Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Some Things You Only Get to Do Once

This was the first Thanksgiving I've ever spent away from my family. I was apprehensive as we approached this holiday, especially since it coincided with my Mom's birthday. How would this be?

Dr. Chapman, one of the attendings that Jeremiah works with, invited us to join he and his wife's family for Thanksgiving dinner. I was thankful to have a plan--somewhere to be for the big day, but I was apprehensive about spending a holiday with people we had never met.

We found, as I am discovering over and over in our experience out here (and our road trip out), that when you allow life to just happen it can be surprisingly beautiful. We spent Thanksgiving here:




A farm in North Bend Washington, blanketed in snow. The Damazo/Chapman family welcomed us in a way that is still blowing my mind. They were fascinating--full of life experiences of which we were allowed glimpses--bronze sculpting, building a state-of-the-art free dental clinic in Kenya, fox hunting in England, mosaic art, running a horse farm, cooking gourmet meals,...my mind was in a blur the whole evening trying to take it all in. I imagined we would be dropping in as interlopers in another family's whirlwind, and instead, I found myself being served (by some very sweet children) a candle-lit meal with things like truffle-cream sauce over my turkey. Where were all the casseroles?! :) Were my children going to break the crystal? And how in the world did we get admitted to this grand evening? Dr. Chapman served us a variety of his favorite wines while his sweet daughters took my little chicken wings upstairs to play after the meal.

T-dinner all

It was intimate and elegant and fascinating, and while I missed our family and my Mom like crazy, I felt blessed to be able to experience a new kind of Thanksgiving.

Ready for a gear switch? On Saturday after Thanksgiving we had another kind of all new experience--cutting down our own Christmas tree. Here in Washington, for a mere ten dollars, you can purchase a permit to troop out into the wilderness and chop down your very own tree. Is anybody else picturing Clark Griswold?

As we pulled off the exit ramp that Jeremiah had chosen for our tree extravaganza, I looked to the right and left and felt terror grip my heart. Sheer panic. I love my husband, and I trust him to take care of us, but when we are in a car and there is snow all over the roads, I do NOT trust him to keep us from getting stuck in it. I see this glint in his eye from all those Saturdays spent "mudding" in high school, and I know there is some part of him that just wants to slide all over the place. I began rationing out the picnic lunch I'd packed in my mind, wondering how long the four of us could survive on it after we were stuck in the wilderness in the snow.

Needless to say, we had a few scary moments (we had to help dig another family's car out the snow, and did a little spinning out), but we managed to make it out without having to ration our picnic--although we didn't enjoy it quite as I had anticipated...

Fifty degrees in Seattle, but thirty minutes outside the city was beyond my scope of planning.

We hiked a magnificent wooded trail, occasionally being sprinkled with snow, and in awe of the quiet peacefulness of a snow-covered wood. I know I will never forget that walk. Miraculously, I never felt cold but I saw streams tumbling over ice capped boulders

and a forest of evergreen trees with boughs drooping from the weight of their white mantles.

As we walked and waited for the glorious moment when Our tree would reveal its face, something changed in our spirits. We discovered we'd made a rookie mistake in buying the 12-foot and under permit. Who needs a tree taller than that, right? However, when you're talking about undergrowth in a forest, anything under 12 feet is, ummm, scanty at best. If we had paid $10 more, we could have felled a 20-foot tree and used the plump top half as our Christmas tree, but there were strict rules (and steep fines) for cutting outside the boundaries of your permit. We went from looking for the perfect tree...to looking for a tree that would support lights.

We sent Jeremiah down into a sun-filled gully, in hopes that some of that undergrowth might have grown some branches on more than one side.


I wish you could have heard how hard we've laughed over this dilemma. I am normally OCD crazy woman about the most perfect, most full Christmas tree on the lot...and here I was just praying for a tree with more than two branches.

I stayed back on the trail with the girls while he disappeared into waist-deep snow. And y'all, twenty minutes after his disappearance he emerged with this smile and this tree, saying he felt like he'd found the tree for Rockefeller Center when he saw this one shining in the distance....


DSC_1643 - Version 2
I congratulated him on his magnanimous find and smiled to myself at what we now considered beautiful. By this time, Mary Aplin had managed to pack snow down INTO her boots and was crying in fear of why her Daddy had been gone so long in the woods. After unpacking the snow, I removed her wet, freezing socks and put my gloves on her feet instead. With empty fingers crammed into her boots and a chest cold that seemed to be developing before our eyes, there was no way little girl was going to make the half-mile trek back out of the woods. So, we went back to our old methods :)


I don't know how he did that the whole way out of the woods, but he only let me drag the tree for a very short reprieve before taking it back.


