Sunday, December 12, 2010

Sandi and Mike

It's always a shock to hear about someone who was a part of your life passing from this world when they are in your general age range. Even when it is someone you have not seen for many years and have mainly remained in touch with via an annual Christmas card, there are people who you hope and expect to receive those annual updates about for years to come....people who, when you think of them, you smile and remember how they touched your life, and you continue to wish only the best for them and wish that the miles didn't separate you; that you could somehow see them again. I blogged earlier this year about our friend Al Haymaker, our former assistant pastor turned police officer, who died in a car crash this past Feb. at age 56. I never would have imagined that when those annual Christmas cards began to arrive, two more of our cherished contemporaries would have joined him in heaven. Yet at the same time, I can't even explain why, but in both cases, when I got the cards, before I even opened the envelopes....I somehow knew.

Last Christmas, the annual card and newsletter from Mike and Debbie reported the shocking news that he was battling cancer. But we had not heard any further updates as the year went on, so I sent up a prayer when I thought of them and hoped for the best. Mike was the assistant pastor at the church where Rex and I met, who was also best man at our wedding. The best way I can describe him is that he always reminded me of a big, sweet teddy bear. He and Debbie were called to a church in Maine several years ago, a place I've always wanted to visit, but considering that it's at the opposite corner of the continental U.S., it made it doubtful that we would be seeing each other anytime soon. When the card came with just Debbie's name on the address label and just her signature, I knew what her newsletter was going to say. Mike was 61.

The testimony page on my site, which also describes how Rex and I met, mentioned how our pastor and his daughter Sandi, who had quickly become a good friend of mine, did a bit of matchmaking, convincing me that he really was not too old for me (I was 24 and he was 33) and that, yes, he was quiet, but they could tell he really liked me, etc. Then, Pastor asked him to drive me home one night from Bible study at his house and the rest, as they say, was history. What I tended not to mention or even think of whenever I thought of Sandi down through the years was the all-too-apparent fact that most of her adult life, she had been afflicted with a devastating condition commonly called FOP (short for Fibrodysplasia Ossificans Progressiva). This is a horrendous condition that gradually causes one's muscles to turn to bone, creating a sort of second skeleton, and eventually rendering the person immobile. During the late 70's - early 80s when I attended that church and frequently hung out with Sandi at the parsonage, her body was already mostly stiff but she could move with great effort and could occasionally make it to church. However, following that, she was bedridden for over 20 years and depended on the faithful care of her dear parents -- Rev. DuWayne Lee (the pastor who married Rex and me) and his wife Jean, who are now about age 78.

I know Pastor and Jean were brokenhearted over Sandi's condition, and it certainly took great faith and divine intervention for them to continue to care for her and watch her condition deteriorate for decades. Yet, they did so with a God-given grace and immense thankfulness to have their beloved daughter to care for. As for Sandi herself, I will continue to mainly remember her unwavering faith, gentle and optimistic nature, and all the fun we had whenever we were together. A few days ago, I posted a prayer request to my Facebook page and to my online lists asking for relief from my migraines, which had given me more trouble than usual the past couple weeks. While the migraines have been painful, when I think of Sandi, I feel ashamed to be complaining about something as comparatively small as temporary head pain -- when here was a precious person who was not able to even move, to eat anything other than pureed foods (since her jaw would no longer open more than 1/4 inch) or do any of the other things I take for granted every day. Next time I am tempted to complain about headaches or any other discomfort I may have, I will think of my friend and what she had to go through every day of her life. Sandra Jean Lee was a gift to this earth for 55 years, 1 month and 26 days. I will never forget her, and I am thankful that when I see her again one day, she will have a new body and be able to move freely.

I invite anyone who is reading this to learn more about FOP by clicking here (this article, from 6 years ago, includes quotes from my friend Sandi and her mother) -- and to please be in prayer that a cure will one day be found for this terrible affliction. Thank you.

I am also thankful to have known Mike Peterson and Al Haymaker, two men who had greater faith and love of God than I could ever hope to have. I feel our world lost them and Sandi way too soon, but God in His sovereignty has called them to be with Him. Rex and I have not gotten around to putting up our Christmas tree this year and to be honest, with this latest news about our friends, I don't think we will. It just feels a bit too frivolous right now to be putting up decorations that only our eyes will see, only to take them down in a month. That reminds me a little too much of how temporary life is -- a fact that was driven home all too graphically this past week.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

An Awful Anniversary followed by Weather Weirdness

I still can't believe that last week already marked one year since one of the most painful weeks of my life. On Nov. 18, 2009, following a routine afternoon dental appointment, my precious "dog of a lifetime", the wonderful and wooly Great Pyrenees Heidi, 3 weeks short of what was to be her milestone 12th birthday, collapsed in our kitchen -- and unlike a few other recent instances, this time, she never got back up. What followed were 3 days including a vet appointment (where we were told there was a "small chance" the pills he prescribed would help) and my spending most of my time in our "great room" where my girl remained, feeding her broth and water with a turkey baster, and remaining in denial to that last moment, at 9:45 p.m. on Sat. the 21st, that she would recover. I remember my "swatgirl" (whose swats to get my attention always caused me to drop whatever else I was doing) with undying affection and gratitude for the 7 years and 10 months we had together following our adoption of her at age 4. Everyone needs to have a "dog of a lifetime", and I thank God every day for Heidi -- and despite wishing our time together could have been extended, I am thankful she didn't go through a long illness, and that she passed in the room with me at home, not via the vet's needle the day before.

