Saturday favorites

I’ve been collecting a few suggestions…in the spirit of paying it forward these are some things I’d recommend to everyone! :)

Getting ready to do some baking. I never get tired of playing in the kitchen! That’s why I hauled my Kitchen Aid mixer to this little apartment, along with a few other essentials. Here are a mix of my current favorites, both savory and sweet, tools and foods.

  • Parchment paper – what a difference this makes in baking. Easy clean up. I particularly love using parchment paper for baking brownies…leave a generous margin of paper hanging over the sides of the brownie pan and just lift out the brownies when baked. Easier to cut brownies out of the pan. When I first tried parchment paper, I was frugal, using it only for certain things.  Now it comes out almost any time I turn on the oven.
  • Silicone baking pans – I’m only beginning to use these, but what I’ve used so far I like. The added bonus: you can shape all sorts of stuff in these…handmade soap or other crafts. Multi-purpose!
  • Cauliflower “mashed potatoes” – I’ll admit when I make this version of the traditional mash I add a little butter and sometimes sour cream to the mix…the flavor is so good I hardly notice the substitution of cauliflower for potato. Best tip: if you want a little more body to your “mash,” add a small potato or two to the head of cauliflower. You’ll still have a lower carb dish, but it will be a little sturdier…maybe a good step down from the all-potato mash.
  • Big wide shreds of parmesan…I can sometimes find this wide shred in the grocery, usually in the specialty cheese section, but if you can’t find it, buy a gorgeous big hunk of parm and use a vegetable peeler to make your own wide, luxurious shreds to top pasta bakes, salads, or whatever needs a little more cheesy goodness.
  • A new favorite, I’ve only recently been roasting garbanzo beans, aka chickpeas. Delicious and simple. Start with two cans of garbanzo beans, drain and rinse. Spread the beans on a cookie sheet in a single layer. Drizzle with olive oil, season with salt, pepper, garlic, cumin, chili powder, or any seasoning that strikes your fancy. Bake/roast at 400° for approximately 30 minutes. I say “approximately” because you may want them to be more or less crunchy. My advice is to check the beans after the first 30 minutes and decide if they’re done to your taste. They’re like popcorn, only better. Good for snacking, and making salads more interesting.
  • Seattle Bakery Cracked Wheat Sourdough Bread…if you can find this brand, buy it! The sourdough flavor comes through with the crunchy nuttiness of the cracked wheat…delicious toasted with jam, or use for the perfect grilled cheese. This bread comes in a big round loaf. Beautiful.
  • Burrata cheese: If you haven’t tried this, you must do so, asap! It’s wonderful, that’s all.
  • My new favorite way to prepare salmon: searing. I used to bake salmon, if I wasn’t grilling, thinking it was the best way to keep it healthy. But I always have trouble with the timing. It seems like I pull it out too fast, or just past the perfect done-ness. I tried pan searing the fresh salmon we caught last weekend, and it was perfect. Just put a little olive oil or butter (ok, I always choose butter) in your pan, and when the pan is hot, place the salmon and season. I turned the fillet once, and got it just right. Not overdone, and the texture was perfect. Outside got a little color, and the inside was medium rare. Never baking salmon again!
  • Homemade Magic Shell: (this is just fun!)
    • 8 ounces of chocolate (I used semi-sweet chocolate chips)
    • 2 tablespoons of coconut oil

    Place coconut oil in double boiler over low heat and melt. Add chocolate chips to double boiler with the oil. Gently blend chocolate into coconut oil until smooth.  Let cool for a few minutes and then drizzle on your favorite anything. Perfect for dipping fruit. Bananas, strawberries, and grapes are my favorites. Made some frozen dipped bananas recently and can verify: highly edible! Also perfect for ice cream.

In the digital world, check these out…well worth exploring.

