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A Peepable Moment

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I couldn’t resist the chance to combine my love of peeps with the Food Bank if Northern Nevada’s 30th anniversary.

Peeps Contest 5

Feeding the Peeps for 30 Years.

Feeding the Peeps for 30 Years.

Peeps Contest 8

Mo-Peep took pics.

peep

I’ve Gotta Make a Dress

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SewingDiaryBatch53_imageIt’s a constant refrain in my brain over and over this time of year – “I’ve Gotta Make a Dress.” Sometimes it’s a suppressed whisper, other times a downright command. I’ve Gotta Make a Dress!!
What’s really weird is that I don’t even sew, at least not since junior high school, and I probably never will learn that vaunted skill.
So, what is this dress business? Carol, a dear co-worker from a couple of jobs ago, taught me this idiosyncratic phrase. Her tale was thus:  she had a million and one things going on one holiday season when a sweet church lady called to tell Carol that in addition to the full-time job, full-time family and full-time Christmas load, Carol would need to make a dress for her daughter, Sarah, to wear in the church play. The Church Lady gave Carol time– a couple of weeks — but Carol kept putting that dress off. In her scurrying and hurrying Carol would remember, “I have to make a dress.” Until the thought was waking her up at night, “I have to make a dress, CRAP!”
In her fun and goofy way, Carol taught me this coping mechanism, this mantra that means in essence, I’ve got a lot to get done in a short amount of time. When stress hit work, she had all of us saying, “I gotta make a dress.”
For a Food Bank marketing person this is truly the time of year when your head is spinning and you run from one event to another, fielding requests, talking to people who want to engage in what you do. It’s also the time of year that your family has more events, more commitments, more church, more life.
I relish this time, I really do! My phone rings near constantly at work; I stick a barrel in my car two or three times a week or wheedle a co-worker to make a delivery to some excited giver. I feel popular! I know I’m part of a customer service team bringing in the much-needed food to feed up to 97,000 people in our service area a month. With about 250 food drives going simultaneously, it’s no wonder that just short of Christmas I dream not of snow falling but of food bank barrels – I’m holding up walls of them, they’re flying overhead, my family can’t move because the house is filled with them.

That's life - a work in progress.

That’s life – a work in progress.

It’s my fourth Food Drive Season and each year I learn more, do more, talk more, drive more and sometimes, sew more. The difference this year is some temporary help has come our way to make it so I can help market more. What use is a barrel sitting in some corner with no food in it? Let’s get the word out, tell the world FOOD DRIVE SEASON!
Just because it’s our food bank’s busy time, doesn’t mean the personal commitments of the Christmas season and let’s be honest, everyday life will cease. We’ve got meals and desserts to make and share; laundry to do; ugly sweater parties to grace with just the right ensemble; Advent skits to learn; lessons to plan; crafts to make; rehearsals and concerts to attend; people shuttle to and fro; a house to decorate; presents to find and wrap and give; secrets to keep; house to clean; letters to write and meetings (all kinds) to attend. Thank the Lord for a husband and partner who picks up my utter slack, or Christmas at our home would be a pathetic mess.

Always good advice.

Always good advice.

Then there’s the second job I have that has a deadline each December 31 that brings more flurry to my mailbox and to my door. That brings scores more people to interact with, emails to write, explanations to be made and more tasks for me to remember.
This all to explain the dress is not quite made and my blog has quite sad, too, having had no attention from me for the past month or two.
I’m not complaining or ranting or moaning, you see. No, no, not me! I just can hardly wait to see how pretty that dress will be.

Where the Books Meet the Shelf

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I guess it’s something about the DNA. Our daughters have inherited our love our books — what a joy that they can learn, grow, change, embrace, discover, escape and blossom through books. HOWEVER, we do not have infinite space to collect books. Before this next project our small home boasted 11 bookshelves in all and each are bursting with non-fiction, history, classics, mysteries, fun fiction, mysteries, realistic fiction, fantasy and historical novels.

Both bibliophiles are library junkies who bring home up to 20 books (the very limit you can borrow) each at a time and devour them all. We donate the books that aren’t keepers, but recently Mo’s small bedroom was at the limit for books.