I also thank God for darling little Susie, who joined our family last year on what would have been Heidi's 12th birthday (Dec. 9) and who becomes increasingly more dear to me each day -- as well as for our beautiful big boys Archie and Jesse who, though they may never be buddies, are now (usually) able to be in the main part of our home together without an altercation.

According to the calendar, winter begins each year on Dec. 21, though the entire month of December can be quite wintry, even here in the comparatively moderate Pacific Northwest. I join thousands of others in beautiful western Washington in hoping we have not had a sneak preview this past week of the winter to come! It has been predicted to be much more like the severe winter of two years ago than last year, but raised its ugly head much earlier than anyone expected. Last Sunday the 21st, a fine snow fell throughout the afternoon. I thought nothing of it, assuming it was too early in the season to be a problem and would pretty much melt into the ground. But Rex awoke me Monday to say the roads were bad and that he would drive me to the ferry. Snow continued to fall throughout the day, and at 4:15, my boss Chris confirmed the roads were bad and that everyone should leave the office, which we did. The winds were very cold and strong, and I was glad to get a ride to the dock with my coworker, Tara. The short walk from her car to the dock was unpleasant to say the least. I just KNEW we would have a tree fall into our power line at home, and hoped I could at least have a hot dinner before that happened.

The walk from the Southworth dock to Rex's car was downright scary. The wind was so strong that though I am not a petite person, I literally envisioned the wind picking me up and depositing me into the ice cold water. But I made it to his car and I did have a chance to eat some dinner before our power went out at 6:40 p.m. As it turned out, it was "only" out for 26 hours and about 17 minutes. But there were some major differences between this and the usual power outages. The temps got down to about 14, very rare for this area. Despite wearing a sweatshirt, two sweaters, winter coat, hat, scarf and gloves, it took me almost a day after the power returned to feel I could begin peeling off the layers. Our water pipes froze, so we had no water till Rex finished fixing the pipes yesterday. Our cell phone tower was mostly non-functional Tuesday and part of Wednesday, so I didn't learn till I finally reached Chris Tues. night that the entire town where I work had no power from late Monday till midday Wednesday. I was home (and uncomfortable due to the cold and dark) Tues. and Wed. since the roads were a sheet of ice till Thanksgiving (not to mention no power in our office). We had Cornish hens for dinner when Rex got home from working at the dog kennel Thanksgiving evening, and I worked the full day Friday (not originally scheduled) due to the two involuntary days off. My sinuses and body clock are still messed up from this ordeal, and I hope and trust the coming weeks will prove much less eventful!

As for crochet projects, I recently completed two blue and yellow baby boy afghans using Caron Simply Soft (one using the Fairfax stitch pattern and the other with diagonal brick stitch). The first one was bought by Elfi (boss mom)'s sister and the other for a future sale or gift or charity. Next, I used purple Sensations Angel Hair yarn to make myself a winter scarf in the Mayfair stitch (which I use most often for scarves), which felt very good in the recent severe weather. Then I crocheted Christmas presents for Dianne and for Elfi and Heide at work, which will remain nameless till after Christmas, and today I completed a star shaped red/green table mat (or large dishcloth) as part of an online exchange. Not sure what will be my next project. I'm way overdue in taking pics of my latest projects for the new crochet blog I'll be starting (which will eventually replace my crochet pages at; maybe next weekend if it's more normal (which shouldn't be hard to do after the past week!).

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Back Home Again

Hey, it's good to be back home again.
Sometimes, this old church feels like a long-lost friend
-- And hey, it's good to be back home again.

Apologies to the late John Denver -- but these are the words that occurred to me in my recent decision (or decision reversal) -- even though John was singing about an old farm and not an old church! I had posted almost 3 months ago that at that time, I had pretty much decided (resigned myself) to joining a church I had been attending that seemed like a good compromise. I liked the pastor, the people seemed nice enough, the doctrine seemed pretty much on target, and though the services were more contemporary than I felt at home with, I thought I would maybe even get used to it in time. But I could never take that final step of joining. I felt that it was because I missed the beauty of the Lutheran services, and specifically the church I had left in June of last year and still had in my heart.

I realized that due to there not being an LCMS or other conservative Lutheran church in town, my choice would involve compromise in either distance, doctrine or style of service. I also have come to realize that despite my disagreements with some of the policies of the ELCA, there is probably no such thing as a church whose doctrine I would agree with 100% (there are some things none of us may ever know for sure in this life). So at the beginning of this month, I decided to try something. Since I felt it would be awkward to return to the church I left once again (having visited twice since I'd left), I decided to visit one other ELCA church in town that I hadn't visited yet and really give it a chance; see how it felt. So I did. I went there that Sunday and the following Sunday. As was the case with other churches I'd tried the previous 1-1/4 years, the people were nice enough. And the experiment was successful in that what I quickly realized that what I have indeed been missing was so many beautiful aspects of the Lutheran service that were missing from the last (Methodist) church I attended -- the sharing of the peace, the many responsive readings and musical responses, having communion every week as an integral part of the service (not just throwing it in once a month as a "symbol"). What WAS still missing was the one-of-a-kind warmth and love I experienced at the church I left from the moment I first walked in the door in July '08. I went back to the other ELCA church a second time to be sure. Early on in the service, because it started an hour earlier than the place I now saw has always been "my" church, I felt the strong urge to run out the door in time to make the service there. But because this would have been obvious and I would have felt rude, I stayed till the end, and now I KNEW where I would be the following Sunday, the 19th. I knew it would be just a little awkward, but the awkwardness would be mainly on my part. I knew I would be welcomed back with open arms -- and I was. The interim pastor who has been there for many months, but who I had not yet met, has apparently decided to stay, and I like him very much (and he agrees that what has happened with the ELCA is "heartbreaking"). We have lost some good people, but most stayed for the same reason I came back -- because they realized there is no place else like this place, so they stayed in spite of the ELCA. So.....after 1-1/4 years of searching and trying in vain to make someplace else work out, I have come full circle and am Back Home Again.