  • PicMonkey – a fun and easy photo editor…there’s a free version and a paid version, both are great. Good for creating printables or almost anything. Look here.
  • Best way to sell online…I call it a digital garage sale. Check out your local Facebook sale site. The one for Ketchikan is called Ketchikan SaleCycle, it’s a closed group for local residents…an amazing resource if you need something, or if you’re selling. I sold most of my furniture in the move last fall, and a lot of miscellaneous household items…made over $13,000 in just a few weeks. Of course, eventually I’ll have to replace some of those things, but it was a fantastic way to sell without doing a huge one day event that might or might not have gone well. And it’s fun too…actually sort of addicting once you get going. I like it better than Craigslist. I think most communities have a local Facebook sales group. Find the digital garage sales in your area and get ready to clean out!

And finally, some random suggestions:

  • A new favorite exercise…the Perfect Fitness Ab Carver Pro…It really works!
  • Looking to be inspired to say “No!” more often? I can’t say enough about Greg McKeown’s book Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less. I read it a few months ago, and I’m still drawing on it as I consider choices.    I’m one of those people who finds it difficult to say “no.” Recognizing that saying “no” actually honors the real priorities of my life helps me to be strong in the face of my built-in need to please. Not always easy for this Southern girl/woman to do, but I’m trying to be more thoughtful and deliberate about my answers.
  • RSVP Endurance kitchen products: I love these tools. You can find them on Amazon or in specialty kitchen stores. They’re not too pricey, but all the ones I’ve tried are good. Very good. This is a brand like Oxo…great value for the money, and whatever they make is quality. The tools are a pleasure to use.

And finally, a smile for the day:

Organic Donuts

Enjoy your weekend!   ~ Sheila

Gift of summer

This season has been a gift, in every way.

Family, friends, travel, work, play…everything has flowed, cooperated, come together just so.

Aaahhh….

This weekend was another example. We went fishing Saturday, one of the many beautiful summer days we’ve enjoyed this year. We caught three coho salmon, had a dinner of sushi and seared salmon fillet last night (couldn’t decide which taste we preferred, so we had both). Our luck is holding!

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That’s a whale’s fin in this photo!

Catch of the day:

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Patterns, patterns, everywhere!

Last week I wrote about the Hoffman Process and some of the insights I gained at the retreat I attended.

You knew I wasn’t finished, didn’t you? I’m faaaar too wordy to condense a week of material into one post!

So this is more of what I learned. This is my distillation, as I understood the material. This is Hoffman philosophy, as interpreted by Sheila.

I learned a lot. One of the terms I heard over and over was “pattern.” We all have patterns, hundreds and hundreds of patterns. A pattern is the default behavior we develop to address circumstances, and our feelings about what is happening, or what was said, or even what we think someone is thinking about us.

Pattern behavior is launched at the subconscious level…so ingrained we don’t even recognize we’re doing what we usually do in a given situation. Acting out patterns typically comes from lightning fast judgments and assumptions we make, based on everything from physical appearance of another person, a specific situation, spoken words, stress, fear, feelings of low self-worth…oh, the list goes on and on.

Have you ever felt an immediate dislike for someone because they remind you of someone else? Have you found yourself reacting to a situation, based on what you tell yourself others are thinking? Do you find yourself repeating behavior automatically when you’re tired, or nervous about something, or overwhelmed?

Congratulations! You, too, are of the human race, and you have patterns, just like the rest of us!

We generally know we have habits. I brush my teeth after meals, I drink coffee every morning. These are habits. They’re different from the concept of patterns. Patterns are not just actions that I do habitually. They are reactive, not really actions of choice.

Typically we develop our patterns in childhood through adolescence. Our patterns are a reflection of a behavior or coping skill we learned and adapted from our parents, or someone who stood in a surrogate role to us; or, we developed our patterns as a reaction to the people who raised us…as in: I don’t like it that my mom/dad does (fill in the blank), so I’ll do the opposite.

Of course we don’t have that conversation with ourselves. This is all happening at a subconscious level. I think it’s fair to say that a pattern is not necessarily, of itself, destructive or negative. Some may be. But I believe most patterns are neutral behaviors. The behaviors become patterns, and become destructive, when we default to a specific action or attitude based on reaction instead of choice.

