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Friday, November 28, 2014

Japanese Garden

So what do you do when it's late November and the weather is unseasonably warm?  You go exploring!

On Wednesday, Ben and I decided to drive over to Washington Park and poke around.  Our first planned stop was the Japanese Garden, which neither of us had ever been to before.  We almost made an unscheduled stop on the way when we passed the sign for Pittock Mansion.  We pressed on, though, deciding we would return to the mansion at a later date.  It was a good decision - perhaps we'll visit the mansion on a rainy day.  Yesterday, overcast but bright and dry, was perfect for visiting the garden.



Now, I didn't know what to expect from the Japanese Garden, having never been there before, but I was very impressed with it.  It's a beautiful section of Washington Park.  There are so many fun plants and decorative things in there, and all these little winding trails.  Well worth a visit - Ben and I were both happy that we went.  We spent a couple of hours there, even retracing our steps to enjoy the scenery a second time.  Here are some photos, which really don't do it justice:

This little pond was gorgeous, even with all the bare trees.

These lacy leaf maples are always so cool.

This was a great waterway with tons of multi-colored Koi in it.

Biggest of several little waterfalls.

This stone path led to the pond in the first picture.

Beautiful color on these trees.

Stone bridge over a brook.

The rock garden, seen from above.

Got to love the ripples.

Awesome tree behind the pavilion.

Enjoying the view: Portland and Mount Hood.


After the garden, we made our way downtown for a delicious lunch at Deschutes Brewery and Public House.  We both had the elk burger, which was amazing!  They make a pretty good house root beer, and we had a sample of the house ginger ale, which was amazing - and I don't even like ginger ale!


Elk burger!
And that was pretty much our day.


Yesterday, of course, was Thanksgiving.  Ben and I made a nice fruit salad and headed over to Aunt Debbie's for dinner with family.  It was great seeing everyone, and the food, naturally, was fantastic.


I hope everyone had a great holiday.  Today it's absolutely pouring down rain, so I'm glad we went to the Japanese Garden on Wednesday!



Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Oregon Wine Country

Yesterday, Mom and Ben came and picked me up, and we set out for Oregon Wine Country.  It doesn't take long to get to if you live in the Portland area - there are tons of vineyards and wineries.  When I was a kid, I don't remember there being *any*, but it's a booming business now, and it's easy to see why.  We went out to Newberg and Dundee to check out a few of the local wineries.

I tend to despise whatever alcoholic beverage I'm tasting, and I've never been a wine person.  In addition, this area is known for its pinot noirs, which is not Mom's type of wine - she was going for the pinot gris some of the wineries make.  Therefore, wherever we went, we just shared one wine tasting flight.

Before we started sampling wine, we had a nice lunch at Red Hills Market.  If you ever go there, you have got to try the roasted filberts* with bacon and rosemary.  It's delicious, and just so very 'Oregon'.


Yum.

First, we went to Sokol Blosser, where we tasted a couple of white wines, including a chardonnay that I was shocked to find was to my liking, and several pinots (gris and noir).  Mom and Ben were after the 2012 pinot gris, which they'd just had a bottle of recently, and they got the very last two bottles.  Good timing, I'd say.  The tasting room at Sokol Blosser has a great atmosphere, very Pacific Northwest, and the staff were approachable and friendly.  We enjoyed our tasting there.

Vineyards at Sokol Blosser

Next, we went and found Evening Land's tasting room, where we sampled really good locally made wines out of grapes from Oregon, California, and France.  After that, it was off to Panther Creek Cellars.  We just tried their pinot gris, which was fabulous.  Our last stop was Argyle Winery.  We ended our wine tasting with their sparkling wine flight.  I have to say, the Knudsen Brut that can't be bought in stores was excellent.

I wish I could tell you all about what distinguished the various wines, and what I liked about the ones I liked, but I'm no wine expert.  The Sokol Blosser chardonnay was mellow and the Argyle Winery Knudsen Brut was tangy, but that's about all I can tell you.


Now in possession of all the wine we'll drink in a year (or more), we made our way to Oregon City to have dinner at the Stillhouse Scottish Pub.  I had a traditional beef pasty, while Mom and Ben went for fish and chips.  We shared sticky toffee pudding for desert.  The food was great, and the atmosphere was pretty awesome, too.

Beef pasty with coleslaw

All in all, while wine tasting would not be my activity of choice on a normal occasion, we had a really great day.  I may even do it again next year!



*Filberts is the local word for hazelnuts.

Monday, November 24, 2014

No-Stress Dinner Party

The books are all over the place, there are a couple of unpacked boxes, and my fridge was pretty much empty.  But hey!  The furniture's all here, the kitchen's operational, and it was high time I invited a few people over.  Dinner party, anyone?


Question: What's the first thing you do when you want to have friends over for dinner and you're not a foodie?

Answer: Call and get a simple but delicious recipe from Mom.


You see, my Mom is an outstanding, fabulous, amazing, unbelievable cook and baker.  Seriously.  It's a little ridiculous.  We grew up referring to her food as 'Penny-made' (her name's Penny), and if I had a nickle for every time someone said she should open a restaurant or a bakery or a pie shop, well... I'd be several dollars richer.*

The two best soups that Mom used to make for us were beef stew and corn chowder.  I made the stew for the first time just a few months ago, before I moved out of my house in Georgia to start my cross-country trek back to Oregon, and it was amazingly delicious.  However, I knew the stew would take more time to make than the chowder, and I also knew that my friend J isn't a huge meat and potatoes fan.  In addition, both of my college friends who came to dinner had eaten Mom's corn chowder before and loved it, so I knew it would be a good choice.

I'd only made the corn chowder once before, a long time ago, so I called Mom up to be reminded of the recipe.  Which, by the way, is award-winning.  Which is why I'm not putting it up.  It's a family secret.  I will, however, give you a hint: it has corn in it.

Recipe:
Classified.

Spoiler-free Instructions:
........
........
........


So there you have it!  An easy, surprisingly quick meal.


But Rachel, are you saying corn chowder is a complete dinner party meal?

No, no, no.  Nothing of the sort.  But remember: Not a foodie.


I don't multitask very well in the kitchen, you see.  I'm too inexperienced - I do everything kitchen-related about ten times slower than your average home chef.  There was no way I was taking on more than one dish and coming out the other side with everything unscathed.