I had a birthday earlier this month; it fell on Labor Day as it sometimes does. So it was nice to have the day to hang out at home instead of having to go into the office or take one of my few vacation days. The years continue to fly by and each year, I can't believe I'm the age that I am. But I've also gotten to the point where I am thankful to have achieved the age that I have, when I hear about people dying of sudden heart attacks and other reasons at my age or even younger. I continue to not get nearly enough sleep, get frequent headaches and remain 40-ish pounds overweight, and continue to realize I need to do something about this. Like the saying goes, "If I knew I was going to live this long, I'd have taken better care of myself". I know it's not something to joke around with. But I guess that if it was easy, if it wasn't a constant struggle, there wouldn't be millions of people struggling with it. The day before my birthday, a Sunday, I visited that other ELCA church, then (regretting I couldn't afford to take a mini-vacation this year but having a desire to do at least a little something different), I drove 20 miles north to Silverdale, stopped at what apparently is the only bagel shop in this county (ridiculous!), bought a bag of 6 day-old bagels, a small cream cheese and a hazelnut latte, had the latte and one of the bagels (which were delicious) and saved the rest to enjoy the rest of the long weekend, stopped at the JoAnn's and the Michael's and looked around, then drove back home. Then last weekend, Dianne and I went to the Puyallup Fair (the 6th largest fair in the U.S.), which we hadn't been to for years. We enjoyed looking at the crochet and other craft exhibits, the animals, and the commercial exhibits, and ate some delicious fish and chips. Then we made a few craft store stops and had chicken chimichaungas at Ranchero in Milton, brought a couple scones from the fair to her mom, and went back to Dianne's to crochet, talk and be with her three cute tiny dogs.

I've crocheted outfits for two more of the 5" Itty Bitty Babies and will get photos taken of them soon. I just finished a doily made of the Aunt Lydia's bamboo crochet thread I'd wanted to try. It's a bit too soft for doilies and splits quite easily. So I'll stick with the premium cotton thread such as my discontinued Opera, but now I know! I'm about to start an outfit in brown, sage and gold for a Ken doll who will be a companion to the Barbie in the sage, peach and gold gown. I had trouble finding the brown #10 crochet thread and thought I'd have to buy some from an eBay seller and pay shipping, but Dianne found a half-full roll that should be more than enough. I spent part of this weekend sorting through my crochet patterns and picked out some more to make in the near future (in addition to needing to start before long on Dianne's Christmas present; the big day is only 3 months away. Where does the time go; indeed! I miss the long days with dawn before 4:30 and dusk lasting till almost 10, yet in 3 more months, I'll long for today's 7:20 sunsets!

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Oh, What a Tangled Web We Weave!

The title of this post doesn't refer to its usual meaning concerning the results of lying, but rather, the tangled (World Wide) web that has resulted from all the broken links for various reasons -- including people not maintaining their web sites till they are suspended by the web host (which I was even temporarily guilty of for a few months), and web hosts changing hands and then sometimes disappearing, the biggest example of which was GeoCities. I miss GeoCities! When the Internet was young in the late 90's, they were extremely popular, and with good reason. Thousands of us truly enjoyed the concept of picking out a "house number" on a cyber street for the "neighborhood" that suited the theme of our site. Yes, the URLs were ridiculously long as a result, but I don't think anyone really cared.

When Yahoo took over GeoCities a couple of years ago, the cyber streets went away and were replaced by the site owner's Yahoo name. I thought that was kind of sad even though the URLs were much shorter. Then Yahoo closed GeoCities with little warning late last year. Thousands of people who still had their web sites on GeoCities never saw this coming and didn't know how or just didn't want to bother moving their sites. I realize this now more than ever, now that I have finally been trying to update my info on several web rings my site has belonged to (web rings, of course, being groupings of like-minded sites). Many of these web ring pages were on GeoCities and no longer exist; I click on them and get an error message. It's really sad; I hate to think how much worthwhile web content was lost. I don't know why Yahoo even bothered to buy GeoCities in the first place. Yahoo has some good points, like their YahooGroups lists, but it's really a shame that they killed GeoCities and left countless broken links and disheartened former site owners.

Another bad thing Yahoo did was to buy I believe they no longer own that site, which seems to still be the largest web ring provider. But for me and many others, part of the fun of joining or creating rings is the pretty, unique graphics used for each ring. When Yahoo bought, those graphics became plain generic boxes, and that's how they remain. Ringsurf, the provider of the three rings I still own and most of those I joined, has also gone downhill. They give zero response to questions or comments E-mailed to them and now request a 1,000 character minimum description for each ring you join, which is ridiculous and explained why no new members have joined my rings. I'll leave the three rings I own there for now, but may eventually close them, with web rings seeming to be fading from the Net. Bravenet and JLYM (a Christian ring provider) appear to be the best providers remaining, but they too have a dwindling number of rings that seem to still be active (ans many with broken links where ring home pages once were, that more often than not were GeoCities pages).

