Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Praying For Heather

Heather is dying. Just a few more days is she likely to live. For the past four years, she has put up an astonishing fight against the lung disorder that is now taking her life. But in no way has she lost the battle. 

Right this moment, she is surrounded by her family and dearest friends, spending her last precious hours wrapped up in their love. 

This is victory.
This is triumph.
These holy moments are the prize of a life well-lived.

I knew Heather only during her high school years; her brother - who died of the same disease - and my first-born were close friends. I am not a hands-on player in her inner ring of support.

But I can pray for the courage, the fortitude, the glory of this tiny blond warrior woman.

So that is what I do.


Where our strength ends, God's strength is just beginning.

Heather, you know better than most of us the heights and depths of His indescribable love and I pray that as your journey continues, you will feel eternally safe and secure in His arms.


Death is not a punishment but it is a great mystery. Still, I have a feeling that when you slip beyond its veil, you will feel closer to your loved ones than we earth-bound humans can imagine. 

I pray that your love will continue to pour down on your husband and your children.

I pray that they will feel, in dreams and precious still moments, the living presence of your loving spirit forever.


I pray especially for your children. 

I pray that the love you've given them in their short lives is exactly what they need from you. 

I trust that your guidance and influence on their character will stay with them always. 

You have done your best for them with the time you were given, and that is absolutely the most that any mother can do.


I pray for the joy of your broken body made whole in heaven. 

I pray for the blessed relief you will feel when this agonizing battle has ended. 

And I smile to think of your reunion with your brother and other loved ones who await you in eternity. 


Sweet peace to you, Heather, as you close your eyes and prepare for what comes next. 

You are a precious child of God, a daughter with whom He is most certainly well pleased. 

Amen. 

Friday, July 15, 2016

Hydrangea


Summer, in all her ruffled extravagance, lives in my backyard.


Basking in sunshine, she fills me with luxurious excess.


Spellbound, I watch and wait, hoping she can somehow last forever.


But her time is fleeting. So I revel in each glorious day.

Hari Raya Cookies


Hari Raya cookies.

Baked with love by my friend, Nor Abdullah, for her Eid al-Fitr celebration in Cuba.
Dutifully carried across the North American continent by her sons.
They grace my Seattle table and warm my heart with each beautiful bite.

I do not understand why my life came to be filled with such sweet mystery
but I'm certainly glad that it did.

Contentment


A long walk on a hot day,
a deep drink of water,
and a nap in the shade where the grass grows soft and long.

These are the things that make my good dog happy.
And therefore, they are the things make me happy too.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Induced By Induction

Last October, my thirty-year-old cook top died.

RIP homely little Jenn-Air electric two-burner. You and I had some good times and I'll remember you fondly.

In November, after much rumination, we picked out a handsome new Bosch induction cook top with a down-draft ventilation fan. The unit was installed six months ago, in January. 

And this week, well into July, I bought some new pans so we can actually cook on it. 


Yay progress.

When this journey began, I thought I wanted a gas range. Psh, everyone knows a big beautiful Wolf cooktop is where it's at, right? I was so ready to buy one and make out with it every day.

But wait. What's this? My Google-searching reverie was broken by a single word: induction. 

Induction technology, I learned, is fast, clean and ridiculously safe. Magnetic fields generate heat if and only if they come into contact with a steel pan or pot. The glass cooking surface gets moderately warm but can't set fire to anything that isn't made of steel. 

And wiping down the sleek black glass truly is a dream. 

After learning that induction technology is old hat in Europe and finally catching on in the U.S., we decided to take the plunge. 


Thankfully, my tried-and-true trio of cast iron skillets made the leap to the new technology. But the rest of my pots and pans were rendered useless and marched off to the secondhand store. 

No worries, I told the family. I'll buy some new pans pronto.

That was a dirty lie. 


It actually took months of alternating online searches and frequent perusals of the checkbook balance before I decided on a set of three pots from IKEA'a 365+ line. Are they dreamy, top-of-the-line, for-the-rest-of-my-life, finest quality cookware? No. But these stylish stainless steel workhorses will get the pasta boiled and the stews simmered around here for a few years while I decide if some aristocratic Le Creuset is truly worth its outrageous price tag. 


My new cook top has changed my life. My cooking technique has improved by leaps and bounds, thanks to the amazing performance of this snazzy fellow. From melting chocolate to putting a crisp char on some steaks, my induction cook top gets the job done with style.

I'll admit that I still dream about the red knobs on that sexy Wolf model, but all in all, I'm thrilled with the match I made.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Garbage Cans And Geese

Two weeks ago, I scrubbed out the inside of my rubbish containers. 

No, I do not mean the managably-sized bins and baskets that live in the house. 