But there's an easy fix to that: have a pot-luck!  While I, as the hostess, made the main course, I asked my friend E and her husband to bring a nice salad (it was fabulous - spinach, apples and nice cheese of some sort with a homemade dressing), and I asked J to bring her famous Dilly Bread.  I stopped by See's Candy for desert.

The dinner was fantastic.  :)


Again, I don't do a lot of multi-tasking while cooking, so I'm afraid I didn't take any photos while I worked.  I took a few for you today, though:


A couple of the raw ingredients (more recipe hints!).

Terrible photo of the delicious finished product.

Dilly Bread!  Unfortunately, no photo of the fabulous salad.


Now, trust me: If I can make this corn chowder, you can make this corn chowder.  It's delicious, and perfect for winter time.  Super easy.  All you have to do is become a close family friend to get the recipe.



*Because honestly, nickles don't add up all that fast.


Friday, November 21, 2014

A Productive Day

Some of you must have been praying for my time management!

Yesterday I had a great, productive day.  I worked a full day during fairly normal hours, making myself take an actual break for lunch, and making myself stop at dinner time and take a dinner break before moving on to whatever I felt like doing, since my work day was officially over.  Naturally, having been productive all day, I felt like working some more.  :)  So I did!

So what did I do yesterday?

1. NaNoWriMo, obviously.  I'm almost all caught up on my total word count!

2. Work-related reading.  (It's not my fault if it's also enjoyable...)  I'm doing some editing with Ashberry Lane Publishing,* a local Christian small press.  I'm reading through the first three books in the Thistle Series by Dianne Price, so I can help edit book #4.  I've really enjoyed the reading.  It's set mainly in Scotland during WWII, in the Hebrides Islands, and the characters' dialogue is all spelled accordingly - it's smooth reading, because the author eases into the spelling, and it gives you a great sense of the accent.

3. Correspondence.  I didn't get it all done, but I did write to my sponsored kids.  I sponsor kids with Compassion International, a wonderful program that really emphasize letter writing, which is so fantastic.  Over time, you really start to get to know the kids, and it's a wonderful way to speak love and encouragement and God's Word into their lives.  A couple of my kids have birthdays coming up, so I sent them cards, and I wrote Christmas cards for all of them.  I'm a bit late this year, so they probably won't get them until after Christmas, but better late than never.  :)  I also included a small watercolor painting (on paper)** that I got at the Made in Oregon store for each of them.  I love those kids.  :)

4. Getting organized.  I created a calendar for each month from now to next December on my computer, and plugged in important dates and so forth.  I created deadlines for myself for finishing my poetry book and put those on the calendars, as well.  I'll add more of those self-created deadlines later.  I also created a daily work schedule for myself.^  My plan was to start it Monday, but I kept pretty close to it today.  It is so satisfying to finally be organized.

5.  What else?  I checked my emails, naturally.  Did some paperwork.  Made a couple of lists.  Advertised my editing services a bit.  Made an appointment with an academic adviser for school.  Did a couple of military-related surveys.  Worked a little on organizing my books.  Um... That might be all!

All in all, a good day's work, I'd say.  :)



*You may want to sign up for their newsletter - it's fun to read, and they'll be doing some holiday giveaways soon.

**If you're a Compassion sponsor thinking about sending your child a gift with your next letter, be sure to check the restrictions in advance.

^Obviously, this will have to be adjusted come January when I start classes.  But still.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Wednesday Review: LEGOs

So, I was going to do Christmas music because I bought Idina Menzel's Christmas CD, Holiday Wishes yesterday, but then I thought, it's not even Thanksgiving yet!  So I'll save the Christmas music review for later.  You're welcome.

Today, I'm going to be talking about LEGOs.  Prepare yourself: there's gonna be a lot of pictures.


Introduction: You see, my brothers and I grew up with LEGOs.  Generally speaking, we'd get a LEGO for birthdays and/or Christmas.  I remember for a couple years running, we'd have a small LEGO stocking stuffer and a bigger one under the tree.  These are LEGO sets, by the way, not boxes of random bricks.  So we collected quite a few over the years.  Some may have been lost over time, but most were kept safe for us by Mom and Dad while we were going through college, and now we each have our own sets from growing up.  I have a few more, having become interested in them again in recent years.

In my review today, I'll be comparing old LEGOs and new ones, and giving my opinion about the themes available now.


My Review/Reminiscence:

1. Old LEGOs.  Some of our favorite old LEGOs were the Pirate LEGOs.  Like this pirate ship:

The Black Seas Barracuda*
And my very first set:

Sabre Island
And my favorite pirate set that I owned:

Lagoon Lockup
We had a great time with these two belonging to my brothers, as well:

Eldorado Fortress
Imperial Trading Post
These things were awesome.  They were cool-looking, they were a great theme for the imagination, and they were sturdy.  So much fun.


We also enjoyed some of the Castle LEGOs.  We had a few small sets, including one or two Dark Forest/Forestmen sets (basically Robin Hood inspired), but the ones that stood out were the big Castles.  Over time, we had Castles from several different sub-Themes.

King's Mountain Fortress

Black Monarch's Castle
I didn't get my own large Castle until near the end of my LEGO enthusiasm:

Royal Knight's Castle

Ah, the good old days.  These LEGOs were detailed, sturdy, and difficult to build - the instruction books showed pictures of what your set should look like as you built it, but rarely told you what pieces to put where - you had to figure it out by studying and comparing the picture with your set.  It also didn't tell you how many pieces were placed in each step, so you had to be careful not to skip any.  It was a nice challenge.


Now!  Skip ahead a decade or so, and I got interested in LEGOs again.  I decided to go online and check them out.


2. New LEGOs.**  I was saddened to see that there were no Pirate LEGOs, but they had a good run and LEGO is always coming up with new things.  Let's look at the positives and negatives of the newer LEGO themes.

First, Space sets.  Some, like the current Galaxy Squad, just don't look very interesting, but I was pleasantly surprised by the Alien Conquest sets they had out a couple years ago.  I only got a few of them, but they were sturdy, fun to build, and aesthetically pleasing.

I'm normally not a big fan of the alien space ships, but this UFO Abduction set was great.


I wish I could say the same for the Castle themed LEGOs.