I'm doing some very overdue general updating this weekend on my site, The Evergreen Refuge -- this updating being so overdue that I didn't even realize my beautiful site was offline for a few months when I totally forgot to renew my account with my web host (having changed my E-mail address so I didn't receive the bill, and circumstances such as my precious dog Heidi's sudden death numbing my brain late last year). A lady on one of my online lists asked me this week if I'd considered designing web sites for other people to earn extra money. I told her I have considered that, and used to often mention my willingness to do so, but didn't get customers. But it also occurs to me that a lot of people are not longer seeking to create multi-section sites such as mine. Blogs seem to be the method of choice now for the majority of those who want a web site. They are simpler and pretty much accomplish the same purpose. I hope the day won't come when I decide to close The Evergreen Refuge and replace it with this blog. But I may eventually remove sections such as the web rings, awards and banners, which used to generate interest and traffic but probably don't any more.

I had actually started researching the web rings, and the updating I needed to do, a couple of weeks ago. But I really didn't have a chance to tear myself away from the DVR till this weekend, and it's the fault of Dianne's dear mom, Margaret. When she came on a drive with us to the Chehalis area several weeks ago, we were talking about tv shows and she asked if I watched NCIS. I told her I never had but after we continued to talk awhile, I told her I would check it out, and I did. Well......I''ll just say that though I do still really like Criminal Minds, NCIS makes it (and any other crime show) pale by comparison. I can't say enough about the cast and their interaction, the plots, the humor....I never imagined a forensic scientist who is a goth and a crusty elderly British medical examiner could be so endearing! So I "only" had about 150 episodes to catch up on. I guess I've seen most of them now since there are no "new to me" episodes for a few days (going through withdrawal here). I'm even going to try to download the theme song as the ringtone for my phone (though it takes forever to download anything to the little dinosaur of a phone I currently have....).

As far as crocheting is concerned, I haven't started another Barbie yet since having completed the multi-train violet and rose concoction. I want to make a Ken doll's outfit next; he'll be a companion to the Barbie in the sage and peach gown, and I need some brown crochet thread for his slacks. In the meantime, I made a couple of outfits for the darling 5" Itty Bitty Babies -- a "Sunday Meeting" dress, panties, shoes and hat in dark rose with pink trim, and a boy's baseball uniform in light blue with dark blue. I used #10 Opera thread for both. Dianne got me two more of the little baby dolls as part of my early birthday present, so I'll likely be making outfits for them next. I've also made a few more baby items with Red Heart Baby Soft (in the pretty pastel Angel Print) and in Bernat Cottontots, including a diagonal brick stitch multicolored baby ghan for which I used most of my small amounts of remaining Cottontots. Then it occured to me that Cottontots would work beautifully for baby bibs. I found a few bib patterns online that look nice, so that will be another small project I will try soon. Part of next weekend will be spent photographing my latest crochet projects, since I certainly have enough now for a 6th crochet page, maybe even a 7th!

Friday, June 25, 2010

Six Things I Am Trying to Wrap My Brain Around

1. Susie, our newest doggie, has already been with us for 6-1/2 months. She has settled in well and is a lot of fun. She is 21-1/2 months old now. I've wanted to get some more recent good pics of her, but when she sees me with the camera, I get a blank stare as if to say, "Mommy, what are you doing with that box in front of your face?" But I'll keep trying.

2. Even though Susie has been with us 6-1/2 months now, as of this writing I still don't have my web site,
The Evergreen Refuge, updated with info about her. I need to rectify that soon. In fact, I haven't updated my site at all for awhile. I attribute the reason for this to our DVR and how easy it is to scroll through two weeks of TV listings and record stuff off the travel, food, medical and crime channels -- along with my favorite network show, Criminal Minds (though at this point, I think I have seen almost all of the back episodes). I definitely watch too much TV -- and stay up too late watching it. The only DVR we have is in a separate room from the only computer we have -- so when I am watching programs on the DVR, I can't use the computer at the same time.

The Evergreen Refuge has been in existence over 12 years now! It has undergone many design improvements and additional sections over the years. I'm pleased with the look and number of sections at this point, though I will continue to update it when time permits (possibly this weekend), especially the pet, crochet, and interests sections.

4. I am writing this on a rare day off from work. I have Monday off as well. I had planned, starting today and going through Sunday evening, to take a mini-trip to Portland, a city I love and have not gotten back to since 2005. I had the hotel, Amtrak reservation and rental car in place, and mapped out how I planned to spend my time each day. I was really looking forward to it, especially since I haven't had any out-of-state getaways since Vegas in Sept. '08. Then last Saturday, I learned something that, after much consideration, caused me to very reluctantly decide to cancel my trip. I won't go into the circumstances on this public blog. Those I am regularly in touch with know about it, and I appreciate their prayers and concern. I feel things will work out in the end, but given the present circumstances, I decided it would be wise to not plan trips beyond a local overnighter for awhile. Though I am disappointed, it is really nice to have a day off work to just be at home alone with the pets and unwind.

5. It took awhile, but a few weeks ago I finished my 2nd most elaborate Barbie gown, a Paradise pattern called "A Mother's Love", featuring a multi-layered ruffled train, a fitted striped jacket and a large feathered and ribboned hat. (She's pictured in pink with white stripes, but I made her in wood violet with tea rose stripes, in my beloved discontinued #10 Opera thread; these two colors look beautiful together.) I'll get her photographed and added to my crochet pages on my site soon. So now I only have room left in my large glass cabinet for just 4 more Barbies (or maybe 3 Barbies and a Ken)! After that, I'll occasionally make a fancy Barbie for a gift. But I'm gradually shifting more to making clothes for larger dolls and for real babies for charity or gifts.

