A Tale of Dried Cranberries   Leave a comment

Last summer, our family had the opportunity to go camping in Colorado in conjunction with a celebration near Breckenridge in honor of my parents’ fiftieth wedding anniversary.  That was a great celebration and both fun and amusing having fourteen very different people sharing one house and one (albeit large) kitchen.
So after several days of festivities with extended family, we set out again, for another week of sightseeing and camping.  Among our destinations was Rocky Mountain National Park.  The kids had never been there, and I would guess it had been almost twenty years since my husband and I had visited.  We had fond memories so were glad to go back.
On my birthday, we picked a hike in the Moraine Park Basin that looked do-able and would be enjoyable for all four of us.  It led along a creek, through woods and an amazing boulder field.  All went well, and when we reached our destination, The Pool, we all felt like that hadn’t taken long at all.  We ate lunch while listening to the roar of the circling waters of the Pool under the bridge we had just crossed.
Afterwards, I suggested that we go on and try to make it to the waterfall further up.  So far the trail had been basically level.  I felt great, despite not being in the best of health in general, but no altitude sickness or anything.  Everyone agreed and we started up the trail.
It was a lovely hike, through a burnt area with shocking pink fireweed, overlooking a rapidly tumbling creek below.  But, of course, after a while, it certainly seemed that we ought to have reached the falls by now.
My husband and son finally decided they definitely wanted to turn around, but I was determined to make the falls, which some hikers we asked said were really not that much farther.  I was just hot, tired and sweaty, so what of that?
Unfortunately, something about that last tenth of a mile did not agree with my entire body, and while we were sitting admiring the wonderful view of the waterfall, I started feeling light-headed and spacey.
I rested and drank water.  My daughter and I started back down.  Some nice gentleman offered me some of his water.  Now that I think of it, I must have looked like I needed a drink, but I didn’t want to take water from someone who was still going uphill, so I didn’t accept any.
My intention was to return to where the guys were sitting and get something to eat from the pack.  However, when the girl and I got back to that rock — they weren’t there.  Apparently they had done what we had agreed they might do and started back down; we’d catch up.
So now I had to manage without what was in the pack until I caught up.
We rested, I breathed deep.  I wasn’t really dizzy.  I just felt really weird.
If I could just have taken my next dose of medication, which was of course in the back-pack, I knew that would help.  Or a potato chip might help.
Honestly, though, chocolate was what I really wanted!  But I hadn’t brought any.
We continued down the trail.  As I kept feeling waves of weird, I put one foot in front of the next, was thankful my daughter was with me, and glad it was downhill at this point.
I prayed, “Lord, please get me off this mountain.”  This prayer was completely sincere.  I was concerned that if I fainted we’d be looking at ranger evacuation by helicopter or something crazy — and I really did not want to put my family through that, nor spend my birthday that way.
We finally caught up with the backpack and the medication.  I had my next dose, and had some potato chips thinking that carbs would help.  But I still really wished I had candy, chocolate, something with sugar in it (note to self: always take candy on hikes).
We took a rest back at the Pool, where we had lunch, and I ate a few more bites, and told my husband I needed to sit for a few minutes.  I didn’t tell him how badly I actually felt.  After a bit I felt I could go on, still wishing I had chocolate.
Imagine my amazement when I saw something I had never seen before on a trail: a spot of bright, cheerful, cranberry red.
It was a dried cranberry on the path.  I stopped and picked it up.  If it had been chocolate, or if there was any chocolate on the trail, I wouldn’t have been able to spot it in the dirt.  I brushed it off, and put it in my mouth.  My daughter chimed in, “Mom, don’t you know you shouldn’t eat things you find on the ground?”
I laughed and said, “Ah but this is an emergency.”
That cranberry tasted awfully good.  I thought to myself, what are the odds that there are any more?  Not too good I thought, but I kept looking as we hiked back toward the van.
There were two more.
By the time I swallowed the third one, I kid you not, I was feeling better.
You know how much sugar there is in those dried cranberries? Like 24 grams per 4 tablespoons. It was just what I needed, and there it was, waiting for me.