I got a couple of small Castle sets.  They were pretty bad.  The line seems to be dying out, and no wonder.  They were built mostly with large specialty pieces, so there wasn't as much building fun, and they were incredibly unsturdy.  In addition, the mini figures and their accessories looked cheap.

No, right now, it's the City sets that reign supreme.  I got several of those, and they were fun to build, detailed, and sturdy.  Incidentally, they're still going strong - pieces I bought two or three years ago are still available.

My favorite:

Museum Break-In
Why is this my favorite?  Because it's awesome.  The vehicles and mini-figures are good, but the real joy is in this lovely, detailed City Museum.  It's got pillars, sky-lights, banners, lights, mini-figure gargoyles, and a security system for the door, not to mention the displayed artifacts inside.  It's basically awesome.

Then there are vehicles like this:

Cement Mixer
And this:

Camper Van
And this:

Logging Truck
The police, fire, medical and coast guard sets are and/or look pretty good, too.


Finally, there's the newest sub-theme: Arctic.

These are the sets that I want but don't have yet.  Except this little one:

Arctic Snowmobile
Here's what I like about these sets.  They look sturdy (and this little one actually is), and they're very imaginative.  They're set in the arctic (obviously), where scientists and explorers are mining the ice fields for crystals, which can represent pretty much anything you want.  Lots of potential there.

Plus, they kind of remind me of the Ice Planet 2002 and Aquazone sets Ben and I were starting to collect right at the end of our LEGO enthusiasm, so there's a nice little nostalgia factor.


But Rachel, what about all the movie-themed sets?

Seriously?  No.


Anyway, to sum up: LEGO sets these days are a little hit and miss in terms of building fun and stability.  I'd recommend buying a small set from the theme you're interested in to see how you like it before investing in the larger, more expensive sets - I've noticed that if one set in a theme is good, the others are likely to be, and same goes for sets that are bad.  If you're like me and are getting back into LEGOs after a long hiatus, be aware that the new packaging and instructions make building a lot easier (aka, less fun) than the old sets.  That said, they come with extras of the smallest pieces (in case you lose one), so you'll have some nice detail bits to add to your pile of random, set-less LEGOs for building straight out of your imagination.


Statistics:
Not even going to attempt this.


My rating:
Pirate: 5 stars
Various old Castle: 5 stars
Misc (like Aquazone and Wild West): 4 stars
New Castle: 1 star
New space: 4 stars
New City: 5 stars
New Movie-Themed: I said no.

Overall for all LEGOs throughout time: 4 stars - 5 if you're careful which sets you buy.


*Pictures from brickset.com.

**LEGOs can be purchased directly from the source through their website or your local LEGO store.  I highly recommend you immediately sign up for the VIP Program, as it's free and gives you points toward purchases.


Monday, November 17, 2014

Seattle Symphony

Short post today because I'm visiting with Mom and Ben in Seattle.

Mom and I rode the train up on Sunday morning and met Dad, who had driven up on Saturday, and Ben.  We had lunch at Benaroya Hall and then listened to a fabulous concert with guest conductor Miguel Harth-Bedoya.  First was an interesting piece by Argentinian composer Esteban Benzecry called Colores de la Cruz del Sur (Colors of the Southern Cross)*.  There's lots of precussion in this 15-minutes piece in five movements.

The second piece was the reason I wanted to come to this particular concert: Felix Menhelssohn's Violin Concerto in E minor.  This has long been one of my favorite pieces of music, but I'd never heard it in concert before.  Played most expressively by Augustin Hadelich on a Stradivarius, it was absolutely amazing.  We were favored with a short encore piece,** also fabulously played, and then it was intermission.

After intermission we heard Pictures at an Exhibition, by Modest Mussorgsky (orchestrated by Maurice Ravel).  This show piece is always a lot of fun - I guarantee you've heard at least part of it before, even if you never listen to classical music.  Hats off to the Seattle Symphony brass, who did a fantastic job.

We had dinner after the concert at a Vietnamese place with Ben's former teacher and current colleague, Laura DeLuca, which was a blast.

Anyway, like I said: visiting.  Got to run!



*The star constellation that's visible in the southern hemisphere.

**Paganini Caprice #9


Saturday, November 15, 2014

Off the Shelf: Lighthouses

When I was in 7th and 8th grade, we lived in Edmonds, Washington.  Edmonds is situated up on the Puget Sound, and out house was up the hill about a mile and 7/8 from the water.  You could see it from our deck and the first floor windows (we had a daylight basement).  In fact, the background photo of this blog was taken from our deck - you can see the Edmonds-Kingston car ferry at dock and the Olympic Mountains on the Olympic Peninsula across the Sound.

There was one beach we particularly enjoyed visiting, called Brackett's Landing (north).  You could walk along the sand toward the jetty, getting squirted by geoducks (a type of clam, pronounced 'gooey ducks') as they dug deeper to escape your footfalls.  If you walked north of the jetty during low tide, you could go quite far between the water and the rocks.  Once when we were exploring, we found these huge snail shells in the rocks, and I mean huge.  They were bigger than my fist.  We found a couple of whole ones and took them home.

It rains a fair amount on the Puget Sound (although we had nice summers), and my brothers and I were fairly sedentary at this point in our lives.  Steven had two big white boards in the basement where he did math in his spare time,* Ben was always practicing his clarinet, and I would read by the hour.  Now, Steven was always a skinny kid, but Ben and I weren't.  So, to promote a little more exercise and fresh air, Mom would send the two of us down to Brackett's Landing, weather permitting.  We walked, and when we'd played on the beach for a while, we used the pay phone** to call for newly-licensed Steven to come pick us up in the van.

At first we complained about being shooed outside.  It wasn't a short walk, after all.  Mom started giving us a couple dollars each for ice cream at Baskin Robins on the way to get us to go without a fuss.  After a while, Ben and I started exploring down town on our walks.  Edmonds had a very quaint, cozy, small-town America feel to it.  Downtown was small and vibrant, with picturesque old buildings, street lamps and hanging baskets of flowers.

On one of our walks, we discovered this little lighthouse shop run by a couple of older women.  The place was full of lighthouse figurines and related paraphernalia.  Ben and I went in to look around and fell in love with it.  We started going there every day on our way down the hill.  Soon we knew their entire inventory, and we were probably the first in town to know when they got something new in.  So enamored were we with these lighthouses, that we decided they were better than ice cream!  We started saving our two dollars so we could buy some.