Examples: Someone threatens our sense of security, and we become small. It’s as if we shrink back to a role from childhood. Becoming small looks just like it sounds. Your physical presence is diminished…maybe you try to become invisible. You minimize yourself, still your voice, give up your opinion, even your right to have an opinion.

For others, feeling intimidated or threatened leads to a show of bravado. Literally, you embody: “You’re not the boss of me!” You talk loudly, maybe bravely. You stand up, make your presence felt. But it’s not authentic bravery; it’s a show of force to soothe your experience of fright.

You see? Two sides of a reaction to the same stimulus.

It can be confusing, to say the least. And it’s damaging when two people begin to react to each other…each feeding the cycles and patterns, in a crazy dance that grows from behavior learned in childhood.

Here’s another example: You run into a friend who is moving forward in her career, while yours feels stagnant. Your interaction is positive and you make all the right encouraging noises. Then you go and buy something on impulse to cheer yourself up, maybe something you can’t afford, don’t need, or will feel guilty about buying. But you buy it anyway.

You reacted to feeling “less than.” You felt badly about your life, so you defaulted to a pattern that helps you feel better, at least for the moment.

The next concept: vicious cycles. That’s when patterns join together to form a downward spiral. In the example above, you can see several patterns, with more on the horizon. You put on an act with your friend because you know that’s the socially acceptable thing to do. Then to make yourself feel better, you turn to buying something for that immediate fix…must.feel.better.now. Then, when you reflect on what you bought…you didn’t need another thing; you put it on a credit card and added to your debt; you feel guilt; you feel sadness; you wonder why you do this on a regular basis; and you spend the rest of the day vacillating between guilt and frustration.

None of this has anything to do with your friend, and you didn’t spend any time thinking about how to improve your career outlook. Instead you got caught up in self-pity, then buying something to feel better emotionally, then second-guessing yourself and feeling mad/sad/frustrated that you added to your debt.

Patterns are not about the other person, or likely, the real situation…instead, they’re a reflection of how we interpret an event, which we pair with a judgment about an event or others. Then we act, and often the first act only leads us down the path to more patterns…more unhappiness.

To find your way through the maze, it’s important to know what your values are. Knowing your values and having determination to live with integrity helps you to stay focused on the outcome you’re seeking. You don’t get caught up as easily in reactionary behavior. You can listen to your voice and know your mind, rather than being swayed by the opinions of others…or the opinions you believe others have.

It’s especially important to know that a lot of what we attribute to other people…what we think someone is thinking of us…is often just a story we make up to fit the narrative we’ve chosen.

Our narratives may have nothing to do with reality.

Here’s an example from the course, in Sheila’s words: You’re going to a party and you don’t really want to go. But you go anyway. When you arrive, you feel intimidated…others are better looking, better dressed, seem like they’re having a good time already. You feel awkward, shy, “less than.”

See where this is going?

No one really notices you when you come in…everyone is involved in conversation. You tell yourself you’re being ignored. You go stand in the corner, and eventually find someone else to talk to who’s also standing on the sidelines. You talk to each other about the others there…how shallow they are, or some other critical observation.

The reality? Likely, no one thought anything negative about you, intentionally ignored you, or felt any ill will toward you. You made up a narrative to support your feelings of “less than.” And then your experience seems authentic. You felt disrespected and unseen.

Ah, it’s interesting, isn’t it, the world that lives in your mind, and how quickly you can evaluate and react to scenarios? Much of this is lightning fast, happening in our minds as we careen between our thoughts and the reality of what’s occurring, or what’s occurring as we see and believe our interpretation of events.

Think about it…we do it all the time.

This is another example: if we’re late to an event, we excuse ourselves…weather or traffic or something likely unavoidable caused us to be late. If someone else is late, we’re likely to see that person as unreliable. So this narrative that runs in our minds works in two ways. Either: We’re likely to give ourselves a pass, excuse, or benefit of the doubt. Or: we make ourselves the guilty ones, the bad ones, the losers, and elevate others when we write our stories.

Fascinating. Of course all of this is on a continuum. There are extremes to patterns, and some people are more mired in reactive behavior than others. The goal is to become aware of how much we live in a reactive state, and live out of choice instead.