Being our resident style maven, not just any bookcase would do. We searched our local second-hand stores and behold this sweet find at Junkee Clothing and Antique Exchange in Reno, NV:

The finish was one of those hideous faux paint jobs.

The first phase was the real challenge. Although the piece of furniture is made of good, solid wood, not plywood or sheet wood, the previous owner had used a faux finish that resembled plasticized wood. (Gotta question the judgement there; why not just buy a plastic shelf?)  After sanding and sanding and sanding, then scrubbing with plain water for better part of two hours, the finish just oozed off. Sick! But the result was that we had a clean canvas on which to work.

Next a coat of white spray paint on the exterior. We took turns painting, with me teaching the nuances of spray painting and Mo learning so that she can do this with other projects in the future.

Painting outdoors — a must.

Next step, applying the sweet turquoisey-teal color our girl knew would accent the existing small bedroom. Again, we took turns with the paintbrush and roller so that in the end, we were both proud of our part in the product.

Then, to make it one of a kind, she selected ribbon to festoon the outline. A dark pink on light pink scroll patterned ribbon framed the shelving with style.

We used a glue gun and worked quickly together. Definitely a two-person job.

Now ensconced in her room, Mo has arranged each shelf by genre with some of her special memories to set off her beloved books.

The finished product shines.

For me, the best part was doing this together. She learned a lot about seeing a project through from start to finish and I got to spend a glorious day with her and now have the books off the floor.

Autumn Nevada Style

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A “guest” blog today is a reprint of a column my dad wrote some years ago for the Reno Gazette Journal

Autumn

The lovely Truckee River on a silky autumn day

Another gorgeous and unforgettable Nevada summer is being bumped aside, to be misplaced forever on your personal Island of Vagrant Memory. The gaggle of tanned human hides has at last reluctantly shifted off the cooling beaches of Lahontan and Pyramid and Tahoe and you can see the sand again for the absence of barely covered skin. Debris left by untidy visitors is carted from view. Swimsuits are stashed for another season, lost beach towels are only briefly lamented and the hoisted boats are having their bottoms cleansed. Those who are timid of either the big crowds or the hottest months, or both, now venture forth to uncongested lakeshores, thankful that at last the visiting hordes have sought happiness elsewhere. The dream that this would be an unending summer is put into dry dock.

Now, those who treasure our territory because it yields four distinct seasons can bask in anticipation. We are awash in the signals that Nevada’s autumn cannot be too distant. No sooner are the depleted vats of Sea & Ski lotion locked away than the final crop of alfalfa is flogged and baled. Soon the tired machines will be wheeled in for a long winter’s nap. The haying crews’ appetites will  diminish, but only a little. Hearts of Gold Cantaloupes will grow sweeter in Fallon, or so the legend goes, and that’s close to the truth. The doves are in the air now as they sense the hunters can be injurious to their health.

Summer is almost deader than next season’s unlucky duck and goose. The sun is losing its daytime vigor and isn’t showing itself to us until past 6:30 a.m. The World Series can’t be far away.

Summer had its fling. Labor Day was invented years ago as a legal reason to avoid a day’s work and that holiday has come and gone, followed by the surest autumn sign, the start of school, that lengthy response  to a tired mother’s prayer. Now the tiredness is passed back to teacher for fall, winter and spring. Wary new school bus drivers learn fast that they need more skills than steering. We begin again to abide by school zone limits. Can anything be tastier than the school lunch menu?

Autumn in Nevada’s air: the blitz of wedding stories now beyond the peak and dwindling; the fresh proliferation of flashing motel vacancy signs, still beckoning long after dark; the “Marryin’ Sam,” now pacing more anxiously in their plastic chapels; the small-casino operators tightening the economic screws and the big profit barons doing likewise.

Autumn. Is it my imagination, or is the traffic volume down and aren’t the drivers sweating less and swearing less? Soon the Truckee won’t be a river , and hardly and trickle and, altogether now, let the Indians successfully dance for a rain and snow prayers. Autumn just around the bend. A new nip in the early morning air and the sharper temperature decline after sundown.