After I finish this blog entry, I will go back to sitting in front of the DVR for awhile and finishing a pink Cottonots mini-blankie in brick stitch that my newly acquired baby girl doll I found on eBay will sit on. I felt she would make a good companion for my baby boy doll that I had crocheted the pretty blue outfit for. I crocheted the girl a pretty little dress, booties and bonnet out of the same wonderful Australian baby layette booklet that the boy's outfit came from, which is the nicest baby layette pattern booklet I've ever come across. However, my very next project will be a blue Cottontots afghan (likely in Mayfair stitch, which I use a lot as it is relaxing and versatile) for my boss' mom, who mentioned she wants to buy another one from me - yay!

6. After going back and forth in my mind countless times since May of last year, at this point I am 99% sure I've finally decided that I am going to join the Methodist church I've attended at least a dozen times since late last year. I came close to joining at Easter but just wasn't ready yet. I visited a few other churches again, including the one I left over a year ago. In the end, I feel this particular Methodist church is where I belong at this time, though in my heart, I still wish I could join an LCMS (Lutheran Church Missouri Synod) church. But the closest one is 11 miles away, struggling to stay afloat and most of the congregation is quite elderly (I love elderly people but feel more comfortable with a variety of ages). The only other LCMS option is 18 miles away and would require much highway driving, which would be a hardship in the winter and a hassle otherwise. The UMC church is a bit more contemporary than I prefer (the praise choruses in the middle of the service are nicely done but are just not my thing) but the rest of the service is pretty traditional, and I really like the pastor and people. It is also a place I feel Rex would enjoy if he ever got a Sunday off work to come with me (the Lutheran church was a bit formal for him, though I loved it). It's a relief to have finally made a decision on this very important piece of my life!

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Collin, Insomnia, Criminal Minds, and Church

This past weekend was a long-awaited weekend away with Dianne, the highlight of which was something we hadn't done since December 2001. We saw Collin Raye in concert. It's so hard for me to comprehend that it's been this long, as obsessed as I was with the man and his music for 3 years, beginning in the summer of '98. He's remained my favorite singer and likely always will be, but I think I overcompensated for having been SO crazy obsessed as I had been. I had been aware of Collin and his music since his first singles in 1991, always did enjoy his music, but -- in '98, going through a hard time between two years of temping and another big problem I won't go into here, I heard the song "I Can Still Feel You', and it was like the intensity and heart he put into it hit me like a ton of bricks. As I began to accumulate his CDs, see his concerts, and correspond about him endlessly with other "Internet Collinators", it was like the proverbial snowball rolling down a hill, and I "Collinated" other people every chance I got, including my dear friend Dianne. (I'm sure God continues to wish my faith in Him was great enough to talk about Him to others half as much as I did about Collin Raye back then!). Continuing to learn about his great faith in God and his many humanitarian efforts only added to my obsession. I didn't think a solidly middle-aged married woman could be a groupie. But when said woman maxes out her Visa to travel 2,000 miles (in Dec. '99) with her Internet pals to meet the man, I guess that would be one definition of a groupie.

My fervor began to cool in late '01 when I tried desperately to get Dianne backstage to meet Collin and was denied by his management. I'd already managed to meet him twice, due to sheer will and desire to make it happen, but there was to be no third time. We saw him in concert (from lousy seats) in Tacoma in Dec. '01 (it was Dianne's third concert but approximately my 11th; I've lost count). Around that same time, the radio stations stopped playing his new singles and there were record label problems. I lost touch with the other "Internet Collinators" and stopped spending time on his web site. I would occasionally visit his site (usually when Dianne would tell me she heard he had a new CD coming out) but those visits became less and less frequent. I never stopped enjoying his music or appreciating him as a person, but the admittedly unhealthy obsession had faded.

Last fall, Dianne E-mailed me at work and said she heard Collin would be doing a concert in Bellingham, two hours north of us. I suddenly thought, wouldn't that be fun - it's been too long! And I'd wanted to visit Bellingham last fall and didn't go due to the rain. AND - what if I went online right then - maybe I could snag great seats! So I did. And I got us......FRONT ROW!! (My second front row and Dianne's first.) The tickets waited patiently in my top desk drawer for the next several months. But I still didn't make much of an effort to keep up with Collin's latest CDs or what was going on in his life these past 8+ years.

Last Saturday finally came. The concert began with a great opening set by the 90s group "Restless Heart". They were really excellent! I'd forgotten how much I had enjoyed their music. After a half-hour intermission, Collin's band came out -- all four were different people than his earlier concerts. And then, there he was, in a gray shirt and black pants (and a black baseball cap -- we thought, WHAT is up with that?). He opened with an upbeat song I'd never heard. He did many of his big songs from the 90s -- nowhere near all of them; there wasn't ehough time, but most of his big "signature" songs. He included a few newer ones - a beautiful song about prayer ("What I Need"), a fantastic version of the Steely Dan hit "Do It Again", and for his encore, he did the Joe Walsh rocker, "Rocky Mountain Way".

He did a fabulous job as always and his voice sounded better than ever, if possible. He joked with the audience as to why he wore the baseball cap -- he briefly lifted it to show not much hair left and added, "Collin's not as young as he used to be!" (Hey, join the club!) -- and about "That's My Story" being his "Achy Breaky Heart" that he HAS to include. But he also seemed -- Dianne called it "reflective", and he seemed to cut the concert a little bit shorter in the past. Today, I was stunned to find out why.