Try this next time someone cuts you off in traffic: instead of telling yourself the story that this person is rude, dangerous, inconsiderate, a bad driver, etc., etc., etc., tell yourself the story that this is a couple racing to the hospital to have a baby. When that’s your story for why someone cuts you off, you feel different about what happened. You don’t get heated, or feel slighted. You feel compassion, understanding, sympathy or even empathy for their situation.

Sometimes we may understand the situation perfectly, and maybe the other person involved really does have bad motives, really does have ill will toward us. But you can still act out of choice. You can decide how to behave in the situation. You can choose to respond instead of react. That’s mature behavior. That’s breaking your pattern.

So I challenge you…look at the last day or two and see if you can find patterns for yourself. See how often you react rather than respond. It’s tricky, because actions can look mature, and yet not really be that.

I think the key is awareness. What do you do that is a predictable reaction, given a particular set of circumstances? When you look at those experiences, you can begin to identify your patterns. And when you become aware of being in a pattern, pause, slow down, and choose.

Choose. Respond instead of react. That’s all you need to do. Isn’t it simple?!

Well, I’ve got a little work left to do on myself…a few hundred patterns yet to address. But I’ve made a beginning, choosing to be more aware, more deliberate and intentional, less reactive. It’s a good road to be on, and it fits well with other choices I’ve also made along the way. Being intentional and living with integrity and choice marches together with my faith. All of this work reinforces the values I already have…I don’t want to go through life making assumptions and judgments based on a lot of false story telling.

I don’t think I do that too much. Do I?

Yes. Yes, I do. I don’t do it in ways that are extreme. But I do it. We all do it. And we can change if we choose.

Don’t believe everything you think. Your mind doesn’t always tell you the truth.

The truth hurts; or…the truth will set you free

Last week was intense. I spent my days at a small retreat center in St. Helena, in Napa Valley, California. Does that sound stressful? No?

I took part in a residential program hosted by The Hoffman Institute.

Forty students and six teachers gathered to spend the week learning, sharing, exploring, and confronting.

Some were there to confront past relationships and family dysfunction. Others were there to discern direction for their lives. Still others were there to change self-image, or overcome fears.

All of us were there to confront ourselves, our patterns of behavior, and to grow in our capacity to love and be loved.

We followed a planned curriculum, working through concepts, tools, and experience.

It was a hard week, for some more than others.

The teachers were kind, the food was great, just as you’d expect from a retreat center in northern California.

No wine though, in case you think about going.

Our focus was on dealing with the past, in whatever form it held us back.

It turns out that a lot of my messages to myself aren’t really very helpful.

I know, it was hard for me to believe, too.

I’m such a positive person, so upbeat, really, so cheerful, so easy-going.

Well, I discovered some of that isn’t really true. I mean, I present it as true. I even live it that way. But it’s not how I really feel.

Example: I give myself, and others, a message that I’m a writer, but I follow that acknowledgement with some self-deprecating comment about “don’t look for me on the NY Times bestseller list any time soon!”

Why do I do that? I think it’s to put out there that I might not be successful…sort of like, if I acknowledge that possibility up front, then when I live up to that low expectation, no one is surprised, least of all me, and no one laughs at me for having grandiose dreams.

Whew! I saved myself from that one, didn’t I?!

Here’s another thing I do.

Sometimes I’m nervous about my relationship. When things feel tense or stressed, I sometimes say, “Are you ok?”

What I really mean is: “Am I ok? Am I safe? Are we ok?”

Funny how we use one set of words to mean something else entirely.

Of course, I don’t intentionally substitute words I say for words I mean. I like to think I’m honest and direct.

Sadly, I have to face the reality that sometimes I’m really not….not clear with myself, or clear with the people around me.

It’s a little disheartening to have your defenses dismantled and have to decide what to do with that information.

Another thing I do…I self-censor. I don’t confront, to the point of limiting potential for intimacy. For how can anyone really know me if I have such high walls that not much can get in, or out? Yes, I’m being polite and kind and easy to get along with. I’m also distant, though most people wouldn’t think that. I am kindness and helpfulness personified.