I have very fond memories of that place.  I remember at the time, I had wanted to be a 'regular' somewhere.  Moving around as much as we did, that wasn't something I had ever experience, but it sounded lovely and old-fashioned in all the right ways.  I had always pictured it in terms of a restaurant, but Ben and I soon became regulars at the lighthouse shop.  The ladies who owned the place always loved seeing us, and us them.  We became friends, a little.  We were probably their best customers, lol.  Near Christmas, they gave us a pair of small lighthouse ornaments that had a small mistake on them, and then they gave us another little ornament just because.  For our part, Ben and I purchased several lighthouses each.

I still have three of mine:


L-R: Cape Neddick, ME; Jupiter Inlet, FL; Unknown (the sticker fell off).

If you recognize the lighthouse on the far right, let me know!


Anyway!  I love these little lighthouses.  I don't have a beach theme in my home decor (I don't really have any themes, actually...), but I'll always keep these three.  They represent the two and a half years I lived in Edmonds, which was a very pleasant time.


*Yeah...

**Ah, the days before cell phones.  There was one pay phone at Brackett's Landing, and when we first started walking down there, it cost a quarter.  I remember feeling extremely indignant when the price went up to 35 cents because now we had to carry two coins with us.  Such a hassle.  :)


The lighthouses, close up:

Not Portland Head Light, ME.

Not Heceta Head, OR.

Not Tillamook Rock Light, OR.

Good times.



Friday, November 14, 2014

Freezing Rain

Yesterday we had some freezing rain here.  In true Portland fashion, it was very light rain over the course of the whole day, with some brief moments of heavier precipitation.  It accumulated pretty well - I went out to my car mid-morning because I had a lunch appointment, and the ice build-up encasing my entire vehicle was pretty good.  Given that the grass was crunching underfoot and there was ice on the edges of the sidewalk where there was no salt, I had to stop and consider what I was doing.

You see, I grew up in Oregon, but I've never really driven here much during the winter.  I'd been hearing emergency sirens throughout the morning (and continued hearing them all day), and I was going to have to drive on a bridge across a river at some point.  I thought about it.  Could I do it safely?  Probably.  They may have canceled school, but plenty of people had gone to work.  It was also a low-traffic time of day.

But you know what?  Freezing rain is some of the worst weather in which to drive, because it's ICE.  I went back inside and made arrangements to reschedule the appointment.  Sometimes, it's ok to not take a risk.


Because I chose to play it safe, I was inside all day, feeling very cozy.  I did work-related reading.  I wrote a bunch for NaNoWriMo.  I posted my interview with author Marie Timm.  I published my editing services page.  I put some dishes in the dishwasher.  Etc.

Today the sun is out and the icicles on my frozen little deck are melting.  This means I can safely venture out to run errands, which is good because I'm out of milk and I need to swing by the bank.

Yeah.

Very exciting.

That's life as a writer between jobs, for you!  :)


Anyway, see you tomorrow.  I think I'll do another episode of Off the Shelf...

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Artist Interview: Marie Timm

Recently, I had the pleasure of interviewing Marie Timm, author of Trust: What A Horse Taught Me About God.  Marie is a lovely woman and a fine writer.  She grew up as a horse-crazy preacher’s kid and took up creative writing in high school.  A degree in Horticultural Therapy preceded marriage and family, which were her main focus for 25 years.  In 2001 she began writing again, and when she acquired a difficult horse in 2006, the tremendous lessons she learned through working with him became the foundation of her book.  She currently lives in Bend, Oregon with her husband and three horses, and attends Mission Church.



  
Q: Marie, thank you so much for joining us for this interview!  I really loved your book, Trust: What A Horse Taught Me About God (click to see my review).  I’m so happy to have you for my first artist interview!

A: Your review of the book was spot-on and I am so delighted to be discussing it with you now!


Q: Let’s get right to it, then! In the book, you talk a lot about fear and trust.  Why do you think these two issues are so pivotal (and difficult) for Christians?

A: We believe in Someone we cannot see with our physical eyes or hear with our physical ears though a few in recorded Biblical history actually have had that privilege. We do however, see and hear all the stuff happening around us. If we do not as Christians keep our minds focused where it belongs on God’s perspective, we quickly succumb to fear and flight/fight responses. This takes training in God’s Word and the application of His Truths to our lives. It is not easy. But it is doable. We have to choose to trust Him. When we do that and come through on the other side of a predicament, we should not only breathe a sigh of relief but our trust depository should be a little fuller the next trial around the corner. This is the ideal.  We are individuals on our unique journey with Jesus, following His example of trust in God.  It is Faith which the Bible describes as “the assurance of things hoped for, the evidence of things unseen.”


Q. What does training in God’s Word look like to you?

A. Bible studies with others, attending church and being under a Pastor/Shepherd who loves to teach the Word of God and stays centered on it, daily personal reading of the Word—I have been through the One Year Bible 14 times now, listening to great Bible leaders online. In short, being a student of the Word! “All scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, for correction, for reproof and for training in righteousness that the man of God will be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.” 2 Timothy 3:16,17 (ISV)


Q: I love the way you represented the communication between you and God through letters back and forth.  Do you think the communication between horse and rider is itself a picture of spiritual communication?

A: It is most definitely a well -defined picture of spiritual communication. I think God made the horse so unique in its purpose both as a physical being to carry our burdens through the centuries and also to show us how to master fear and charge into battle in spite of fear. There is most definitely a two-way “conversation” between horse and rider, mostly without words. It is the subtle, constant back and forth exchange of thought and tension and release in the body of both horse and rider. A noise is heard, imperceptible by the rider but picked up by the much better tuned ear of the horse. He stops, alert and looks toward the sound. A smart rider will also listen and look but also will take that moment to breathe and relax his/her body. Usually it is nothing to be concerned about and they ride on. But there is most certainly constant 2-way communication going on. This is what God wants with us. Without it we soon become either overly fearful of our life circumstances or impossibly hardened to His voice warning us of the dangers ahead. We need to learn to listen to Him and so recognize His gentle but firm voice. There are many pitfalls we would avoid, traps we would not fall into and joyful rewards of peace we could gain if we sought Him and His ways. Therefore, the way of horse and rider becoming as one unit, moving and reacting smoothly together is a beautiful picture of God and man. Just check out the many videos of a rider on a horse without bridle or saddle. Their movements are as one body and mind and spirit; It is a picture that makes the tears well up from a deep place in our souls because that is the magnificent unity we all crave to have with God.