I went to Collin's site at lunchtime to try to find more info on his latest CDs, and a link there led me to the news that his first granddaughter, Haley, age 9, had just passed away of a brain disorder on April 3. I can't believe he could come out and put on the show that he did only two weeks after this tremendous loss. Many performers would have canceled the show. But as I've discovered countless times in the past and know now even more than ever, Collin Raye is not "many performers". He honestly is in a class by himself, not just as a passionate and enormously talented artist, but as a strong and dedicated Christian and family man. Most of the so-called country artists that have come out in the past few years don't begin to hold a candle to him as a singer, writer, performer -- and person. I feel so guilty now for not keeping up with him these past several years. I didn't even know his dear granddaughter had a brain disorder since age 2, or that he has a second granddaughter, age 5 (who thankfully is doing well). Yes, I did go overboard in the previous decade with my Collin obsession, but I need to start doing a better job of keeping up with his music and his life. He truly is one of a kind, and he and his dear daughter (Haley's mom) are in my prayers. I thank God for Collin Raye, and for his great gift of music and performing that he shares so unselflessly with the world -- even only two weeks after experiencing such a devastating loss.

I continue to experience Insomnia most every night, to live my life sleep-deprived and to stay up too late. Dianne and I couldn't sleep in the hotel room the night after seeing Collin, for different reasons. She has pain every day and night from her fibromyalgia and I have headaches and stress from my excess weight, job stress, Rex's hoarding and our "paycheck to paycheck" existence that makes me feel I never will be able to retire. I think we both finally got about two hours sleep. Now I have another reason to be a nightowl with chronic insomnia. I've missed "Monk" since it went off the air. I then found "Cold Case", but I think I now have seen most all of the reruns on cable. Two weeks ago, I discovered "Criminal Minds". After about the third episode, I realized I was hooked. It's on three different networks anywhere from one to six times, 6 days a week. There have been about 100 episodes, so it will take awhile to catch up. I'll get to see a couple a night off the DVR on weeknights, but am looking forward to this weekend -- I'll probably have enough saved up for a two-day marathon!

Last time I posted, I felt I had finally made a decision on a church. Now I again am not so sure. The Maundy Thursday service at the Methodist church caused me to realize how much I miss the Lutheran church. The regular services at that church really are a bit more contemporary than I think I can commit to long-term. I don't know if there are any other churches here in town with services that are to my taste but that aren't ELCA or that aren't overly dry or overly contemporary or simplistic. I am enriched by the liturgical services, but if not done properly, they can be dry. I miss my previous church that I attended in '09, but I won't be going back. I've ruled out finding a church in Bremerton, realizing how much I dislike having to drive up the highway, and also realizing that it's the opposite direction from most everything else in my life. There are two more churches in Gig Harbor I may consider; I need to learn more about them first. And finally, there is the LCMS church that sounded like it was on the verge of closing when I last visited in Jan. I should see what is happening there. SIGH -- I just hope that when I finally find the right place, I will KNOW it and will have a fruitful experience there for years to come.....

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Jacob, Michael, Chickens and Church

This post, for a change, is not going to be sad, for the most part. A week ago Saturday, Dianne and I drove out to the Mount Vernon area, 2 hours each way, to meet what we hoped would be her new family member at a Chihuahua rescue organization that had approved her for adoption. They had an "open house" for people to meet the doggies, but she was the only one who was approved. The weather was perfect and our hopes were high. There were about a dozen of the little critters separated into two collapsible cages. I waited in the car for a moment with Java while she got an initial look at them. She brought one over to the car for me to meet who I instantly recognized from his Petfinder page as Michael, a sweet 6-year-old tri-color long coat whose only flaw was that he had no teeth (since the previous owner either didn't or couldn't get him the attention he needed to prevent this). He captured both of us instantly, and I prayed that even if Dianne decided on another doggie, she would feel led to take little Michael as well.

Another little dog she looked forward to seeing was named Caleb at her suggestion; he was white, shorthaired, and less than two years old. She felt attracted to him, but he didn't seem to have the personality or the compatibility with Java that we would have preferred. Still, he was strongly in the running for her since she liked the idea of a younger dog who would be playful like Josh was. She visited with most of the other little dogs but seemed to be mainly torn between Caleb and Michael. As she stood with her back to the cage that contained mostly tan shorthaired Chi's, all or most of which we thought we had visited with, Dianne felt a swat on the back of her leg. She turned around and saw a little face looking up at her as if to say, "Hey, lady, what about me? Look at ME!" She asked, "Who is this?" and was told his name was Jack. The reason we had not remembered seeing his Petfinder profile was that he was marked as "No kids" since he had once bitten a child. The rep went on to explain it was a case where a woman who had kids (which the doggie had no incidents with) moved in with a boyfriend with kids, and one of the boyfriend's kids were harassing the little dog (to which we both thought, well, we would bite in that case too, and also, she should have kept the kids and dumped the boyfriend, ha). She picked up Jack and he seemed to lean into her. He was so sweet and gentle, and he also seemed to interact well with Java. So now, she was torn. She felt so drawn to both Jack and Michael. She had totally intended to adopt just one dog. But how could she leave one of them behind? She finally decided, to my delight, to adopt both. As she explained, she (we) had chosen Michael, but Jack had chosen her.

We brought all three doggies back to her home and were alarmed that evening when Dianne first held both Jack (who she has renamed Jacob) and Michael - and Jacob, who weighs 6 pounds and is 20 months old, went after Michael, who only weighs 4 pounds and is 6 years old, besides not having teeth. Dianne gave Jacob a good talking to in which she emphasized this would NOT be tolerated and that she is the queen mother, while Java (who is age 12 and weighs 12 pounds) is queen, and the two boys are princes. Jacob looked up at her so earnestly as if he understood every word, and then he hung his little head. So this confirmed that he is not only very smart but that he wants to do the right thing. There have been no such problems since, though she still keeps Jacob in his crate at night while Michael and Java sleep on the bed with her, which I think is wise till everyone gets more acclimated. Both little boys are crate trained and Jacob is OK with sleeping in his crate.