I think there was some kind of man-in-the-woods-need-to-bring-home-tree-for-my-women thing going on.

We didn't bring any of our Christmas decorations, so after a $30 trip to Fred Meyer (Seattle's version of Wal-Mart) we were drinking hot chocolate around our Christmas tree.

I feel staunchly protective of this tree's ugliness... Maybe because I feel like she's doing her best to shine for us, or maybe because she was born out of such a magical day. Either way, she may be ugly, but she's all ours.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Aware But Not Anxious

So very sorry! Jeremiah wrote this several days ago, and I've been procrastinating adding the pictures.

One of the seemingly harsh realities of growing up has hit me over the last few years. Nobody remembered to warn me about it, so I felt blindsided. I can remember being in school and having that really big test or project that you were dreading. Finally as the day approaches you tell yourself to just keep pushing because soon it will be over and you can relax and have nothing to worry about. I loved that feeling the afternoon after a test in college, when you knew there were days ahead without expectations or responsibility. How about the holidays where you had days and nights of whatever you wanted to do and nobody expecting you to perform or produce anything? I guess I subconsciously assumed this is the way it would always be, but I have since realized that life proves to be more of a continuous challenge, still marked by some big tasks that require endorphins to get you through. However, that post-test sense of ease doesn't come as easily once you are all grown up.


It is similar to the practice of medicine. As a kid you think a person gets hurt or sick and the doctor fixes them up and they get well and forget about it. So when a kid decides to become a surgeon, he thinks, "I can fix people up, patient after patient." At least I somehow thought that was how it works - you operate on someone and they get better and it's done. Then I started my training and began to observe what is meant by the term "practice of medicine". A patient comes in with a problem that needs surgery and they get it. Hopefully, they get well and move on but there are those cases of unfortunate complications - infections, persistent pain, surgical errors etc. This is hard to swallow - I thought you could do your best for a patient and then relax in a job well done, but sometimes the "test" doesn't end that day. You may follow that patient for years trying to help them but never have that nice "mission accomplished" feeling we grew up with.


Medicine is one place I see this but only a small part of it. I think raising kids may be the better example. I have seen that women don't usually get to get up in the morning, perform a task well, and then immediately see the results. They don't get to climb the mountain of tasks and then sit back and bask in the break from responsibility. Instead, they work daily, making investments of time and effort that will hopefully be successful in their children. The work doesn't really ever stop - always a kid who is sick, hungry, misbehaving, needing questions answered, and nightly baths and stories. So as parents, it seems impossible to get that reprieve we used to know. Maybe we could leave the kids with the grandparents a couple times a year but nobody wants to spend their lives desperately waiting to get away from that feeling of responsibility - we would be unhappy or bitter 90% of the time.


I think there is a way out of this. We can live a very safe life and keep our responsibility to a bare minimun. Keep ourself protected from expectations and relationships and keep that wonderful feeling void of responsibility we knew growing up. To me, this is not appealling but I have seen some people living that way. Since I don't want that kind of life, I have had to ask myself where to go from here. The problem is that the more responsibility you allow yourself, the more potential anxiety. You could handle it growing up because whatever task you had to complete was always followed with that period of reprieve. With every new responsibility comes a potential risk. For parents - will the kids turn out the way you hope, or for leadership - will you let people down that are counting on you, or for any challenge - how will this turn out? So what do you do with that potential anxiety because the challenges keep coming and the breaks don't?


Lately, we have been studying Luke with a group of friends here in Seattle. Much of Luke talks about anxiety. There are a few applications here. Jesus repeatedly emphasizes that he does not want us to be anxious. So what do we do with all this responsibility? If we know we are supposed to cast our cares on Him, how can we practice this? I think what we have to do is be Aware but not Anxious. No we shouldn't ignore the risks and responsibilities that we face by the lives we have chosen. However, I think the danger is on focusing on those things instead of what we are trying to do. So what if we could learn to be aware of those risks but not experience any anxiety because we don't focus on them? I think we have a choice to be Worriers or Warriors. May sound cliche, I know but I can't get this out of my mind and though Webster may not agree, I think they are perfect antonyms. In Luke, Jesus asks a question about which of us, before going to build a tower, doesn't first stop to consider the cost and if it can be completed. Obviously, there is a place for measuring the cost of each responsibility but that is where you become a worrier or a warrior. I think a warrior stops and kisses his family before going to battle. They cry together at the thought of possibly not seeing each other again and then he turns his horse and rides full speed and doesn't look back. The worrier considers the cost, rides a few feet and stops to reconsider and then rides a little further and then stops again to reconsider the costs and risks and eventually is anxious and paralyzed by anxiety and fear of the responsibility. It would be better to either ride back home and relax or to ride on into battle; but to stay in the middle world of the worrier would be miserable for anyone.