Posted February 6, 2016 by swanatbagend in prayer

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Asking the Impossible?   1 comment

I’ve been trying to be more specific when praying.  In general I tend to be too general, and that makes it harder to see if anything got answered.

I also know that I tend to be too focused on my needs and those of the people I’m around.  I know I need to be looking for the Big Picture and be praying for the issues that affect the nation and the world.  I’m sure I’m not the only one who doesn’t pray hard enough for the huge stuff, but I’m working on that.

I do know that asking for specific things, while doing my best to wait with open hands for whatever comes, has been a refreshing new direction.  Assuming that God is involved and active and living that way is a good change.  I have seen some wonky and weird little things come to pass during this process that I did not expect.

Seeing specific prayers get answered also leads to bigger questions, and I will be working through those in a future post.

For now, the story.

My son attends university and is pursuing an entomology degree.  He’s amazing with bugs and many other little critters like them.  He wants to do research and look for new bugs.  We’d like to see him do this also.

But first, since he is in the sciences, he is required to take a hearty dose of math and science courses, including calculus, statistics and multiple sections of chemistry that come with extensive labs and are worth large amounts of credit hours.  I was an English major and never took a course worth more than three credit hours.  But these chemistry courses are both incredibly difficult and a huge chunk of any semester a student takes.

So hard as they are, what would be even more difficult would be having to retake them.  Five more credit hours.  Difficult and beyond tedious.

Last fall our son was in his second semester of chemistry and midway through made an alarming grade on a midterm.  He conferred with the professor, and found that yes, in order to pass the class, his remaining exams would have to be good, not just average.  This was an understandably daunting goal to achieve in the midst of other course work and outside responsibilities, and with difficulty finding a tutor who was regularly available.

However, as per my policy of praying specifically for things, because of “him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us,” I regularly prayed that our son would pass the class.  I prayed that if it were truly not best for him to pass, and if he really did not comprehend enough of the material to move on, that he would be able to retake the course without too much hassle and really benefit from the time spent.  But–all things being equal I spent more of the time on this topic praying that he would pass.

I felt fairly confident that he did understand the majority of the material, and I decided to pray that the format of the remaining tests, particularly the final on which he obviously needed to do well since it’s a large part of the course grade, would be different in a way that was better for him.

It’s really kind of a stupid prayer, because we knew that the odds were not good that he would pass, and he told me there was no point to keep praying.  And why on earth would the professor change the test format?

When I arrived to collect him for Christmas break, however, one of the first things out of his mouth was, “There’s a chance I may pass chemistry.”

A few days later, I heard him make a funny noise in the other room that was not him about to be sick (my initial reaction), but a huge sigh of relief when he did more than pass the class he had been so concerned about.

Further details were that the chemistry department had jointly decided this year, for the first time, to replace tests compiled by each individual instructor with an industry standard test for all students in all sections of the course.  This would presumably make final grades among the different sections of the course more fair for all students.  The test was put together by the American Chemical Society (I think) and if they don’t know what they’re doing as far as a chemistry exam, who does?

Regardless, my son did much better on the final than he had expected to, and this is a part of the reason why he passed the class, when it had looked impossible.

Why does God answer prayers like this?

I don’t know why, but He did.


Posted January 16, 2016 by swanatbagend in prayer

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My Bathroom Scale Isn’t Helping   Leave a comment

In more ways than the one you undoubtedly thought I meant.

Yes, it is not inspiring to mount the scale and find that you have gained a pound after eating a dinner consisting of one small chicken breast stuffed with garlic and spinach, half a baked acorn squash, and a romaine salad.

But our bathroom scale takes it further than the basic insult of finding out you’ve gained weight despite eating healthily.

If you stand on the new digital scale (I saved the old one, guessing that at some point the computer chip will fail), it gives you a message if you stand on it too long.  I’m not sure how long, but it isn’t more than three or four seconds.

It throws a pile of numbers at you about your goal for weight loss, and then at the very top, there are two little words.

They are “Get off.”

I laughed out loud the first time I read them.  I have laughed again, because this keeps happening.