I mean the big-daddy curbside boys. 

^My various garbage bins, resting on their immaculately clean sides in all their post-scrubbing glory. Aren't they pretty? 

Once a year, these plastic caverns get hosed and scrubbed to within an inch of their lives. Copious amounts of bleach, a high-pressure hose, and a feisty old broom are employed with abandon to polish each receptacle to near perfection. I invest a ridiculous amount of elbow grease in the process, but by gum, I only do this once a year and so I'm determined to give the job my all.

Full confession: I'll admit that when I was done, I was so pleased with the results that I seriously considered taking a few shots of my glorious handiwork. 

I know. Garbage cans, right?

^ This is my blue recycling bin, where plastics, paper, glass and aluminum are all tossed in a heap together, resulting in a sticky mess of residual food and bits of paper along the bottom. 

After a moment's reflection, however, I decided that the bleach fumes were surely getting the best of me. So I laid down my camera and passed on the opportunity.  

Then I posted the good news of this auspicious event on Facebook and wouldn't you know it, one of my friends asked to see photos. 

^ The grey receptacle is for regular trash, which we gather up in bags from the house. Accordingly, he stays fairly clean, but its previous owners stuffed him full of used cat litter and I'm forever trying to wipe out the last of the odors. 

Ha. Guess that wasn't such a crazy idea after all. 

^ Green is for yard waste and food scraps, the hardest working soldier of the three. Week after week, this bad boy ends up jam packed with grass clippings, plant debris, heaps of weeds, and a handful of errant snails, and interwoven with coffee grounds, egg shells, vegetable trimmings and the occasional piece of rotten fruit. By week's end, the whole mess has slightly decomposed and leaves an onerous bit of residual inside this bin. 

Now multiply that by fifty-two weeks in a year, and trust me, that allows for one dirty bin. 

Sadly, though, my pretty cans had already resumed their life of drudgery and were no longer picture perfect. But fear not, I reported to my friend; just give me a week or two and I'll give them a quick touch-up and share photos for sure. 

^ This brown boy served as our main garbage receptacle for twenty-five faithful years before the grey guy took over. Now, even with a few holes in the bottom, he serves as our back-up compost container and during the summer months often gets called into play. 

So today was that day. 

I re-rinsed.
I re-scrubbed. 
I shamelessly photographed my clean containers, standing in the street for the best angles and proudly snapping away as the neighbors drove past.

And now I have shared my story with you.


And on the off-chance that photographs of my clean garbage cans don't quite fill your soul with the peace and serenity that they offer me, maybe these geese will suffice.

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Love > Hate

Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that. - Martin Luther King Jr.


More tragedy spills out on American streets and darkens American souls:

Philando Castile shot dead by a police officer over a broken tail light.

Peaceful protests in Dallas interrupted by intentional fire that leaves four police officers dead. 

President Obama tells America that we all have to do better.

The Washington Post echoes a familiar sentiment: white people must take responsibility for dismantling white supremacy.


Like most Americans, I recoil from this news with heartbreak and horror. This is no way to live. The petty differences of race are literally superficial; our hearts and minds and souls are meant to be united as fellow humans.

The idea that we should judge one another by the color of our skin is surely evil.


But I don't feel confused or corrupted by this evil. I know exactly how I will respond to this latest affront to human decency.

I will keep doing what I'm already doing.

I will treat every human being who crosses my path with dignity and friendliness and human kindness.
Just as I greet the groups of black and white boys skateboarding behind my local high school. I look at their faces and they look at mine; we smile and say hi to each other.  
Just as I keep Ranger close to me when we pass the older Asian gentleman on our walk because I know he's afraid of my dog. 
Just as I count down the days of Ramadan with my Malaysian friends and share their holiday spirit. 
Just as I offer my unopened soda to my African-American airport shuttle driver in Detroit, and listen attentively as he tells me stories about his visits to Seattle. 
Just as I show my deepest gratitude to Asian friends who host me in their homes.  
Just as I relax and enjoy the comfortable silence with my black seat partner on a flight to LAX, occasionally bumping elbows on the armrest or nudging past him as I climbed in and out of the seat.   
Just as I share a special greeting with a teenage girl in my neighborhood. She's black, overweight, and has a killer fashion style which I often compliment.  
These are the ways that I choose to fight back against the anger and racism and hatred and intolerance that threatens to poison our beautiful country and our very souls.

And I share these examples not as an excuse to hold myself up, or as laundry list of things I've done for "those" kind of people.

I simply believe that the solution to our problems lies not in policies or protests, not in legislation or lawsuits.

With all my heart, I believe that we must love one another.

Person to person. Face to face. One human being at a time.


Because I believe that in the end, this is the kind of love that will surely conquer hate.