So the point is that we can't reasonably get away from responsibility and we really probably don't want to. The pertinent thing is how we deal with it. We have to learn how to enjoy life and enjoy our responsibilities, being aware of them but not anxious about their cost or outcome. Then I hope that we won't spend our lives living for that carefree post-test feeling. Instead, maybe we can learn to enjoy our responsibilities because of how we approach them as aware warriors instead of anxious worriers....

Monday, November 22, 2010

Let It Snow, Let it Snow, Let it Snow!

Just look at the winter wonderland we awoke to find this morning!

Can you see the Space Needle peeking through the storm?

The girls preschool was not cancelled, so I got to brave our STEEP hills covered with snow. I was talking to the girls about leaving their seatbelts securely fastened, because Mommy had never driven in snow before...As I cranked the car, guess what came blasting through my speakers, "Let it snow, Let it snow, Let it snow!" It took my nerves away :), and made the drive to school feel more like a sleigh ride.
Thanks, Aunt Taylor for our Sou'Westers. Since they came from England, Mommy thinks they are the coolest things ever. And she just realized they are on backwards... ;) They were perfect for our first snowy day (and Dapples refused to take hers off once she got to school). Be back soon with a more substantial post (or maybe Jeremiah, I'm trying to get him to come back this week).

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

I'm Sure Stranger Things Have Happened...

...But I can't remember when.

Today we're going to talk about Pace. My first-born, my right-hand lady, my truth-seeker, my tender-heart. At her current stage, she can be hard to spend long periods of time with. It's not that we don't get along, and it's not that I don't firmly believe we have a beautiful lifetime friendship spreading out before us. It's that right now she is burdened by questions...and I get to field 95% of them. They aren't just questions that leave me wishing I'd saved my eighth grade science book (although there are plenty of those); they're questions about intricate heart matters--that I often cannot answer (Like, "When is God going to give me a perfect body and take me up in the sky?" Guess they're studying Revelation in Sunday school??). She hates the, "I don't know," response and usually comes back at me with, "Ugghhh, Mom, we are just not understanding each other right now." Well no, FIVE-YEAR-OLD, I guess we're not. I guess you're just talking right over my head. It's humbling and maddening at the same time.


Because of this daily diatribe, I have vowed to answer any question I can truthfully and to the best of my ability (As long as I'm not having a "Mommy cannot take ANY MORE questions right now. No, don't even ask if you can have more milk. That's a question." I hit that wall at least once a day; let's keep it real.). So recently, Pace has started asking me what different meats we eat are made of. Like the ham sandwich I pack in her lunch every day--"Mom, what's ham made out of?" "Pig." Yes! That was an easy one. "Mom, is an egg really a baby chicken?" I'm gonna tell you that answer got a bit more complicated--trying to be truthful (it is an egg and not a baby, right?) without launching into the birds and the bees at five.


Anywho, this had been going on for a couple of days when I went to pick her up from school and her teacher pulled me to the side and said, "I thought you should know that Pace is refusing to eat her sandwiches any more because they are made of pig." "What??!!!" My first thought was, "Dadgum Seattlites and their diets! What kid is turning my child into a vegetarian?" After questioning her, however, I discovered that the only dadgum Seattlite turning Pace into a vegetarian is...me.

She very innocently and tearfully explained to me that she did not know anyone else who didn't eat meat, but she never wanted to eat it again. She said that she loves all animals and can't bear the thought of eating one ever again. When told to eat her dinner that her mother made her, she had a gag reflex trying take down her baked chicken and apologized to me for not being able to eat it. When I explained that God gave us animals so that we could eat them--that eating meat is what makes her strong, she asked if God wanted people to eat Locks too.


Out of nowhere, my deer hunting, meat-loving, "It's not dinner if there's not meat on my plate" family had created a true convicted vegetarian--who has never even heard that word spoken. I'm sure stranger things have happened...but I can't remember when.

What Jeremiah and I have come to, I think, is that she is not old enough to make a decision like that for herself. However, the fact that she is so sweet-spirited and apologetic about the whole mess makes us want to work with her when we can. I've started making hummus roll-ups for her lunches instead of ham sandwiches, and if she wants the black bean and corn quesadilla at the Mexican restaurant instead of chicken, it's ok. When we have dinner at home as a family, she has to eat some of everything I cook--just like always.


