The Details of an Unremarkable Day

Even noticing the details of unremarkable days is an effort, but one that is well worth while. Today was particularly unremarkable, except for the smoggy heat – the smoke from fires in British Columbia is blanketing western Washington and Oregon.

I was up early, 6:05 am to be precise. I did that because I knew I would have to drive to Olympia for a meeting at 9:30 and I wanted to have a chance to stop by the garden to turn off the water that I had left on the drip-drop irrigation system overnight.

When I went through the gate to the garden, the weather was soft and warm, but still cool enough to be refreshing – 68 degrees according to the car thermometer. The poor, scraggly tomatoes were looking happy to have had plenty of water overnight. I didn’t have time to stop by the green beans who were calling me to pick another handful, and “for Pete’s sake, give me a drink.” They will have to wait for later this evening, or maybe tomorrow.

The most eventful thing about the drive from far north Tacoma to Olympia was the ordinariness of it. I often run into stop and go traffic in the 12 miles I have to get on I-5, but everything sailed along splendidly this morning. I gave a quick prayer of thanks to God that I wasn’t going to late – in fact, I was 15 minutes early to my meeting.

When I got to the church, I was able to snag a parking place under the trees, so I knew I wouldn’t have to come out to get in a car that had been baking in the sun for 3 hours.

The meeting, originally scheduled for 2.5 hours, lasted a full 3 hours, but much was accomplished. About the only thing worth noting was that I got upset about some of the members of the council dragging their feet about spending money that needs to be spent, “in case we might need it later.” I’m afraid I called that attitude “sinful” and “untrusting” and did a bit of a rant about sitting on funds that we received for the express purpose of seeing that the work of the Holy Spirit was continued in the world. The nay-sayers then backpedaled, saying “But we’re just wondering what the rest of Presbytery will say.” I had to remind myself to breath. We were able to give grants to several churches who are practicing good stewardship, and wanting to expand their service to their communities, and we moved our Executive Presbyter to full-time, and gave 3-year contract to our Stated Clerk who has been working for 4+years in a Validated Ministry position on a year-to-year basis. We also heard a good report from our summer camp that was on the verge of closing a year ago, and who is having a fine summer this years after a change in management.

The drive home was uneventful and unremarkable which was a blessing since the temperature was climbing. The highest it got to on the way home was 88 degrees, but that’s high for the Pacific Northwest.

Big Al and I had a late lunch at Red Wagon – teriyaki burger for him and fried cod with onion rings for me. More than enough food, and very, very tasty.

Then we went to the County Auditor’s office to pick up our car license for the next year. I had ordered it and paid for it on-line yesterday, so I just had to run in and pick up the envelope. I could have had it mail, but I didn’t get the notice until 5 days before it was due, so I was afraid to count on Uncle Sam.

Tonight, we have a concert on the lawn here at Franke Tobey Jones. I still haven’t decided whether I’ll wander over there – it’s still smoky and hot (89 degrees at 5:30 pm), so I’ll probably stay here in the air conditioning. Tomorrow the winds are supposed to turn back around from the coast, and begin to blow the smoke away, over the mountains to eastern Washington, who are suffering with their own smoke from fires in Montana.



Memorial Day

(If this post sounds familiar to you, it’s because I originally wrote it in 2010. It’s pretty valid today.)

Today is Memorial Day – the day we honor those fallen warriors from all our wars.

I find that I’m having a difficult time with this holiday.  I have a difficult time with all patriotic holidays that honor our nation’s service men and women.

It’s not that I’m anti-military – to the contrary – Big Al was in the Air Force for 20 years

and worked as a DAF Civilian

for another 13 years.  I appreciate and admire anyone who puts their life on the line for their country.  I even appreciate those who didn’t die in the service.  My father served in World War II

(in fact WWII is the reason for my existence, because he never would have met my mother if he hadn’t been in the army).  And obviously, Big Al didn’t die in Vietnam or Thailand during his time of service.

My problem comes from the time of Vietnam.  Al went and served in Vietnam and Thailand.  I stayed home and raised a son by myself.  The Air Force messed up his pay, and, but for my parents, my kid and I would have starved or been on the streets.  And I lost that year out of my life.  To this day, I have to consciously think about how old I am, or how old my son is (subtract year of birth from current year, etc.) because I blocked that year out of my memory.  I never heard the phone ring, or footsteps on the porch without steeling myself for the chaplain’s visit.  And after Al came home there were months of readjustment – to each other – to our family roles – to “normality”.  Unless you have lived through a time of separation when your spouse or sweetheart is in harm’s way for a significant portion of that time, you can’t imagine what it does to you.

My problem now with patriotic holidays is a holdover from that time.  Because when he came back there were no parades.  There were no patriots meeting him at the airport.  There were no prayers for his safe return in church.  There was no thanks from a grateful public.  He was required to travel in uniform, but as soon as he could he changed his clothes.  He didn’t wear his uniform to church.  He didn’t wear it in public at all, if possible.  Because he didn’t want to be spit on, or booed, or otherwise reviled.