When I’m standing there, other words spring immediately to my mind because they should precede what my scale keeps telling me: “I beg your pardon, Madam, but–”

Only my scale isn’t as well-mannered as Zazu.


Posted January 14, 2016 by swanatbagend in diet, humor

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Keep Celebrating   Leave a comment

There are still several hours to go of Christmas.  Don’t give it up just yet.

Today is Twelfth Night, and in the liturgical church calendar it’s the last day of Christmastide.

We still have all our decorations up except for the wooden block nativity which ended up scattered all over the den floor, so I put it away.  But other than that, we are enjoying the tree the kids decorated and all the trimmings.

That’s only partly because we haven’t had time to take them down between travel and being sick.

It’s because I always have the Christmas decorations up at least until January the 6th.

Do you feel like that is way too long to look at red and green?

If so, take into consideration the possibility that you are putting up the red and green too early.

Maybe you’re actually missing Advent (whose color is purple which I love).  As you probably already know, Advent means waiting, and that is what the approximately four weeks before Christmas Day are for.  Waiting for Christmas, but beyond that, preparation.  Stilling the heart and listening.

What ends up happening to me is that the four weeks of Advent are so full of Christmas parties, events, cooking, shopping, and preparation for the Christmas day feast, and any travel that is involved, that it can be difficult to find time to eat and bathe, much less wait.

So, how very valuable the wonderful reality that one of the most delightful feasts of the year is actually twelve days long.  We need those days.  We need them to rest and to celebrate and to honor Christmas in our hearts so that we can try to keep it all the year.

In our ordinary lives where waiting is so often drab, it’s also wonderful that we can enjoy a special set-apart time for doing just that.  Waiting.  God knows we must often wait for many things.  How glorious that we are given Advent, looking toward the lovely twelve days of Christmas, and all that is yet to come as well, where waiting is part of his gift to us.

Posted January 7, 2016 by swanatbagend in holidays

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The Force Re-Awakens   Leave a comment

That is what I was waiting for!

If you’ve been a fan since you were 10 years old, like I have, and you haven’t yet seen the new movie–you will not be disappointed!

Let’s ignore the prequel movies, which I always think of as the 4th, 5th and 6th movies because that is the order they were released in, and the new numbering just confuses the heck out of me.  We can be thankful those are over and done, and I’m still thankful I didn’t waste my money seeing them all in the theater.

This new release is just the right amount of old and new to make a very satisfying “comfort food” movie for us life time fans.  And it’s exciting and interesting enough for someone who’s never gotten into Star Wars before.

I’m the kind of annoying viewer who likes to whisper comments and questions to the friend I’m sitting next to.  I did that yesterday, during the previews, and then for maybe the first fifteen minutes of the film.

But after that, I honestly pretty much lost track of who I was even in the theater with.  It’s that good.

If someone had told me in 1977 that the new movie I loved would still be going strong 38 years later, with 6 sequels, I would never have believed it.  I mean, yes, it’s good, but who could have dreamed the story would capture so many people?

So much family history.  My mother had read a review about it and wanted very much to see it (besides it had Alec Guinness in it) and our family drove 100 miles from the Montana backwater we lived in to see it.  I was given a black Star Wars T-shirt by someone, which I still have.  Yes, it’s a bit small, but it’s in my top dresser drawer.  Back in the day before VCR players, imagine my delight when my father took me to town to see the movie for an unprecedented second viewing after I won the school spelling bee!




imagine my horror when Han Solo started out onto the catwalk to try to reach his renegade son….not good.

Imagine my delight to see a woman taking on the head of the new First Order, and putting out his light saber for good.  (Did anyone else notice the empowering feminist message represented there?)

Love to see new actors get cast in great roles.

You’ll love it too.


Posted December 28, 2015 by swanatbagend in movie reviews

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Define Friend   Leave a comment

One word in the English language is not descriptive enough: friend.

We have “acquaintance” and “bud.”  We have other words for family members and in-laws.  I suppose some of them are not so complementary, but at least there are specific terms for just about every relation you have.