But steel plated none-the-less.

The teachers were very kind, encouraging, inspiring. They challenged us to live with integrity, to love and allow ourselves to be loved. They challenged us to be big.

Argue for your limitations, and sure enough, they’re yours.  ~ Richard Bach

So what do I do now?

I’m going to enlarge my dreams, quit worrying about what others think so much. No, I’m not going to go to the other extreme. But how did I come to think it’s smart or wise to argue for my limitations? Life will knock me down enough without me adding my own spirit to the process. I know that. And trying to protect myself with some advance notice that I’m not likely to be a best-selling author is not doing me or anyone else any good.

So now…I am a writer. I plan to be successful. I don’t need to project what that will look like. But I can at least forecast something positive and hopeful. Why wouldn’t I? The worst that will happen is that I’m not, in fact, successful, which won’t really matter to anyone else anyway.

And as for other ways I’ve been fearful….I don’t know what’s happened, but I’m not feeling that now. I’ve recognized that fear doesn’t help me avoid the hard things of life…it just prolongs them. It doesn’t save me anything. It makes difficulties harder.

Another side benefit of the week: there are almost 50 people who know a bit about my frailties, and I know something of theirs. That makes us a unique little community, able to support each other from time zones and continents across the world, thanks to email and phones. It’s a rare thing to make even a couple of new friends in a week’s time. But fifty?! That must be some kind of record. At least it is for me.

Well well…maybe it was easy an easy week after all.

More Alaska

Last week, one evening after work, we found a new park. It shouldn’t be a surprise by now, but I’m still caught off guard every time I discover an unexpected jewel. This is what we saw:

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The totem poles are iconic for native Alaskan culture, particularly of the Southeast tribes. I see them in the Pacific Northwest too. Each one tells a story, and the individual carvings on the poles have meanings. Their stories are beyond my ability to interpret, but they’re fascinating to see. There are a few carvers today that create these works of art, celebrating heritage and culture from the past.

This has been a traveling week. It began Monday with all sorts of bumps and changes. Weather was an issue…foggy and rainy, so the planned float plane trip to the airport became a ferry ride.

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At the airport, the flight had a mechanical issue, so that meant a change to another airline.

There were two connections along the way, and the last leg was one of the near misses, walking off one flight and immediately on to the next.

But we made it. Luggage made it. We started early and ended late, but even with the glitches, it all smoothed out.

Just like I like it. I love it when life works out, even with lots of opportunity for disaster.

And let’s face it…a missed flight or delayed travel rarely rises to the level of disaster. But I speak of first world problems, in which case, descriptions of near misses in everyday situations are counted as near disasters.

For the sake of clarity, I’ll acknowledge that I know the difference. But for literary license, we skirted disaster all day and somehow came through with flying colors. Those airline folks are amazing!

I’ve been making more photos of Southeast Alaska this summer…do you get tired of them? I sometimes take for granted the views and sights that surround me. But they’re worth sharing, I think.

So this is my latest group of scenes. One day I’ll look back on this time and be surprised I was here, and saw all these things. One day this will seem surreal. But for now, these are the images of daily life.
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I’m doing a personal development course this coming week, beginning today, and one of the requirements is being off line. So, no cell phone use, no lap top. It makes me a little anxious to turn off, to be out of touch. What if something happens? What if someone needs me? Family has a contact number for the retreat center, and I expect the rest of the world will hardly notice I’m gone. Maybe as much as turning off and tuning out helps the individual to focus, it’s also a reminder…I’m one person, and the world can get along very well without me for a few days. I’m valuable, as all people are. But perspective is helpful, and a reminder that I’m not indispensable is a good thing, I’m thinking.

Wish me luck, I’m diving deep!

See you next week!

An authentic life

I like scars.

I don’t mean that I seek them, or want them. But I value them.

They’re not beautiful, but they’re meaningful.

Tonight I read one of the blogs I follow, Bedlam Farm, and I love the way the author wrote about recognizing change in his life, and accepting that he would always be picking up pieces of himself.