So now, when the country has at last come to its senses and is once again appreciating the sacrifices of men and women in uniform, I have a hard time getting into the spirit.  Because I remember how it was when we were the ones doing the hard thing and serving our country, and we weren’t appreciated and loved and cheered.

I only wish we would learn something, and not have to send our men and women into battle, either here at home, or overseas. Surely we can manage to behave responsibly and get along with the rest of the world. If only…

In a Green and Leafy Wood

I went to the wood to ask for peace

And the wood replied

“No justice, no peace.”

And I said “What can I do?”



I went to the mountain to ask for vision

And the mountain replied

“Look back, look around.”

And I said “I’m afraid. There’s too much to do.”



I went to the hills to ask for courage

And the hills replied

“Make a start, start now”

And I said “Can I make a difference?”



I went to the river to ask for faith

And the river replied

“Trust yourself, trust others.”

And I bowed my head and agreed.



With vision, courage, and faith

I crossed the deserts and swamps

Of man’s inhumanity to man.



I spoke truth to power,

I fed and I clothed

I struggled to right all the wrongs.



And I failed.


Battered and bowed

I returned to the wood again seeking peace,

And the wood welcomed me in.



“Peace is the reward for your trying

The goal is not success but effort.

You’ve fought the good fight,

You’ve held fast to quest.”



And there in the green, leafy world of the wood

I found peace in the home of a friend.


(I wrote this little poem over a week ago for a writing class at FTJ. It seems strangely prophetic in the light of the troubles in Ferguson. I don’t know what to say or to suggest. I just know we have to try our damnedest to love and accept one another.)

Note to Self


When the car says “Low Key Battery” and dings after you turn it off – BELIEVE IT!

Ran to the grocery store at noon to pick up some fruit and hamburger buns. Car started just fine when I left the house, it had no problem locking the car, but when I came out 15 minutes later the FOB was deader than a doornail.

Big Al had to call a neighbor to run him down to the Safeway parking lot, so he could open the car and drive me and the groceries home.

Immediately after lunch we went to the Toyota dealer and had a new battery put in my FOB.



For several years I went on float trips on the Buffalo River in Northwest Arkansas. I took groups of church campers, and I know that Girl Scout troops and Boy Scout troops also canoe on the Buffalo. It’s a small river, just 150 miles in length. It was the first river to be designated a National River, and, as such, it is overseen by the National Park Service.

According to Wikipedia, “The National River designation protects natural rivers from industrial uses, impoundments and other obstructions that may change the natural character of the river or disrupt the natural habitat for the flora and fauna that live in or near the river.” I remember some of the political arguments and bickering before it was declared a National River. It is the last free-flowing (undammed) stream in Arkansas.


Yesterday, in Sunday School, we were talking about Girl Scouts, and the recently ended cookie sale, and someone began talking about old camp songs. Someone brought up “Peace I Ask of Thee, O River,” and I was immediately transported back to the Buffalo.

(If I’ve given you an earworm, you can thank me later.)

photo credit: Flickr Creative Commons


An Open Letter to Pastor Ed Young of Fellowship Church

Dear Pastor Young,

Your church is in Dallas. I have not lived in Dallas for almost 2 years. Even if I wanted to, I would not be able to come to hear your new series, beginning tomorrow.

I really don’t appreciate your phone calls on Saturday morning. Unfortunately your robo-dial system just sees my area code and calls me, although I am now on the West Coast. So when you call at the “reasonable” hour of 10:00 am Central Time, it is really too early for a Saturday morning at 8:00 am Pacific Time.

Perhaps you need to rethink your “evangelism and outreach” initiatives from now on. Church is not about butts in the pews – it’s about community, and getting to know people. Taped telephone messages might let me get to know you, but it obviously doesn’t let you get to know me.

I am perfectly happy with my own church, and what you are doing is closer to sheep-stealing than evangelism.


A sleepy recipient of your calls


For any of the rest of you churchy-type people who think robo-dialers might be a good idea, let me discourage you – DON’T!

And please, if any of my gentle readers live in Dallas or the surrounding area and know/know of Pastor Ed Young, would you tell him his calls are doing more harm than good.

Thank you!

Best Reads of 2013


I’ve neglected my yearly book pages this year, so I thought I do a summary of the best things I’ve read. Let me know if you agree/disagree with any of my choices.


A Church for Starving Artists

By Jan Edmiston, an ordained teaching elder in the Presbyterian Church, USA, who helps churches and pastors discern their gifts in the Chicago area.

The Pioneer Woman

Award-winning blog by Ree Drummond who lives on a cattle ranch in eastern Oklahoma, and writes about cooking, homeschooling, photography, and life on a ranch.

Daughter on Duty

By Gretchen Staebler who has temporarily abandoned her life in North Carolina to live with and care for her 92-year-old mother as she struggles with Alzheimer’s and general decline.