Breezes remain gentle, but there is enough zest to tug leaves away from their moorings. Flowers are rearing their beautiful heads a bit more slowly these September mornings.

There it is that early hint of fall color that soon is to go into oranges, yellow , red, violets golds and dabs of purple here and there.

Nature is about to change to a new uniform. The red, red robin, such a regular visitor since May, has been pulling a disappearing act lately. The animals — our feathered friends, grown chubby during summer — are now in shape to survive the lean times. Get ready for the sweet honk of the honkers departing this scene.

Autumn reaffirms that everything changes except discos. Autumn is old experiences come back  to us, fresh again. Down with total water consumption and out with the rakes; the hills all around retreating to brown; the Idlewild and Virginia Lake crowds shifting down to a tolerable few; the desert, ageless, begins resting up for spring. Soon the aspen on the Sierra will glow again; the rattlesnakes will retreat from their rocks; we will cut the lawn less and then, happily, not at all.

As the Holy Author poises to give us again one of His autumn magic shows, the flies and mosquitoes are vanquished by the hints of the new season; we turn the heat up more frequently and lament the cost of fuel with newfound fervor.

The voice of Howard Cosell, part announcer, part huckster, all showman, slugs our ears. Once in a while Frank Gifford inserts a word in edgewise. Autumn and football, inseparable autumn companions, arrive concurrently.

In these parts announcers chant the language of fall above Mackey Stadium; there comes a new season of colliding young men, mauling each other over 100 yards of turf. Hail To Our Sturdy Men, Loyal and True, March, March on Down the Field Oh Silver and Blue.

Autumn. Let’s hear it for the Huskies and the Miners, the Tigers, the Colts, Senators, the Railroaders.

Let’s hear it for the falling leaves, long sleeves and football tailgate party-goers who not only made it home safely, but cheered the winning teams; here’s to the referees, may they call them all correctly this autumn; here’s to the trees getting ready for their late-year nudity act. Here’s to the forthcoming frost on the pumpkin; and to the hot-buttered rums just weeks away; here’s to the summer gamblers who lost and helped keep us green, and here’s to the return scent of autumn in Nevada. Fireplaces kindled anew, fluttering leaves flying amok, families back together after the summer separation.

Here’s to another autumn in Nevada. Maybe the nicest time of the year. And always unforgettable.

 

Written by Rollan Melton. First published in the Reno Gazette-Journal in 1978

 

Amazon to Deliver Guilty Pleasure

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“YOUR BOOK HAS SHIPPED” reads the email slug.

Sounds of the Hallelujah Chorus echo in my ears!

I’ve been denying myself the pleasure of new books since I began my quest to read 75 books this year. Heck, I’ve got 75 books easy that I’ve just been meaning to get to hanging around the house, why spend the money? I’ve been thrifty. I’ve been satisfied. I’ve loved the experience of looking at my shelves and seeing actually-read books living there. I’m up to 58 books since January 1 and I’ve got another three books rotating through my car, purse and bedside right now.

I got me a serious case of Book Love.

But something about a crisp new book waiting for me on my front porch; it’s like hoarding a silken piece of chocolate just for me and savoring it at the end of a stressful day.

Just seeing it waiting for me next to the mailbox when I drive up my street – shivers. Anticipating opening the package and being the first person ever to open the book to the title page – good bumps. Knowing its MINE – priceless.

My excuse for an Amazon purchase is that I get to go see the author in October; I actually get to have dinner with him one night and then see him lecture twice the next day. I am eager to meet Mark Kurlansky, author of about 20 books – both fiction and non-fiction October 9 at the Robert Laxalt Distinguished Writer Program on the University of Nevada, Reno campus. (You can come too! Click here.)

The invitation brought me to this dilemma – what to order with so many books to choose from. Should I go with Birdseye, his latest? It’s a story of the enigmatic founder and creative mind that brought us the wonder of frozen food. Or, The Basque History of the World, the book that perhaps brought him to the attention of UNR because of Professor Robert Laxalt’s Basque heritage? How about Hank Greenburg: the Hero Who didn’t Want to be One? My husband would undoubtedly want to read that – but this book is for ME! Ha, ha, ha!

I get to meet this guy!