I feel that way too.

I haven’t had physical trauma, and in many respects, I’ve escaped a lot of other difficult life experience. But I’ve brushed up against some of life’s fires enough to be singed, to have some scars.

Over time, the scars remind me less of the wound, and more of the overcoming. They become medals in the game of life, testimony to surviving and thriving.

And in time, they fade. They become so faint…or maybe just so familiar?….that I don’t really notice them anymore. They become part of the tapestry of self that makes up each life.

I think that’s why images of elderly people smiling, all wrinkly and worn, are so charming. Those images speak of people who’ve weathered, literally, but also figuratively.

No one gets out without accumulating a few scars along the way.

Like the author of the Bedlam Farm post says, some pieces of self have to continue the process of change, healing and mending.

Somehow that’s reassuring to me.

The thing about the transformation from wound to scar is: it takes time.

Culturally, we get the message in so many ways to “get ‘er done.” “Just do it!” “No excuses!” “Do. Or do not. There is no try.”

In certain contexts, I love all these statements, and I’ve used them. But they don’t work in every situation. Sometimes the best I can do is have patience, for my own failings, or for others’.

It’s a fine line, isn’t it, whether to excuse a flaw or give it grace? Whether to accept that some issues resolve and the wound heals over, the scar fades; or to acknowledge that some lessons take a lifetime to learn?

Life teaches the value of scars in unexpected ways.

Once, Riley wrote on a table I loved, carving deep grooves into the soft pine wood…not in any artistic fashion, but with the random and unlovely markings of a toddler.

At first, all I could see was the marring of the table. It wasn’t a thing of beauty any longer.

But after a while, I couldn’t look at those marks without smiling. I knew the scars were innocently put there. Riley had no concept of damaging the table by writing on it.

The longer I lived with her marks on my table, the dearer the piece became.

I think that’s the same process at work with a lot of my life’s scars…they’ve been overlaid with a patina of knowledge, and understanding, and grace. And in a shorter time than would have seemed possible, scars can take on new meaning.

The wounds and wrinkles of life, as much as the triumphs, are marks of authentic living. As we struggle to be, we stretch, we get banged up. Or sometimes someone bangs into us. Sometimes we’re gashed up. If we’re fortunate, in time we heal.

Many of my small battles don’t leave scars. The scratches and bruises of life…the small irritations of my days…they fade, and I don’t remember them.

The deeper wounds that left the scars…well, now I can appreciate them. But I no longer feel the wound. I celebrate the healing.

Summer in Southeast

Craig, Prince of Wales, Alaska

It’s been an unusually dry stretch in SE Alaska, and the locals are complaining a bit. Not enough rain! Although we’ve had a few showers, it’s been pleasantly dry for much of the past several weeks. That means walks in the evening, when it’s cool enough to enjoy and dry enough to lure us out.

The roads are lined with raspberry and salmonberry bushes. They grow wild here. You sometimes see folks picking on the side of the road. Jam making is big, and local wares sold at summer festivals…blueberries, huckleberries, strawberries.

Southeast Alaska is made up of small communities, mostly dotted across islands. Prince of Wales, the fourth largest island in the US, is home to Craig, Klawock, Thorne Bay, Whale Pass, Naukati, Hydaburg, Hollis, and Coffman Cove, and a sprinkling of other hamlets. POW has about 310 miles of paved road…that’s a lot of road for SE Alaska! I’m not sure how it happened, but there’s enough road here you can drive for a few hours. In my unofficial opinion, that’s probably the most paved road available in Alaska outside the interior. The entire road system on the island is approximately 2,500 miles, most of which was built in the logging era. That time’s long gone now.

It’s a big fishing community, and summer fishing tourists are good for the local economy. Lodges, restaurants, fishing guides, and other connections to the fishing industry appear for summer. Some restaurants and hotels are open year round, but many of the hospitality businesses are tied to the fishing. When the fishing is done for the season, the jobs and workers go too.