How about I leave you with one last strange happening with Pace? Jeremiah and I came home from a date last weekend and our babysitter said, "I don't know if this will be an issue, but I just thought you should know... I was putting the girls to bed and Pace got really upset when I would not say prayers with her. I tried to explain that different people have different bedtime rituals, and I brush my teeth--just like her--but I don't say prayers. She then said, 'You mean you don't know JESUS?!'"

Try fielding that one from a career nanny with good references that you hired....Aggghhh!

[These pictures are of the girls riding the new bicycles they got for their birthdays. They saved up chore and birthday money and bought them with their own little stash (Thank you family for the money gifts!). It was a sweet day and Pace still goes in the garage on the days she can't ride "just to look at it for a little while."]

Friday, November 12, 2010

Dad and Konie's Visit

I feel like most people who read this blog know that my Mom passed away almost three years ago. She had ovarian cancer. I am finding that I go through periods of time where I miss her more than others. I'll bounce through months just fine--being reminded of her occasionally, missing her at big events, but grounded with the greater realization that she is happier and healthier now than all of us down here on earth. However, I also go through periods where she seems to be everywhere--a mis-glance in a mirror and I think I see her, she frequents my dreams, and any big event that occurs seems unbearable without her to share it. I am just coming out of one of these latter periods.


I don't know what triggered it. Maybe it was all the stress of moving out here and making several life-altering decisions in a row? Maybe it was because we read Same Kind of Different as Me on our drive out here, and it stirred so many memories of the times when Mom was sick? Or maybe I'm just always going to go through these times, and this was one of them. It's always small things that hit the hardest, like Mrs. Linda buying me a new sweater and my immediate thought being, "I can't wait to show this to Mom, she's going to love it!" And then the crashing remembrance that I can't show it to her. Or getting the girls settled in a new school and missing our phone calls where she would listen and agree to ad-nauseum to every teeny little fear or hurt feeling. Or planning the girls birthday party and longing to share the details with her.

So, in that state, I was feeling a little nervous about my Dad and Konie's visit. Konie is my Dad's new wife. She lost her husband (who was an orthopedic surgeon just like Jeremiah, side note) to cancer a few years ago and is probably the most genuinely sweet person I have ever met.

She has a child-like heart and love of life,

And she loves my girls so endearingly (sending balloon messages to God).



Most of all, she and my Dad are happy together, and I (as a daughter) have the peace of knowing he is not alone.


While all those statements are true, and I feel them to my core, sometimes it is still. hard. It just is. I wish I could blame some fault in Konie, but I can't. She, in all truth, does everything right. She has jumped into our lives and been a supporter and a helper, without stepping over any boundaries. She is easy and fun to be around, and I know I could call her and she would be there for me, no matter what. So what in the world is still hard???!

I think I figured it out asI said goodbye to her. I think the lingering problem is my loyalty (insert stubborn, pig-headedness, but I'm going to use loyal because it sounds a lot nicer :)). There are people from HIGH SCHOOL, that still make my insides recoil if I run into them. You know why? Because they cheated on, or hurt the feelings of, or said something nasty about...one of my dear friends. It was like I pegged them a mortal enemy from that moment on. A lot of times, I can't even remember what they DID, but I just know it was something bad. Now, we're talking high school bad, so GET OVER IT PSYCHO-PATH (which is what my husband very rightly says to me if I ever make the mistake of telling him). I have had moments, when people hurt my family members, that I have questioned my propensity for murder. Don't you hope your kid is the bully in my kid's class at school?! :)

I think you get the point; I am pretty loyal. As I hugged Konie good-bye I felt like my Mom whispered in my ear, "It's Ok to love her, Abby. It's O.K." And that was it. I needed to know it was Ok--that I wasn't being dis-loyal to my Mom by embracing my Dad's new wife. What felt like an inherent need to protect and serve my Mom was misplaced. In reality, Konie is protecting and serving Mom by taking care of the man who was most precious in her life. And it is Ok to love her, even if it were only for that.


Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Guest Blogging Husband

It has become clear to me of late that blogging for men is much like a man wearing a pink shirt – not a red shirt that looks a little pink from a distance-- but an authentic pink shirt. One that actually impresses other males that see the wearer. A couple of my friends have walked bravely into blogdom, and they never even looked back. I enjoy reading this blog best of all, but I have been known to follow some of my friends’ wives’ blogs as well. I try not to talk on that too much. By the way, I grew weary of Abby’s blog inactivity and so this is Jeremiah writing.