Q: Your ‘conversations’ with God in this book are very direct and natural.  What kinds of things happened in reality that inspired them?

A: Each chapter title came to me as I worked progressively with Paladin through the years and his various trainers. Each trainer was presented to me as I asked the Lord what to do next. I learned to recognize His voice as so very “natural.” In fact, it is so easy to hear Him if we really want to that I wonder why anyone would avoid Him.

The first instance of hearing that Voice was when it all started as recorded in the introduction to the book. His Voice was startling, and in that instance was extremely revealing of who I was inside my soul. Though it was like a lightening bolt it was at the same instant so very, very loving in its convicting light. That is how you know it is Him—the great Love that permeates the disciplining truth. That is why the key scripture verse for the book is: “There is no fear in love but perfect love casts out all fear.” I John 4:18

Later on I would have many “aha” moments when the trainer said something and it was “quickened” to my spirit as something in me that needed work also. For instance, the Lord pointed out to me how I rush around all the time and don’t really enjoy the moment. With a horse if you do that, he will just get nervous. I learned a lot about staying in the moment. I had to learn patience and a soft, unhurried demeanor. That is so not like me. God is out to change us for our own good and the good of others we have influence with.

There were many such moments that formed each chapter. One of the most pivotal is described in chapter nine: Broken, Not Wounded. It was a place in Paladin’s training where I could have sold him and gone on to another horse or no horse. He and I had both come to a crossroad. It was a major turning point. God gave me a choice. When I reached out and received that lead rope in my hand as described in chapter 10, Coming Home, there was an invisible yet profound connection from Paladin’s heart to mine-- for the first time in his training. It was electrifying. That is what God wants with us.


Q: What would you say is the number one lesson you learned through all of this?

A: God really does love us. He is more than capable of remolding us if we will let Him. He is full of grace and mercy when we rail against Him even though it is not His fault or doing when we mess our lives up. So, on the side of Trust, He is Trustworthy. On the side of fear, most of it is a trumped up tactic of Satan to wear us out and most is truly False Evidence Appearing Real. I find now that when I pause in an uncertain or fearful situation and ask the Holy Spirit about it first, He is very quick to give me peace and wisdom. Then, I am not just reacting but counteracting. Guess that is a long winded “one lesson” learned answer but it is hard to condense.


Q: What made you decide to undertake this book project?

A: I was compelled by God’s Spirit to share how accessible He is at all times and no matter where you find yourself in life. He knows exactly where and who you are. He knew what avenue to speak to me on: Horses. I was gently prodded each day to go to my desk and computer to write down the lessons I was learning through the horse training. Did I go? Well, sometimes! Finally it was complete. Jesus is the Friend He says He is. Why would anyone ignore a friend? But we Christians do. He is not just a Savior up in heaven, although that is enough. He is with us. He is in us. He is fun to be with. You can have a conversation.


Q: Tell us about your writing process.

A: Slow!! I had never undertaken a book writing project. The title was actually given to me before I started to write, so I knew I had a book already—I just had to start, which is the hardest part. I argued with God a little every day because I could not figure out what format to put it in. Allegory? Non-fiction? Poetry? Fiction based on the principles I learned? Non-fiction was my least favorite as I do not like to write expository pieces. Never did. It had to be somewhat poetic. I wanted the words and the chapters to take on a picture, like poetry does-- An image of the flow of communication between myself and my horse and God. So I literally wrestled with it for about a year! Then one day I was working out on a stationary bicycle in the dead of winter, praying about it and the idea formed in my mind to write it in letter form. I thought about writing to one of my friends who had mentored me spiritually when I heard in my spirit—“write to Me.” After that, the outline came and then the chapter titles. And the first chapter begins with a little poem!

I still was unfaithful to go to my desk EVERY day. Good thing the Lord is patient. I likely got there once a week! He just urged and prodded a little and so I went. I was afraid of an unhappy ending to the book because I wrote it as the training was actually happening and as the reader can see, it was an uphill battle most of the time and frustrating to keep going with Mr. P. One thing that really helped me was the use of music while I wrote. It literally changed the atmosphere of my writing room. I used 3 CDs over and over. One is called The Healing by Tom Davis, Amberroseministries.com. Another is The Breath of God by Chuck Milhuff, 700 Promises From the Word of God, and the third one was some music put together by good friends in the healing ministry which they titled soaking music. “God inhabits the prayers of his people,” so having the Word of God and the praises of God playing gently in the background brought the presence of God into the book.

So the routine was: Go upstairs at the same time of day for the most part, sit down, turn on the CD player, close my eyes and invite the Holy Spirit to come, please help me write what He wanted written. Then I would start, using my notes and chapter titles to form the book. There were many hours of revisions also and getting permissions for quotes, etc. My greatest concern was that I never put my words in Jesus’ responses to me but that he would be pleased with everything said. He was speaking through me and I never took that lightly.


Q: What was the publishing process like?

A: It was frustrating, as the self-publishing process can be, especially for a first time author. I went to Westbow Press because they are a division of Thomas Nelson Publishers and I wanted my book in the hands of a Christian operative. They were very kind and not pushy but I still had to remind them I needed some hand-holding to walk me through it. The first person I worked with there was not very helpful and left the company. After that I received excellent assistance from my next coordinator. I asked for illustrators through my facebook friends and linked up with Jennifer who did the black and white sketches inside the book. She is an avid horsewoman, too. She absolutely nailed the expression of fear and confusion and insanity on P’s face in the first illustration.  Also early on, before I signed with the publisher, I asked for some input from a Christian Editors group. They critiqued my first chapter and let me know it was a subject that could make a go of it. After that I enlisted friends and family to listen to some of it as I read it to them and finally asked my good friend Pam, who used to be an editor of short articles, if she would do the grammatical editing for me. Pam knew all the struggle I had been going through with Paladin. The Scripture verses all had to be documented and who loves the Word more than your mom, Penny? She did all of that work gratis! Finally I had to choose a cover. Westbow would do one for me or I could send them one. My neighbor at the time, Deb, an artist and rancher, had given me a watercolor of a snapshot of Paladin and me on a dusty ride we went on with her. This was 2 years before the book came out. I knew that God wanted me to use it. Deb is now a born again believer as well, not because of my book but because God sought her out right where she was at! This is what He does!