You can’t imagine how weather impacts life here. If the wind is too strong, float planes don’t fly, and that means the only way off the island is the once-a-day ferry, which leaves at 8:00 in the morning. The locals are used to it. They know to plan for it, and around it. It’s ok, as long as you’re not sick and in need of a fast way out. When the weather’s in the way, that can be bad news for anyone needing a medevac.

Somehow that doesn’t deter folks from living here. Approximately 6,000 people live on Prince of Wales. That’s a healthy size population for SE Alaska.

I’m always amazed at what’s in these small communities. This afternoon I discovered a fish smoking company, right next to a barbecue restaurant. “Restaurant” is really too grand a term. It was a small kitchen with a couple of picnic tables. Probably most of the customers just do take out.

Like a lot of businesses here, you have to know where to look before you can even think about becoming a customer. You have to know which little road to drive down, where to turn. I guess the owners know there’s not a lot of competition, and if the product’s good enough, people are willing to go out of their way to get to them.

I came away with smoked king salmon and a take away order of pulled pork. Well, it may be Alaska, but there’s some southern here!

We ended the day at the rec center with a workout. We may be here for just a couple of weeks, but we find the local places that keep routine going. Post office, bank, grocery….the daily needs and chores of life are here, like anywhere.

There’s a little scenery to go with!

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View from shore, Craig, Alaska

Summer color

Summer color – it’s everywhere

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Eagles landing

Writing the story

Hello friends, I’ve missed you. I hope you’ve missed me.

When life is chaotic, complicated, unsettled, up in the air, I retreat. I retreat to my shell, pull back, my instinct is to turn inward.

I don’t write.

Or rather, I write for myself, as a means of hashing out and sorting through and making sense.

But when the clouds clear and I’m on track again, I’m ready. Ready to resume, to reach out, to reconnect.

And so it is, after nearly a year in limbo, with lots of ups and downs, uncertainty, selling the house, looking for my bearings, and finding them again, I’m ready.

Over the past several months I’ve largely been quiet, and deliberately so. Since June of last year, I posted 55 times to my blog. Some months there was just one entry.

One of the consequences of this self-imposed absence is that I’ve stepped away from the habit of blogging. I’ve done that before during times of travel or some concentrated period of work, so I’ve re-launched myself before…never quite from this place, but I’ve done it.

While I’ve been on pause, I’ve learned so much. Some of it has been painful, but it’s been rich. I’ve done coaching, counseling, reading, introspection, lots of talking with family, a few friends, and with Rob.

Most of all, with Rob.

Thanks to the wisdom of many, and the grace between the two of us, we’ve weathered and survived. The issues, the questions…those are not important now. What is important is that we’ve chosen, once again.

The valley is not the place I want to live, but it is the place where growth happens.

For now, I’ve had enough growth for a while, thank you very much! I’d like a breather, and a time to live in the sunshine.

And I’d like time and focus to write. Here’s hoping.

I hope to have more than a post or two a month in the coming year.

I hope to move ahead with a custom site.

I hope to tap into some of the wisdom and experience I gained over the past year.

I hope to hear from my blogging friends, old and new, and to take my place in this online space again.

For now, I hope. I have hope. I am renewed.

~ Sheila

The Declaration of Independence

IN CONGRESS, July 4, 1776.

The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America,

When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, –That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.–Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.

He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.
He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.
He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.
He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.
He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.
He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected; whereby the Legislative powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining in the mean time exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.
He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.
He has obstructed the Administration of Justice, by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary powers.
He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone, for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.
He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harrass our people, and eat out their substance.
He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures.
He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil power.
He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:
For Quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:
For protecting them, by a mock Trial, from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:
For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world:
For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent:
For depriving us in many cases, of the benefits of Trial by Jury:
For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences
For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies:
For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws, and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:
For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.
He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us.
He has plundered our seas, ravaged our Coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.
He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.
He has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the executioners of their friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands.
He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages, whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.

In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.

Nor have We been wanting in attentions to our Brittish brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which, would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.

We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States; that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.