Esther Emery

By Esther Emery who, along with her husband, gave up her city life and moved to the mountains in Idaho, to live in a yurt, and raise her three children “off the grid”.


By Jessica Hagy who brings eternal truths to me daily by way of minimalist diagrams that fit on an index card.

leaf and twig

Where observations and imagination meet nature in poetry. Good for my soul.

Penny Loafers at the Rodeo

By Dusty Thompson, “displaced Southern gentleman and aspiring author, has recently invited his Daddy, an authentic Southern Good Ol’ Boy, to live with him in California.”

Tregear Vean

By Jean Rolt, an 80-something vicar in a remote parish in the southwest of England. She and her husband are aging, but approach what is left of their lives with humor and faith.

Yarn Harlot

By Stephanie Pearl-McPhee, an avid knitter and writer about knitting.


You can read some very good synopses in the links I’ve provided. This is about 1/5th of the books I read this year (as the list of blogs is about 1/5th of the blogs I read regularly). Other books were either extremely light-weight, or ultimately forgettable.

Flight Behavior by Barbara Kingsolver

The Supremes at Earl’s All-You-Can-Eat by Edward Kelsey Moore

A Dog Walks into a Nursing Home by Sue Halpern

A Little Salty to Cut the Sweet by Sophie Hudson

Pastrix by Nadia Boles-Weber Worth reading whether you are religious or not.

Spider Woman’s Daughter by Anne Hillerman Yes, Virginia, it is a Hillerman, and about the Navajos. Written by Tony’s daughter, it is true to his voice.

Prodigal Summer by Barbara Kingsolver (Re-read for a book club.) I think I’ve said before that I would read the toilet paper roll if Barbara Kingsolver wrote it.

Saturday and Sunday

I spent the better part of yesterday at Northwest Tacoma FISH Food Bank registering voters. We didn’t have too many takers – most of the people who came in said they were already registered. The ones who weren’t either didn’t speak any English (we have a large population of Ukrainians here), or they were had been incarcerated for a felony. I was able to tell a couple of them that they were eligible to vote if they were no longer under the control of the Department of Corrections (no longer on Parole, and not on Probation). One of those fellows, who said he had never been convicted – just accused – back in 2000 and spent 2 weeks in jail before he got out with no probation or parole – thought he would never be able to vote again. In Washington, at least, the denial of voting rights ends when incarceration, parole and probation end, so EX-felons can vote here. I love this state. Capture

Representative Derek Kilmer – D-Wash 2 – dropped by the Food Bank (presumably to apologize for the actions of the House of Representatives in cutting funding for SNAP (formerly Food Stamps)) and to work for a while as a volunteer. He’s such a nice fellow and really interested in the problems of his constituents. Capture

The Oregon Ducks had a by-week this week, so I was able to go to the Food Bank without feeling deprived of my Ducks. And, while they haven’t moved up from #2 to #1 in the polls, support for Alabama at #1 seems to be eroding! #GoDucks Capture

And how about them Cowboys! The game wasn’t broadcast on the West Coast, but they won 31-7 over the Rams. Maybe Big Al is right, we jinx them when we watch.


Nah! I’m still going to watch when I get the chance!

Friday, Saturday, and Sunday

Goodness, where did the last three days go?

First, I guess on Friday morning we had the annual Wellness Walk, here at Tobey Jones. We probably had between 150 and 200 participants. We each got a T-Shirt (you can see what they looked like below – turquoise!).

We looked very festive and important as we walked off around the campus and some even went a little farther into the community. The aides in Our Place (the Alzheimer’s Care section) and in Health Care brought everybody from there out. If they needed wheelchairs or walkers, that was okay, the staff found someone to push them or help them. And there were probably half of the people on the walk from the community. At the end of the walk, there were tables set up with goodies and giveaways from senior service providers advertising their wares and services.

Then, after lunch at the Mexican place, we came back in time to go to the Duplex Social in Lillian Pratt (unfortunately the sun never did come out so we couldn’t have it in the Gazebo).



It’s always nice to have a little wine and cheese in the evening with congenial folks.

Yesterday, I, again, spent the day in front of the TV enjoying Oregon’s rout of Tennessee (the only thing better would have been if it had been the other orange UT, even though they also got their noses rubbed in it.) The PAC-12 did very well against the Big 10. the SEC, and the Big 12 (or Big 8 or whatever they’ve devolved into now.) Thank you very much!

This morning I scurried off to Sunday School and Church. I slipped out of church right before the final hymn so I could get Big Al and we could get to the Ram to see the last half of the Cowboys game. What a heart-breaker! (The Ram is a big burger joint/bar with a subscription to all the sports channels and about 15 or 20 TVs scattered round.)


The best part of today though has been the rain. There was actually THUNDER this morning before church!


THIS is me! If you are like me, you also might enjoy this. When we were in bone-dry Texas and I was starved for a little rain, I used to play that website every morning, hoping I could convince the atmosphere that was what it was supposed to be doing – kind of like turning on the tap to get your child to go pee in the toilet.