After some tweaking and final editing of everything, I was ready to sign the book off and it would go immediately into production. Again, I dragged my feet some. It is a little scary to let your work actually go into print for all the world to see. What if no one likes it? But that is worrying about me, not what God wants. I was about to push the send button to the publisher for final release when my dog, Trackker took ill.  I spent time with him, facing surgery for a spleen tumor that only had a 30% success rate. The day of the surgery I went out first thing in the morning to the garage to greet him. He struggled to get up and as he walked toward me he collapsed and let out a cry. I gathered him into my arms and held him as he passed away. He was so much a part of my life and accompanied me on so many rides on Paladin. That was May 27th, 2014 and that was the day I pushed the Send button in honor of my faithful dog who loved Paladin as much as I did.


Q: The book is very much about what you learned through your experiences with your horse, Mr. Paladin.  What have you learned through your experiences writing the book?

A: Great peace would come into me when I would be obedient to sit down and write. Sometimes I wondered, in fact many times, if it was just me trying to understand my life better or if it was truly God wanting it written. It is not up to me whether the book is a success by the world’s standard or not. It is full of God’s Word and “His Word never returns void.”

As far as the experiences with Paladin, I have learned to be quieter, softer and gentler with all living things, including people! I have learned that most of the time when someone lashes out in anger they are just afraid. I have learned to use the same pressure and release with others that I do with my horse. There are a lot of beat up people out there who are on the defensive all the time and need to know someone cares, and especially that Jesus cares about them. I have learned to be more patient with myself and others. And I am finally learning to meet challenges and scary situations in my life in a more thoughtful way as most of it is false evidence appearing real. I ask the Lord first about it and what are WE to do with the thing that is manifesting in my path, instead of getting in fear and feeling hopelessly a victim.


Q: In a previous post, I talked about how God infuses our work with His power, causing it to reach people.  How have you seen God use your book so far?

A: One of the first people to review my draft copy said she was greatly helped to heal from past abuse. One chapter in particular gave her a new perspective and hope. Others have told me they are trusting God more now that they have read the book. Tears almost always flow when the book is read and that is when healing can start; old hardened wounds soften and the Love of Jesus for them is manifested. People that don’t even have horse experience are being touched.


Q: Now that it’s published, what do you hope for this book?

A: My greatest hope is that many, many people will read the book and commit their lives to the Lord Jesus Christ and go on the greatest adventure with Him they could ever imagine; the plan for their lives was created before time even began. I also hope “church people” will stop just talking ABOUT Jesus and start talking TO Him and listening to Him and allow His sweet friendship to be experienced. What an honor it is to be invited to commune with the King! He walked and talked with Adam and Eve and He bought back that intimate relationship on the cross for us! He is Savior, Lord and Friend. And I also hope many will be reached who have once believed in Christ but life and its unruly behavior have made them lose their way and become cynical.


Q: What kinds of things are you praying for right now that you’d like to share?  What’s been on your heart?

A: I have a huge burden for America and how we as a people have lost the fear and admonition of the Lord. There are at least two generations who have never heard even one Scripture verse but still they search for peace in their lives and try to find it in every other way but Christ.

I also am praying for the Church of Jesus Christ—she is the Bride of Christ and there are so many divisions concerning doctrines and this and that. We must become one in God’s Spirit. I have a great urgency in praying for the Church.


Q: Any final remarks?

A: Thank you for this opportunity to answer these questions as it made me clarify why I wrote the book and now I can more readily answer if others want to interview me!


Q: Marie, thank you again so much for your time, and for writing this book in the first place.

If you’re interested in Trust: What A Horse Taught Me About God (and you should be), you can buy it online through Amazon or Westbow Press, but Marie would like to invite you to purchase the book directly from her at the discounted price of $10, with $2 shipping.  Information provided below.

Westbowpress.com  ISBN 978-1-4908-3140-4



Marie Timm with Mr. Paladin.



Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Time Management

So, the last few weeks have been little weird.  You know - I was crashing on my parent's couch while I looked for and waited to move into an apartment.  Then I moved into my apartment with no furniture or anything.  Camped out like that for about a week, week and a half.  Then the movers brought all my stuff.

Since then, I've been unpacking, sorting, organizing, reading, and participating in NaNoWriMo.  I've seen friends and relatives I haven't seen much of for years.  Started going to church at Lake Bible, conveniently located within easy walking distance.  I've been making work-related and school-related plans and doing all the small tasks associated with those things.

Yesterday was Veterans' Day and I was with people and doing things from mid-morning to evening.  Today I'm spending time with Mom and going to a Christian ladies' luncheon.  This weekend I'm heading for Seattle to visit Ben and go to a concert.

So you see, in spite of being between jobs and not starting school yet, life has been busy.  Other than the writing I've done, my most productive time here at home has been getting on YouTube and listening to Ravi Zacharias.  He gave five talks at a Youth for Christ International gathering about a month ago, and they are so worth listening to.  Mind you, I've listened to Ravi quite a lot over the last few years; I've heard all his stories multiple times.  But I find that if I listen to the talks and sermons he gives to Christian audiences, there will always be something there that I haven't heard before, or something that I need to hear again; something encouraging, something challenging, something that gets me thinking.  In a series of five talks like this one, you'll hear all those things.

So as I look at my mental to-do list and compare it with my mental calendar, it can be a bit daunting.  But I'm encouraged by things like Ravi's talks.  In my head, I've had certain things prioritized, and certain things I know I need to move around on that descending order.  I have a rough plan for how to spend the day - when to get up, for example, and when to blog.  I also have a couple of rules about how I spend my time during the day.  Movies aren't currently a temptation, but if they were, they are only for 'free time', after I've accomplished certain other things.  I won't go to bed without writing for at least NaNoWriMo, and writing and Ravi are the only acceptable activities for staying up past my intended bed time.  I need to get back in the habit of journaling and reading my Bible before going to bed, as well.  I'm already back to reading a devotional in the morning, but that's not sufficient.

My whole life is still in flux at the moment, and therefore so is my rough schedule, but it's a start.  It'll firm up when I start filling it with hours at work and school, and then time management will come more naturally.  When the use of all 24-hours are entirely up to me, that skill is a little harder to apply.  So pray for me to be disciplined (and to get enough sleep!).


Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Veterans Day

You know, everyone today is saying thank you to the veterans and those currently serving.

I've gotten notes on facebook, applause at a ceremony, free meals, and thank yous from the people preparing and serving those meals. While I feel very strongly about appreciating all our veterans, I myself am feeling pretty grateful.

I'm grateful for a supportive nation. I'm grateful for free food, of course. But mostly, I am so very grateful that I had the opportunity to serve my country.

Today I watched with great pride as my cousin Courtney helped run a lovely ceremony with her fellow ROTC cadets, pride not only as someone who loves her, but as a veteran - she and her fellow cadets did us all proud today.



I think of my CAP cadets, some of whom are now serving, some of whom will serve in the future, but all of whom have taken the values of the military into their daily lives, and I can't believe how wonderful they are.


I walked my dad through all my coins and ribbons, looking back on my 6 years in the Air Force, so recently ended, with great fondness. And although I'm no longer in active service, I am so grateful to know that I will always have a connection to this amazing military family.

Above all, I thank God for leading me to serve in this way, and for guiding me through it and keeping me safe.

Thank you all for your love and support. Your veterans return it to you with joy.





Monday, November 10, 2014

NaNoWriMo

It's National Novel Writing Month!


I remember when I first learned of this November phenomenon.  I was in tech school in Monterey, CA, and I signed up on the website.  I don't think it was November at the time - I just wanted to be part of the community.

Unfortunately, the whole time I was in the Air Force, I never actually participated in National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo).  Not once.  Now, however, I am!

It's the perfect time for it, of course.  I'm between work and school, so I have more than enough time to do it; I've had a children's book plotted out for ages, so I had an idea to jump off from; I live in Portland now, where it's rainy and/or overcast most days starting sometime in mid-October, so it's not like I'm going on hiking trips every day.  So this year, I'm all in.

For those of you unfamiliar with NaNo, the goal is to write a complete, 50,000 word novel in the 30 days of November.  That's an average of 1,666 words per day.  If you get on the actual website and create an account (it's free), you can submit your word count as you go (or all at the end, but it's nice to see the bar graph they make for your daily entries) and get the finished book 'validated' by their word counter so that you can officially 'win' NaNoWriMo.

There's a lot more to the website, and there's community stuff in person, too!  Each area (mine is Portland) had leaders who organize so-called 'write-ins': they reserve space at a coffee shop, or bookstore, or library, for a certain number of hours on certain days, and anyone who's participating in NaNo is welcome to stop by and work on their novel while enjoying some company.

Anyway, it's a cool program, really.  It's international, although it started here in the States, and they do a lot as an organization to contribute to writing programs in schools and such.


So what am I writing?

Well, like I said, i's a children's book.  It's called The Red Door and it's sort of fantasy genre.  Given that I'm writing it for NaNo, it's currently a little bit all over the place with regards to plot, but that's ok - it's only a rushed first draft, after all.  There are also more characters than I originally intended, and I'm starting to think this book may end up having a sequel.  Not sure how I feel about that.

At any rate!  As of now, I'm only a little bit behind in my word count,* and catching up.

This is fun!


*Not totally my fault - the movers did come and unload all my stuff just a few days in.


Saturday, November 8, 2014

Night Owl

Sometimes, it's like I truly believe there are more than 24 hours in a day, and that none of them need to be taken up by sleep.  Two nights ago, for example.  That's why I'm very proud of myself for going to bed at 1:00 am last night.

Why yes, as a matter of fact.  I am a night owl.*  How did you know?


It's a slippery slope my friends, and once you've stayed up too late, it can be hard to shake.

Please don't misunderstand me: I am not talking about insomnia.  Once I'm in bed, I can and do fall asleep.  It may take a little while, depending on how tired I am, but sleepage does occur.  My problem is not that I can't sleep - it's that I sometimes have very little interest in doing so.

After all, there are books to read, games to play, closets to organize, and a myriad of other things more enticing than brushing teeth and crawling between the covers.  Being the natural procrastinator that I am, this should not be a surprise.

The trick, I think, is to know your limits.  Yes, I can stay up until 6 am and only take a 3 hour nap.  I will be able to function just fine all day, although I may feel sleepy during my jaunt around the neighborhood for fresh air.  But I really can't do that kind of thing very many days in a row before I start to get a cold, and nobody wants that.

So last night, although I could have stayed up later, I made myself go to bed just after 1 o'clock.  I will be disciplined and make myself to go to bed even earlier tonight - like before it's actually tomorrow.


Isn't it interesting that people have to actually force themselves to do something that is necessary for sustaining life?**


*My brother Ben is also a night owl.  And if you think we're bad, you clearly haven't met our brother Steven.

**Proof that philosophical and theological concepts can pop up anywhere.


Friday, November 7, 2014

Unpacking

Unpacking can be inconvenient, whether you've moved across town or across the country.  I've done both many, many times.  This latest move was across the country, and complicated by the fact that I went from a 2400 sq ft house to a 998 sq ft apartment.  Obviously, spare beds and the like were sold on Craigslist before the move, but still.  That's a big difference.

I remember when I was in high school, and my family moved from Ann Arbor, Michigan to Bend, Oregon.  The movers came, unloaded everything, and Mom, Dad and I spent the day unpacking boxes.  I seem to remember that we had everything* unpacked by nightfall.  Now that's efficiency.

Of course, there were three of us.  I unpacked all my stuff; Mom and Dad unpacked everything else.

These days I live on my own, so I get to do all the work.

Here are a couple of things I've noticed about my unpacking this time:


First, rather than taking a steady, all-day approach, I'm allowing myself lots of breaks, mostly for reading.  So it's taking longer than it could.

Second, my kitchen here is way smaller than my kitchen in Georgia was, which is causing me to procrastinate fully unpacking the kitchen stuff.

Third, same deal with my closet space and clothes, especially when you factor in the uniforms.  What to do with those...?

Fourth, I've gone for quantity over quality for the most part - unpack the boxes and shove everything in them on shelves and in cabinets; will organize later.  Normally, I would be much more methodical, but my priority is to get rid of the boxes as quickly as possible so I can see my living room floor again.

Fifth, my unpacking triage priorities may be a bit skewed.  After my china to make sure it was undamaged, the first things I unpacked were books and DVDs.  Last thing I'm unpacking: clothes and cook-ware.**  This might say something about the order in which I value my things.