The 56 signatures on the Declaration appear in the positions indicated:

Column 1
Georgia:
Button Gwinnett
Lyman Hall
George Walton

Column 2
North Carolina:
William Hooper
Joseph Hewes
John Penn
South Carolina:
Edward Rutledge
Thomas Heyward, Jr.
Thomas Lynch, Jr.
Arthur Middleton

Column 3
Massachusetts:
John Hancock
Maryland:
Samuel Chase
William Paca
Thomas Stone
Charles Carroll of Carrollton
Virginia:
George Wythe
Richard Henry Lee
Thomas Jefferson
Benjamin Harrison
Thomas Nelson, Jr.
Francis Lightfoot Lee
Carter Braxton

Column 4
Pennsylvania:
Robert Morris
Benjamin Rush
Benjamin Franklin
John Morton
George Clymer
James Smith
George Taylor
James Wilson
George Ross
Delaware:
Caesar Rodney
George Read
Thomas McKean

Column 5
New York:
William Floyd
Philip Livingston
Francis Lewis
Lewis Morris
New Jersey:
Richard Stockton
John Witherspoon
Francis Hopkinson
John Hart
Abraham Clark

Column 6
New Hampshire:
Josiah Bartlett
William Whipple
Massachusetts:
Samuel Adams
John Adams
Robert Treat Paine
Elbridge Gerry
Rhode Island:
Stephen Hopkins
William Ellery
Connecticut:
Roger Sherman
Samuel Huntington
William Williams
Oliver Wolcott
New Hampshire:
Matthew Thornton

Happy 75th to my mom!

This post is a week late. My mom turned 75 last Friday, June 26.

I didn’t do a blog post that day.

I don’t think I wished her a happy birthday on Facebook.

For the big day, I did better than digital media.

I was with her to celebrate in person. And I wasn’t alone. We had about forty guests, a large group of family and a few close friends, who got together to mark the moment with food, photos, games, and memories.

Our family is scattered all across the US, and at this phase of life, it often takes an act of Congress to bring us all (or as many as can…it is never “all”) together. In recent years, those gatherings have often been for funerals.

But this occasion was joyful. We had multiple generations and all sorts of connections and ages…parents, grandparents, uncles, aunts, cousins, nieces, nephews, near and dear. Oh, it was quite a group!

We rented a community event center for the big day, and with some combined efforts, planned, decorated, and trimmed. We put on a southern barbecue spread, complete with all the trimmings and a family favorite coconut cake. We had games, a slide show that was a walk down memory lane, a little roasting/tribute, and plenty of time to visit. We had a photographer come and make all the requisite photos of the big group as well as smaller groups of individual families, cousins, kids, etc.

We noticed that there are holes in the fabric of the family. Some are gone, and are sorely missed.

But we can still muster a hearty number, and the storytelling, the talk around my mother’s table, site of so many family gatherings over the years, warmed my heart, and reminded me of all the best of my heritage.

My roots are firmly southern, based in a small Mississippi town. The two are entwined, family and heritage.

During our visit, we checked out the small gift stores in town, always a draw. I’ve hauled many a special treasure back from Mississippi over the years.

We ate at the local food truck, and the smoked pulled pork was probably the best I’ve ever had. The owner made a photo of us and chatted while we ate. It’s just that kind of a community.

We went to a summer festival…well, maybe it was a week-early 4th of July event, I’m not sure…but there were kids playing, live music, a mix of people, ages, races, and smiles on hand to enjoy the food and fun. It was small town Americana up close and personal.

We ate catfish and fried dill pickles, my mother’s famous sweet rolls and her even more famous fried rice, caught up with family we haven’t seen in years, other than via Facebook, and I watched Riley and Jack charm the whole bunch. It was satisfying, heart-warming, and smooth from start to finish.

Thank you, Mother, for all you have meant to me and our family all these years. You’ve been part of the glue that has held us together, showed the way, carried the torch.

I’m so glad that this was a birthday I could share with you, that I’ve been so busy being present in person I am just now writing this, as I sit in the airport headed back to Alaska.

It was a charming and special trip. I’m so glad, and I’m so proud of you.

~ Sheila