The Dash

29 10 2016


cemeteryWhat does every engraving include on a headstone? The dash. The dash is that small line—or dash—between the dates of a person’s birth and death. The dash appears so insignificant on a grave marker, and although a person’s birth and death are notable, it’s the time in between those first and last days that define the individual. The dash is memorialized at funerals. The dash is our legacy, good or bad.

Regardless of how much time our dashes each represent, we all have one. We’re living our dash right now! Do you like what it represents so far? Do relationships, accomplishments or failures highlight your dash? Do you want to change its story? You still have the opportunity to direct the outcome of your dash however you choose. Yes, you choose. Our everyday choices affect our own dashes.

Most of us share names, birthdays, and some day, the date of our last breath with someone else, but we will never share the same dash. It’s all yours. It’s all you. Live intentionally, paying attention to your dash before others do when a final date defines the end of it.


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The Quilt

18 04 2016

IMG_6334The quilt came into my life upon marrying my husband. This colorful, multi-fabric square was his college graduation gift, stitched by an unfamiliar group of women. They composed a quilt for each graduate with the sole purpose of blessing young clergy as they set off for a life of adventure within their calling. The quilt was meant to comfort, a reminder that my husband and his fellow pastors and missionaries were covered physically, emotionally, and spiritually. My husband remained single for a decade after graduation, busy with church and missions work. The quilt resided in storage.

After the honeymoon, I integrated my belongings and our wedding gifts into his—now our—household. Our 1950 bungalow lacked adequate storage, so when I moved items around to include the new, I discovered the quilt neatly stored and in perfect condition. I had to free it. Within the week, it found itself sprawled beside a rippling creek in the Cascade foothills for a summer picnic.

Since that initiation day, the quilt regularly accompanies adventures expanding years of marriage and three children. The quilt protects sleeping bags from bumpy tent floors and comforts shivering bodies from chilly air. It spreads across sandy beaches, backyard grass, and rustic picnic tables. It absorbs earth from its bottom and spills from its top, and still launders beautifully. If and when, however, it begins to show wear and tear, we will not retire it. This quilt will be ready to escort future generations.


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Celebrating Winter Solstice

19 12 2013

IMG_7108I welcome every season that the Pacific Northwest delivers. Sometimes they announce their presence with weather that epitomizes that season, and sometimes they trickle in and out with steady, uneventful rain. At this time of year when snow concedes to rain and I send disappointed children to school, I seek reasons to celebrate and affairs to anticipate. For example, we acknowledge the First Day of Winter, or Winter Solstice. In the Northern Hemisphere, it’s also called the Southern Solstice. Many cultures separate their First Day of Winter from their Winter Solstice, but the Western Culture combines them. Winter Solstice occurs when the sun is at its southernmost position in the sky, at its lowest altitude above the horizon. This marks the shortest day and longest night of the year. Around here, that means a gloomy, soggy day followed by about a hundred more.

The First Day of Winter often coincides with a school day, so I plan food and activities that fit a year’s particular schedule. This year, Winter Solstice is Saturday, December 21. Children don’t require fanfare to make an ordinary day special. They enjoy a fun treat or activity that accompanies the occasion. I serve food that resembles snow or warms the insides. It might be waffles sprinkled with confectioner’s sugar and hot cocoa for breakfast, yogurt-covered pretzels alongside lunch, steaming soup or melty sandwiches for dinner, and powdered donuts or snowflake cookies for dessert. Activities include watching winter-themed movies by candlelight, cutting snowflakes out of paper, or creating birdfeeders with pinecones. For weekend Winter Solstices in the Pacific Northwest, pack meals and drinks for a day trip to the snowy Pacific Coast Range or Cascade Mountain Range. Whatever suits you, discover simple ways to turn ordinary days into memories and traditions.

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A Wishful Break

23 11 2013

IMG_8067Breaking the turkey wishbone remained a tradition throughout my childhood until my brother, Jeff, and I were in college. We stood toe-to-toe and eye-to-eye, grasping our side of the wishbone and counting down to the simultaneous tug. The purpose: To break off the longest side. The reward: The opportunity to make a wish come true. The outcome: He pretty much won every time. I think winning is all in the wrist, timing and possibly a bit of luck on choosing the stronger side. But, who am I to guesstimate, ask him! I passed this tradition on to my own children, and with three, the outcome isn’t so predictable.

A wishbone is the y-shaped collarbone, or furcula, in birds and some other animals. This obsession with wishbones began with the ancient Etruscans from Tuscany who passed it on to the Romans. Clavicle bones were rare in Rome, and fights commonly erupted in obtaining them. Inevitably, bones broke. The person holding the largest piece of the prize considered himself lucky. A lucky person must take advantage of his good fortune and make a wish. This notion that wishbones bring good luck eventually flew into English culture and sailed with the pilgrims to America where wild turkeys outnumbered people. Numerous foul mixed with lengthy feasts produced solid traditions.

Breaking the turkey wishbone on Thanksgiving survived four centuries in America so far. To obtain a wishbone, carve a turkey around its collarbone, carefully remove the bone, wash and dry it. The longer it dries, the more brittle it becomes, making it easier to snap. Waiting to break the wishbone boils down to preference. All we really need to carry on this Thanksgiving tradition is one clean wishbone and two enthusiastic competitors.

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My Traditional Apple Pie

1 11 2013

IMG_7952Whether you’ve grown up in America or are well-versed in our idioms, you’ve certainly heard the phrase, “As American as apple pie.” That description could not fit me any better, and I embrace it wholeheartedly. The ironic side to the catchphrase, however, is that I do not like apple pie much. I like the filling of warm, softened cinnamon apples. It’s the crust that I do not prefer. I usually tolerate the bottom of the filling-infused crust, but I always push the side and top to the edge of my plate.

I surprise myself each year around Thanksgiving when I crave apple pie. I attributed this anomaly to the holiday season, but I discovered it’s more familial than that. I grew up with a strong support system of extended family, and during my teens, I participated in a weekly family devotion. This consisted of aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents, and even second cousins. I enjoyed the range of interests, opinions, wisdom, and revelation. We piled on the floor, couch and chairs and circled around a coffee table crowded with mugs of black coffee and plates of apple pie. Sometimes vanilla ice cream topped the slices, but the host always placed a generous platter of sliced cheddar cheese on the table, a perfect accompaniment to apple pie.

This was my introduction to coffee, before it became Pacific Northwest chic. My choices were black coffee or tap water from old, metal pipes that tasted exactly like old, metal pipes. Coffee, please! I still drink black coffee only for nostalgia; otherwise, a mocha with whipped cream hits the spot. And, doesn’t everyone eat cheese with apple pie? I learned the answer is astoundingly, “No.” Recently, during a week when I particularly missed my grandparents, I served Kevin and the kids apple pie, ice cream and Tillamook cheese for dinner. Don’t judge—that theoretically covers most food groups. Although I was the only one drinking black coffee with my nostalgic dinner, I wouldn’t have sipped anything else.

As you head into your own holiday season, wherever you are and whatever you celebrate, find time to partake in an established tradition, or even start your own. Only current generations can give the gift of tradition.

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