It’s between two others – how to choose? Flip-a-coin? Pick a number between one and two? I know! Get one as a gift and keep one, but read the present before the gift-ee gets it! Is that wrong? It is? Shoot! Well, I’m doing it anyway, damn convention.

So ye Amazon Man will be dropping to my doorstep soon, Salt: A World History AND 1968: The Year That Rocked the World.

Oh, I hope, I hope I love them both.

Hunger is Not a Game

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Connecting the dots.

Drawing the lines between what I read, what I believe, what I’ve learned and what I do. That’s been part of the fun and challenge of my reading goal for this year.

What I do is work for a food bank. I believe that no person should go hungry. I’ve learned that hunger is in unexpected places.

  • 1 in 4 children in Nevada do not know where their next meal is coming from
  • The Food Bank helps more than 97,000 people per month
  • The Food  Bank serves the hungry through 130+ partner agencies
  • The Food Bank and partners offer free meals to 28 sites in Washoe County during summer
  • The Food Bank of Northern Nevada distributed 10.5 million pounds of food last year.

But SOMETIMES statistics can’t tell the whole story of hunger.

Children care about hunger issues

A recent invitation to stage a food drive at a Sparks, NV elementary school during a special spring event revealed so much more.

This school is “over” standards that would make children eligible for government programs to address hunger and yet, and yet…as the young students and families brought contributions to the food drive, stories emerged.

“I was wondering about the food bank truck I see at Sparks Christian Fellowship,” asked a dad who had just donated a large bag of food to the barrel.

“Oh, it’s a pantry site and they sure could use some volunteers,” replied the Food Bank employee on site. But that’s wasn’t his question. He went on to explain that he and his family belong to a group of seasonally employed — those in the construction trades who don’t always have work in the winter months and need help with food. Because of the food drive, he now has some additional information on how to access food when his family needs it.

A sweet, blonde second-grade boy cruised by a couple times with his book bag slung over his shoulder, blue eyes seeking out a friend or two.

Later, a middle-aged woman with two children at the school donated another large bag of food and our employee thanks her for her donation, “You are welcome, she said, “I always give when I see a barrel. You see, I’ve stood in line for food from you. I know what it feels like and I want to give back. I’m all right now.”

This was turning into a very surprising food drive.

The night was pleasant as children dashed back and forth to classrooms playing games and earning raffle tickets for good reading habits. Among them was the second-grade boy, who shied away from the wave from our employee.

Whereupon a mother passed and commented, Food Bank, ahhh, I’ve always wondered — how can I volunteer?”

“How nice!” our Food Bank representative said, noting that she spoke with a Spanish accent. “We can certainly use bilingual help, if that would fit with you. We can use help with our Mobile Pantry program.” The outgoing mom took with her information on places she can help out with her skills.

Gosh, who knew that we would be collecting more than food? Always great to garner a volunteer.

Soon the children gathered in the multipurpose room for lemonade and books and a chance at the raffle, but our employee stayed outside with the food barrel, just in case.

The nicely dressed blonde boy — sporting a yellow lei that the school provided for the tropical theme — overcame his shyness momentarily and asked, “How much does this food cost?”

“Oh, sweetie, I”m not selling it. I’m collecting food.”

“But how much does it cost?” he persisted.

“If you don’t have any food to give tonight, that’s OK. There’ll be other times — other food drives,” our employee explained.

“But,” he said, gesturing to a pocket.

“No, no. I’m not selling the food. We give it away to people who are hungry.”

One look from him revealed the truth.

“Are you hungry right now buddy?”

“Yes.”

“No food at home?”

No.”

“Well, let’s get you some food right now,” she said in a quiet voice.” “I see you’ve got a bag with you now, can we slip some in there?”

Blondie’s head bobbed up and down, a smile creeping to his lips. “But I got a baby sister, and a mom…”

“Well, let’s pick out some food for them too — want to?”

Increased nodding of head. He stood on tip-toe looking into the Food Bank barrel. He picked out some turkey chili beans for himself, some soup for his mom. “But my sister, she’s just 18-months old. She can’t eat just anything,” came his words, almost in panic.