On the way to the rescue place, I asked Dianne, "What do you suppose Rex brought home last night?" She said, "Not another dog!" Nope, we have all the doggies we can handle for now! After a few guesses, I said, "Four baby chickens!" As with many of the critters he has rescued over the years, I had no warning about this and initially, I was not pleased, due tothe lack of warning and the additional time this would take from his needed clutter control. He explained that his boss at the dog kennel recalled he had mentioned about six months ago (she has a good memory) that it would be nice to have chickens so we could have fresh eggs, and gave him these four baby chickens from a friend of hers. Each one was a different color and one was a little larger than the others. He had an extra guinea pig cage they could be kept in for about a month, at which time he would put them in an outdoor coop. The guinea pig shavings worked for them, and he got chicken feed plus feed and water containers for their cage. He even got a heat lamp that shines over them 24/7 to approximate their mother's body. So he's taken excellent care of them. In spite of that, the largest chick died after only about 6 days. We don't know what went wrong, but he instantly cleaned the entire cage in hopes the remaining chicks would not get infected. So far, they have been fine. We won't know for awhile if they are boys or girls. It would be nice if we end up with 2 hens for eggs plus one rooster!

The day before Rex brought home the chickens, I thought earlier that day that I had finally made the difficult decision about what church to commit to, after going back and forth for months, and still having either doctrinal or distance issues with the remaining churches I was considering. I decided to go to the evening Lenten service that day (a week ago Thursday) at the traditional Presbyterian church that was too far away (14 miles) but that I felt I loved enough that I could overlook the distance. I had not been back for several weeks but felt I finally would know what to do after I went to the Lenten service. But something happened that evening, concerningwith both the doctrine and distance. I heard something at the service I won't go into but that just didn't set right with me. And the drive back in the evening reminded me how much I dislike driving up the highway at night, even in nice weather. I suddenly realized that though I am not ready to join the Methodist church in my town just yet, that I will continue attending there and will probably join later this year. Last Sunday seemed to reinforce my decision, with a Sunday school class that was small but very friendly and enjoyable, and services that (while lacking some of the liturgical elements I'd grown used to) include enough hymns and traditional elements to suit me, in addition to being a place I think hubby would enjoy if he ever gets more than a rare Sunday off. While I still need to check out the choir (I had too tiring of a work week to get there this past week), I feel I finally have decided, and this is a relief.

Since I now have a large garbage pail size bag of baby ghans and outfits to donate to charity, I may go back to Barbie gowns soon. First I need to make a mini table topper with Opera #10 thread for an exchange on Swap-bot. Also, it's nice to again be able to do my mile and a quarter walk to and from the park n'ride most weekdays now that Daylight Savings is here. I was sure this would start making at least a small difference in my continued lack of weight loss, but I still have lost virtually no weight, so that is discouraging to say the least. But I am still not willing to give up the foods I enjoy; I need the stress relief after a long workday. So -- as in all the previous recent years, nothing in this area is changing and I'm starting to believe it never will. I don't want to believe I am destined to remain 40-45 pounds overweight, but what else can I believe after years of this nonsense? Please God, let something finally happen to prove me wrong. I can't stand looking and feeling like this, and I can't stand hoping year after year that it can finally change but never does.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010


The recent trend of posting when something sad happens unfortunately continues. Dianne mentioned in her E-mail of Monday the 1st that her darling senior Pomeranian, Chica (or Chica-matic, as we sometimes called her), was at the vet's experiencing heart failure and that her vet was determining a plan of action for Chica's remaining weeks or months. I E-mailed her back to tell Chica to hang in there, that Auntie Teri loves her and wants to see her again this Sat. (for our belated celebration of Dianne's birthday in Feb., postponed twice for various reasons). I didn't hear back from Dianne the next day, which could have meant she simply had the day off and didn't mention it, and yet somehow, I had a feeling in my bones what was coming next. The next morning, her E-mail began with, "Chica is now romping with Ricky and Josh. She passed yesterday".

I knew this sweet, docile girl was getting on in years; after all, I was with Dianne when we found her near Dianne's home in '94. She was young then, but still, that made her at least 17 this year (doesn't seem possible). I've literally known Chica more years than I've known any other dog, including my own, so she was special to me. She went deaf several years ago, but we think that may be what made her so calm and mellow. She was just a sweet, quiet littie fluffball who I usually chose to walk when I stayed overnight with Dianne - and of course, she was the mom of precious little Josh who died in Oct. So this is something else my dear friend and I have in common -- she lost 2 beloved dogs (including her favorite) in a span of 5 months, and I lost 2 beloved dogs (including my favorite) in the span of 8 months. It's been strange enough my past few visits not having Josh jump up on the couch with his toy for me to throw, and now, not having my girlfriend Chica to walk was reaaaally strange. Dianne does plan to adopt a little boy soon to keep Josh company. She has an application in to a shelter about 2 hours north of her town that has several cute Chihuahuas advertised on Petfinder. There is one in particular she hopes to adopt, and she feels she'll get him if it was meant to be -- or if not, she'll have the furball God intends for her. I still don't understand the timing of when God took my Heidi, but I have to accept it and be thankful for the years I had with her. I still sometimes wonder if Susie really is the dog God intended Rex and me to adopt, though she is fun and we do love her. I really just wish doggies lived longer. I can't imagine life without them.