Sixth, the moving company that packed my stuff used a lot of packing paper, so my garbage/recycling is a bit out of control.  I've never dealt with this much paper and box volume before.  I think I probably should have taken it out to the recycling bins early and often.

Seventh, as much as it's a hassle, unpacking is also fun!  Every book, movie, and souvenir is a rediscovery.  Having gone without it for a couple of months, it feels a lot like getting a bunch of new stuff all at once.^


Unpacking.  It's pretty much my life right now.



*With the exception of those boxes that remain unpacked for the duration.  Like ones belonging to my brothers, who were both away at school.

**Cookery?  Pots and pans.

^This has been the cause of most of my breaks.  It's distracting!


Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Wednesday Review: Sara Groves


Alright.  Rubs hands together.  Are you ready?




Introduction: Perhaps you've never heard of Sara Groves.  It's even possible that you've never heard her music, although if you listen to Christian radio or spend time in a Hobby Lobby, you'd probably recognize one or two of her songs.  She has eleven albums,* but they're not necessarily played on the air much - they're not the standard praise/worship/gospel fare. So what are they, then?

They're poetry.  Pure poetry.


My Review: Yes.  Yes, I am a fan.  I have the T-shirt.  And yes, I think everyone should buy her CDs.  In fact, although I understand all things Art are according to taste, my personal opinion is that if you don't care for her music, you're probably not really listening to it.  Let's take a look, shall we?

Positives:

1. The lyrics.  As I said, this stuff is poetry, and not like you think.  Being songs, there's a fair amount of rhyming, but it's not the obvious rhymes.  Groves makes extensive use of near, or slant, rhymes, so it never feels sing-song-y or predictable.  She also has a mercifully low instance of 'Christianese'.  And while some songs lean one direction more than another, her average lyric is clever, literary, and approachable.

2. The music.  I really like her music.  I find it very engaging, and she has quite a variety.  From uptempo, rock-ish songs like In the Girl There's a Room, to contemplative pieces like The Long Defeat, to the lighthearted Come Out and Play, you get a wide range of musical styles, some of them surprising.

3. The content.  Yeah.  I don't even know what to say about this one.  I mean, where do you start?  Ultimately, she's writing about life, as she experiences it.  Most songs are God-related, but she also writes about love, family, and friendship.  And her overtly religious songs aren't, in general, particularly simple.  Groves writes in layers, which happens to be my favorite poetic style; there's plenty there at a surface level, but listen to a song enough times and you start to discover just how deep it really is.  This is good stuff, I'm telling you.

Neutrals:

1. The arrangements.  Personally, I like the mix on Groves' songs.  I think it suits the lyrics, giving them sufficient room to breathe, if you will.  It allows you to pay attention to the words.  That said, this isn't the sort of music you're likely to choose to keep you awake on a long drive.**  Also, some of the songs (mostly early ones) sound a bit 'thin'.  On the other hand, I tend to really like how the background vocals interact with the melody.

2. Ease of listening.  From my end, this is a positive, but whatever.  Groves has dozens of songs that I had to listen to several times to fully appreciate, and one or two in particular that I just didn't get at all for months.  This is a fine example of the poetic complexity of her songs, but one that some might find frustrating.  I think it's awesome, myself.

3. Her voice.  Alright.  Here's the deal: she's not Kristin Chenoweth or Idina Menzel.  She's not a 'powerhouse'.  Ergo, her voice may not impress you.  Again, I think this suits the music - it's not a distraction from the lyrics.  And while she may not be a Broadway contender, she does have a nice voice, and her style feels very genuine.  Interestingly, she has a few different realms that she sings in.  There are songs in which she sounds kind of like Ginny Owens, and others where I'm reminded of Amy Grant.  Most of the time, her sound is somewhere between the two.

Negatives:

1. Nobody's perfect, and Art is, after all, a matter of taste.  There are a handful of songs that I just don't care for and rarely if ever listen to.  But a handful of songs out of eleven albums?  That's pretty negligible.

2. Really?  You thought there'd be more than one?


Statistics:
Album date range: 1998-2013
Favorite album: Invisible Empires
Favorite song: The Long Defeat
Favorite music video: Precious Again (that's her and her family in the video, btw)
Where to sample: Don't support pirating - check out her official YouTube channel.

My rating: 5 stars, and the only singer/songwriter I'd give that many.



*Past the Wishing, Conversations, All Right Here, The Other Side of Something, Station Wagon: Songs for Parents, Add to the Beauty, Tell Me What You Know, O Holy Night, Fireflies and Songs, Invisible Empires, The Collection (which has 4 new songs on it).

**I do, but I recognize that in this, I am perhaps not normal.


Monday, November 3, 2014

All The Things

I'm finally getting my stuff, and 6 days before the deadline!

So, when you get out of the military, they move you back home.  Not just anywhere - it's either your home of record or the place you entered service, except I think if you're returning from being stationed overseas you get more leeway.  You've got six months from your date of separation for them to move all your stuff at their expense.  Since I didn't have an apartment out here by the time I left Georgia, they moved all my stuff to a storage unit.  As soon as I had an address for them out here, I let them know.

They moved my stuff out of storage two days before I moved into my apartment.  They have a couple of weeks to get your stuff across the country to you, so my no later than (NLT) date for receiving my stuff was 10 November.  A few days after they picked up my stuff, I got an ETA for its arrival - 10 November, go figure.

Anyway, this morning I got a wonderful phone call telling me the truck with my stuff on it was arriving in town tomorrow morning, and did that date work for me?

Yes!  Yes, it does.

Although it's been fun*^ camping out on a foam pad with my sleeping bag and camp pillow, having nowhere to put anything except a borrowed card table and the fireplace mantel, and having only this little old netbook for my computing needs, I am very much looking forward to having my bed, my dining room table and bookcases, and my desktop computer.  And my couch.*

Tomorrow will be a lovely day.



*And my writing desk!  And my books.  And my dishes, pots, pans, silverware, and small kitchen appliances.  And everything else.  I have too much stuff.

*^Edit: So...I read back over this, and realized I sounded sarcastic there.  I wasn't being sarcastic, though.  I really meant it!  It was fun, in it's own way.  I have a twisted sense of adventure, that's all.