We have, as you know, been in a new world for the last few months. We both knew we needed to come. I had my reasons and Abby had hers and many of these were the same. I love the South. I have loved it my whole life and that has scared me a little. I can remember leaving for college and trying not to count the years when I could return to the farm that had impressed my life so much. Many want to leave the “small town” they came from and return only for the obligatory check-in with the family. For me, my greatest memories at an impressionable age happened in the woods at our farm – many on horseback and many in hayfields. Why would loving my home scare me?

I think all of us have a desire to know what we are capable of outside of what is familiar and comfortable. Sure I love the farm and thrive on it, but there was a whole part of the world that I didn’t understand – The big city... It has always intimidated me. One of my favorite lines from a John Denver song that I often quote to Abby as we drive through the country is: “…mountain rivers and country livers set my mind at ease”.

There’s something settling about that kind of life. When I think about living in a large city, I wonder, “Where is the outlet for those people?”. They’re not getting on horses and escaping to the woods, and I assure you they aren’t throwing hay in the barn to let off steam. So the question became, “Can I make it in that kind of environment?”. I don’t mean just survive, but really be happy somewhere other than the familiar. Could I learn to enjoy the same outlets that people in a big city enjoy? I think Abby and I both had to know that - or at least she obliged me and agreed. (Abby would put a smiley face right here but I’m not ready to do that yet.)


Seattle has brought with it many challenges for us. The four of us started from scratch in a new town without friends or fellowship, and living in a remarkably shady 1-bedroom apartment. An absolutely perfect setting to engage our questions! This kind of situation takes you back to the basics of your faith and leads you to seek out fellowship and adventure rather than waiting for it to come to you. You have no other choice. That is uncomfortable, and that is what I was looking for.

Before we came out here, I struggled with whether or not I should be doing something in the foreign mission field for this year instead of doing extra training. I think one of the main reasons I struggled with that was because I knew the foreign field would bring out any and all the best in me and my family, as opposed to relaxing in the familiar. It was a hard decision because I really wanted to do spine training but felt that maybe I should do missions--to serve other people who were different than me in a very different place. It wasn’t until we arrived in Seattle and I realized how different it is here and realized that perhaps I had been provided with both the opportunity to train in spine and be in a “foreign” place that brought all the discomfort (and more) I was seeking. That sounds crazy, I know.

It is wonderfully challenging here and sometimes Abby and I remind each other, “Hey we live in Seattle” and then can’t stop laughing. We have seen some of the most magnificent landscape I have ever laid eyes on and have seen mountains and rivers that seem too good to be true. We get in the jeep almost every weekend and head somewhere new to explore and still feel we haven’t put a dent in the wilderness here. I really didn’t think I would ever say this but we have a beautiful view of the city, and I love it. The high rises are down to the left and the bay to the right as we look south and that refreshes you just to look on it. On a clear day, we see Mt Rainier; on a cloudy day, we know it is still there.

The highlight has been the relationships we have made. I haven’t found a lot of people here that I have a lot “in common” with, and I love it. Most of my friends here don’t do the same things with their free time as I do, but I’ve learned we are plenty alike. We were made by the same Creator and we recognize the need for true friendships and that is enough to generate real fellowship. I am learning people are quite alike and really have similar needs and desires regardless of where they live in the world and that is a valuable lesson.

I haven’t learned how to do Blogging cliff notes so this is too long but here is my current thought. We were all made to be challenged and stretched to beyond what we think we might be able to do. I am glad we came to Seattle to experience that. However, most anyone could go to a foreign land, rise to the occasion it takes to survive and possibly even thrive. What I am learning is the remarkable discipline it requires to engage a challenging life in a place that is comfortable and familiar. That requires far more intention and self-discipline and I admire those greatly who have learned how to do this. The fact is, when you are in a foreign land, you are quite aware of your surroundings as your mind perceives all this new material. You also have a tendency to reach out to people because your normal distractions are absent and you aren’t walking around like a zombie to do all your busy tasks. You are forced to engage the challenges that just living brings you and all of a sudden…. lasting memories are made.

It is like a person trying, unsuccessfully, to diet for years. They fail because they are too busy and never really commit to the diet. They somehow get shipwrecked on an uninhabited island and are forced to survive on the sparse healthy foods available in that desolate place. Of course they lose weight – it required no discipline – just survival. But they certainly rose to the occasion to survive and they benefited nonetheless. We are like that person on the island who rises to the occasion of survival and we are far better for it. I love where we are and would choose it again in a second, but eventually even this may become comfortable and familiar. I want us to learn the discipline to live that kind of fulfilling life no matter where we are – to wake up to the challenges to be met and the relationships to be had. I know few people like that, but I admire them greatly.