But for friends there is–friends.

If a person is not just an acquaintance, then she becomes a casual friend.  Then maybe a good friend.

Then a close friend or a dear friend, and after enough years have passed, an old friend.

See the problem?  There aren’t words for the friend herself, only adjectives for clarification.

There really are many distinctions in friendship, but there are no words available in American English with which to make those distinctions.

Colleague? Associate?  That’s business, not friendship.

Chum?  too British; we don’t use it.

Companion?  Too formal.

Cohort, compatriot, comrade?  Too Communist!

Sidekick?  Too cheesy.

Intimate?  Familiar?  In our culture, we generally use those words as adjectives.

There are words for friends, but they aren’t in common usage, and many of those which I’ve sampled above are intended for specific contexts.  I’d like a one word word for a new friend, a casual friend, a long-term friend, a good friend, a childhood friend and a lifetime friend.  There aren’t any words for the amazing range of friendships that exist.

Maybe my soul mates and my best buds can help me out on this topic.




Posted December 28, 2015 by swanatbagend in friendship

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Must it be so exclusive?   Leave a comment

I spent the first eight years of homeschooling life, if you count preschool co-ops, with a group of people who made decisions by consensus and who took turns doing the work of the co-op.  We met in a church, but had a variety of faith beliefs amongst us.  We talked about what to do in group meetings, which were facilitated by someone who was good at hearing our concerns and helping us hear each other.

I always felt respected in this group.  Each person was free to speak up about problems that had come up with the kids during the co-op.  Each person was valued.  Our children had a lot of fun spending time with each other.  They also got group problem solving laid out for them, not just in the way the adults modeled it, but when Miss Janet helped them to walk through the very same process in circle time when they had conflicts with each other.

So–I thought this model was the norm.

In my current city, there are quite a few homeschool co-ops.  When I moved to the area I had trouble narrowing down the options.  I found few that were similar to what our family was used to.  Many were quite large and well established, which can be a plus for those who want the playing field already marked out.

But in a large group you will find it impractical to solve things by consensus.  And with dozens or hundreds of students and parents, you can’t create the schedule or student conduct guidelines by consulting everyone.  All that is understandable due to size.

What bothers me is that some of the co-ops and homeschool mailing lists require member parents to agree to a statement of faith; in my area that’s the Christian faith.

However, there are quite a few homeschoolers in any metro area who aren’t Christian.

That doesn’t mean Christian homeschoolers don’t have a great deal in common with them.

Most homeschool parents want to give their kids a quality education.

Most have moral standards they live by, such as the Golden Rule.

Most homeschool parents have talent, skills, creativity and energy (well, some energy) to offer the group.

Most people want to experience community.

When you homeschool it’s nice to have a place where your children can learn some new subjects, be part of a group, meet some new friends, and be part of a broader community.

But you can’t really do that if the door is shut in your face up front.

For some online homeschool mailing lists signing a statement of faith is required to be on the list, receive email, and post to the group.  This is viewed as necessary in order to avoid list members getting into doctrinal arguments.  But it seems to me that variable could be avoided by simply stating that discussions of theology should stay off list.  If any person broke that simple rule she could be removed from the list.  Other online groups work in a similar way, for example if flaming occurs.

Possibly more to the point would be a code of conduct which could be effective online and definitely in a co-op.  If the expectations of how the group would work and how the people in the group would treat each other were published up front, everyone would know how the group would operate.  The Golden Rule, conflict resolution, co-op goals, what elements of faith (if any) could be discussed, what the master plan is–all of these could be laid out.

Utilizing a code of conduct would allow people from different backgrounds to come together for a mutual purpose.  You’d know what you were signing up for and how you would be expected to behave, but you wouldn’t have to give assent to a set of religious beliefs that might not be yours.

If you can’t ethically sign a statement saying you adhere to a faith, but all you want is to find a good, active co-op for you and your children to be part of…where does that leave you?

On the outside.

Talk about missed opportunities.   It’s a loss to all parties.

Posted December 22, 2015 by swanatbagend in community, homeschooling, the church

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