals when they weren't committing mass murder by guillotine.

Despite being subjected to Chinese-style brainwashing in the public schools to use centimeters and Celsius, ask any American for the temperature, and he'll say something like "70 degrees." Ask how far Boston is from New York City, he'll say it's about 200 miles.

Liberals get angry and tell us that the metric system is more "rational" than the measurements everyone understands. This is ridiculous. An inch is the width of a man's thumb, a foot the length of his foot, a yard the length of his belt. That's easy to visualize. How do you visualize 147.2 centimeters?

You learn that in school these days. Singapore math is great, and flexibility in mathematics is a skill I'm happy to have my child learn. He is a citizen of the world, and as such, should learn the knowledge of the world, not simply the knowledge of modern day America. This is what educators call a Classical Curricula and ironically, it is what most early Americans were taught. Flexibility, perseverance, determination, and working on a team, all while knowing your own personal giftings and using them to help others – this is American.

(9)Soccer is not "catching on." Headlines this week proclaimed "Record U.S. ratings for World Cup," and we had to hear -- again -- about the "growing popularity of soccer in the United States."

The USA-Portugal game was the blockbuster match, garnering 18.2 million viewers on ESPN. This beat the second-most watched soccer game ever: The 1999 Women's World Cup final (USA vs. China) on ABC. (In soccer, the women's games are as thrilling as the men's.)

Run-of-the-mill, regular-season Sunday Night Football games average more than 20 million viewers; NFL playoff games get 30 to 40 million viewers; and this year's Super Bowl had 111.5 million viewers.

What does “catching on” mean? Really? There are 7 billion people in the world and a couple billion of them love soccer. Are we, America, the barometer for how the world should feel? That's kind of depressing to me. As your average soccer mom, the statistics on how many people are viewing soccer don't really matter to me. What does matter to me is that my child is able to watch something on TV that is not killing his brain cells or that promotes sex, violence, and fear.

(10)Remember when the media tried to foist British soccer star David Beckham and his permanently camera-ready wife on us a few years ago? Their arrival in America was heralded with 24-7 news coverage. That lasted about two days. Ratings tanked. No one cared.

David Beckham's celebrity status is of no interest to the average soccer mom, nor do I wish to teach my child to worship a man or woman. I want him to worship God. As far as David Beckham's contributions as a person, I've heard he's done some pretty amazing things for kids. No? So far as I know, he's not melted down as a person. Maybe we could cut him some slack.

If more "Americans" are watching soccer today, it's only because of the demographic switch effected by Teddy Kennedy's 1965 immigration law. I promise you: No American whose great-grandfather was born here is watching soccer. One can only hope that, in addition to learning English, these new Americans will drop their soccer fetish with time.

I don't see Americans as fetish, but we can be taken with fads. Sometimes we act like the world's adolescents. A visit to other nations and world cities reminds us of how young we really are in the scheme of world history. And yes, we often change our minds. Whether soccer grows in popularity, we will see, but I'm happy to tag along for the adventure. I, and I believe, many other moms and dads, will continue to drive our kids to the fields and kick a ball around with them. We will love watching the camaraderie they have with their friends and their team. We will love being a part of that team, because making good friends these days is pretty hard for kids. Often, us adults who are supposed to be leading, modeling, and mentoring our nation's kids are more lost than the kids. Maybe we need to look into our children's hearts to help guide us. Maybe we need to kick a ball around with our kids, and maybe, just maybe, we'll find our way back to the America that once was. 

 Copyright 2014 Kim Conolly