“OK, you and I are going to dig in here until we find something.”

At last they found some apple sauce, and he slipped this last can into his bag. “Oh, my mom is going to be SO happy!” he said.

The tears that had been gathering in my eyes began to leak out; I didn’t want him to see.

“You are a good boy,” I said. “And a good big brother.”

Off he scampered, eager to walk home and share this food.

He is the one in four who doesn’t know where his next meal is coming from — but he’s plainly not a statistic. He’s a little boy. A neighbor. A student. A friend. A Nevadan. A person.

This school now has information on our summer food program where children aged 1 to 18 can access food in area parks. It is a middle class school, but you see, pockets of hunger are everywhere, and the faces of hunger can surprise and enlighten. Even us.

_____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

This, ladies and gentlemen, was a heart-wrenching experience for me. I carry that little boy with me every day to the food bank and from the food bank.  He reminds me that I can make a difference and that I am making a difference.

Chances are, wherever you live, there is a Food Bank. If you can, volunteer, or give a can of food to help.

As for reading, I do recommend “Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America” by Ehrenreich, Barbara.

The Gathering: Citizens with the Saints

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It’s actually here – The Gathering. That thing on the calendar that felt like it would never get here for Madeleine, our 15-year-old. Her dream of soaking up New Orleans in the cradle of jazz (at least to her mind) in the company of friends filled her with anticipation.

At the same time that corresponding trip for us has been a series of meetings, emails, fundraisers, a bit of anxiety – for me, it came up fast. Like life itself the young sense that time is dragging while the old(er) feel time accelerating.

Still, at the appointed time, the day came and now the adventure. Exactly what is this Gathering? The ELCA (Evangelical Lutheran Church of America) Youth  Gathering  for 2012 is appropriately themed “Citizens with the Saints,” blending  the rich faith history, diverse cultures and arts of New Orleans with the convention’s mission to service the city’s public education system, shrinking wetlands and housing. Right now 35,000 Lutheran teens have converged on Louisiana’s Big Easy to collaborate with nearly 50 different organizations during its outreach efforts, including the New Orleans Recreation Department, New Orleans Community and Schools Organization, United Saints, St. Bernard Project, UNITY New Orleans, Beacon of Hope, Second Harvest Food Bank and Common Ground Relief to use their hands to embody the three core practices the youth will be exposed to: Discipleship, Peacemaking and Justice.

We saw off Madeleine, seven other church youth and two chaperones two days ago. Already we have word that they have been working on rehabilitating a home in one of the Katrina-affected parishes (still damaged and rotting after seven years) followed by a come-together gathering at the Superdome with all the attendees with community music and prayer.

The view from inside the Superdome.

What else will they encounter as individuals, a small group and as a sea of youth? Possibly life-changing, certainly memorable, Madeleine will have tales to tell and much to process. Will she experience the dream she had in her head, or not? We pray that it will it exceed her expectations or change her in positive ways.  Armed with still camera and video camera, she hoped to come home with a visual record of the five-day trip.

Improvising with skill, like the jazz city playing host, the adolescents will be sharing a multitude of viewpoints of faith, God, belief, spiritualism, and their own journeys and then blend that with their own internal faith. The hope is that the sharing of faith and working together in community will enable each participant to acquire those skills and use them to broaden their own stories as caring Christians for decades to come. And as Donald Miller says in his book, A Million Miles in a Thousand Years: What I learned While Editing My Life:

“And once you live a good story, you get a taste for a kind of meaning in life, and you can’t go back to being normal; you can’t go back to meaningless scenes stitched together by the forgettable thread of wasted time.”

In Ephesians Chapter 2 we read: “Jesus is our peace. In his life and death on the cross, Jesus broke down the dividing walls so that we are no longer strangers and outsiders, but we are citizens with the saints and also members of the household of God. The foundation of God’s house was built of apostles and prophets, and Jesus, the cornerstone, holds it all together.”

My fervent hope is that we all get that – that Madeleine receive it now at The Gathering and/or through other experiences and many other times in her life. But more expansively, that we all use our life as a positive story that has meaning, glee, playfulness, justice, peace, connectedness and LOVE in Christ.

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