Dianne and I went shopping (as usual) on Saturday; we brought Java so she wouldn't be home alone, and she was a good girl. Our last stop was the Joann's in Puyallup, and I fell in love with a beautiful silky polyester fabric -- white with red, pink and gray flowers, on sale for 30% off. I commented how I would love to have a blouse made of that fabric. Before we left, I decided I had to buy enough to make a blouse, even though I still haven't even cut out the pieces for that purse I bought the fabric for in July, and even though I still haven't tried out the basic Brother sewing machine I bought with part of my Christmas bonus. Dianne, who is into quilting, said I'll have to bring over my new machine and my fabrics in the near future, and we'll have a sewing weekend. Crocheting is SO much more portable, but I can't crochet myself a blouse using this fabric! Speaking of crocheting, I'm still working on charity (or gift) baby items, but I'll get back to making more Barbie gowns later this year.

I went to the Methodist church again Sunday, and met briefly with the pastor along with 4 other people who are considering joining. I'm supposed to meet with him again next Sun. or the Sun. after, with the option of joining Easter Sunday. Part of me is ready and part of me is not. I do like this particular church and need to commit to one after all these months of indecision. Maybe I'll have a clearer idea of what to do next Sun. - or not (and I also may check out their choir practice this week, if I'm not too brain-dead from my crazy job). I need to go to bed now -- hoped to start walking to and from the park n'ride today now that the days are finally long enough to do it safely, but hubby still needs to use my car since his is still leaking. My middle name -- wait!!

Thursday, February 25, 2010

The Uncertainty of Life

I didn't realize I hadn't posted at all yet in 2010, though I thought many times about doing it. It seems like lately, there's been something sad to post about, such as Dianne's beloved little dog Josh passing, and then my darling Heidi unexpectedly passing. And of course, one hears every day on the news about someone dying tragically and you feel badly about it. Usually it is not someone you know; someone you've always remembered with great fondness even though you haven't seen them for many years. But this time, it was.

This past Monday the 22nd, Rex sent a news link to my E-mail about a Chicago police sergeant dying in a traffic accident. I thought, well, that's sad, but why is he telling me this? Then I opened the link and it was all I could do to not gasp aloud at my desk at work when I read the officer's name. It was Alan Haymaker, who we knew as "Pastor Al" when he was the assistant pastor at the church we'd attended for years in the 80's in Chicago. Not long before we moved to Washington in '90, we were surprised to learn that Al had decided to change careers and become a police officer. But it was what he felt called by God to do. It was what his dad and his granddad did.

We kept in touch with Al and his wife Elaine via annual Christmas cards and newsletters for several years, but as those living 2,000 miles apart often do, we eventually lost touch. But I would sometimes think about him and his kindness to me when he attended my dad's funeral in '86. It was no surprise to read, in the article about the accident, how he had similarly affected everyone who had the privilege to know him, and how great his faith in Christ remained. Very early Monday morning, he was responding to a burglary call when his car lost control on an icy road and slammed into a pole and then a tree. It still doesn't seem real -- and like Dianne told me, it's hard to understand why God didn't intervene and protect him. There is no doubt that Al was a strong Christian who was ready to meet his Lord. I just wish the Lord would have given him many more years on this earth. I've requested prayer for Elaine and their three daughters, aged 16 to 25, and will continue to pray God will wrap His arms around them and give them His peace that passes all understanding.

Reading how much everyone loved and respected Al, and how great his faith was, made me think that even though it seems so untimely (he was 56), we would all wish to leave that type of a legacy, to have that glowing of an obit written about us when the time comes. And here I am, still not having committed to the right church where I can try to serve Him even one-tenth as well as Al did (though I do now definitely have the search narrowed down and am closer to making that decision). Here I am, staying up way, way too late watching the Winter Olympics (at least they are only on for 2 weeks every 4 years!), then not getting enough sleep and not being able to concentrate at my job. And here I am, continuing to snack on carbs and having lost a measly 5.2 pounds all year (which is better than nothing, but is still almost nothing) instead of treating my body like the temple it is. No one is guaranteed tomorrow, and the loss of this dear man is another solemn reminder of that. He, his family and friends would have never imagined as they left church that Sunday, that in a matter of hours, he would be gone. It's a reminder to appreciate every day; to be thankful to wake up every day instead of saying, "Ewwww, it's dark, rainy and I gotta go to work". Al didn't do that. He did what he felt God was leading him to do and lived each day to the fullest.

Concerning other, much smaller losses, we lost another of our guinea pigs a few days ago - the pretty little female tortoiseshell we called Zoey, who was Joey's mom. We knew she was getting older and though she had remained active, she was getting thin, so we wondered. So now we are down to seven piggies, which is actually plenty. They all seem to be thriving and we are enjoying them all, especially little Connor, who amuses us with his jogging around his plastic igloo in his cage and the way he sings (chirps) softly when I hold him. Our newest doggie, Susie, is doing well, though I often feel she thinks she is Rex's dog, since he is home with her more than I am (especially last month when he got virtually no working hours at the kennel; thankfully, he is getting some now). She is very cute and fun, and I've started to call her "drama queen" for the way she carries on when we put her in her crate when she knows we are around. She doesn't understand it's necessary to protect her from Archie when we let him out of the bedroom. We continue to need to keep him separated from her and from Jesse. But Jesse quickly grew to accept Susie and we are able to leave him out in the main part of the house with her. He has turned out to become my special dog now that Heidi is not here; he lays by my recliner most evenings and leans against me to be petted. I think Susie will eventually feel closer to me also; Rex keeps reminding me how long it took to get there with Heidi.

After the big bridal party project, I felt like taking a little break from the Barbie gowns and have been crocheting baby items, which will eventually be used for charity or gifts, and will eventually be pictured on The Evergreen Refuge's crochet section. I'm sure there is more I've forgotten to write, but as it's past my bedtime as usual, I'll save the rest for next time.