Want a fresh outlook on life? Volunteer with kids.

I enjoy kids of whatever age, but when I volunteer, I have my focus on middle school grades. Middle School students are eager to explore ideas about justice, social expectations, and cultural differences. They want to test their ideas in story. They push me to explain and to listen carefully. They test all of my assumptions, and their natural humor makes me laugh a lot. During the school years 2010 through 2015, I had the privilege of teaching a weekly short-story writing class in North … [Read more...]

Eating Well After the Earthquake?

A Flashlight Aided Study (of My Food Pantry) Okay, gang, here’s a little perspective on long-range planning. What food would you want on your shelves if an emergency took out your electric stove, your refrigerator and your microwave? In my canning cupboard, deep in the basement, I pull out my battery-powered flashlight. Cans of pears, peaches and beans shine out at me, but also, I see rows of dishes that aren’t often used, and little figurines that once belonged to my mother. I know what I … [Read more...]

Two Coins in my Pocket

I put my hand in my pocket and pulled out two quarters. Before I paid for my taco, I took a second look at the coins. That look sent me scrambling for enough change to pay for the already-ordered lunch and still keep the two coins. These coins sat in my hand and spoke deeply to me about the choices we make in art. The first coin: South Dakota as depicted in the state coin of 2006, shows Mount Rushmore – the complete view of the four presidents. It also depicts a Chinese Ring-Necked … [Read more...]

Celebrate the Day, whatever Day you’ve got!

Twenty-five years ago, our daughter, then a young college student, planned an anniversary party for Woody and me in the fellowship hall of our church. Her friends and brothers helped. The ladies of the church helped. Our friends and family came and we had a wonderful celebration. That happened to be an Olympic Year, which fact led to the following event. Toward the end of that party, Woody’s dad, Grandpa Clarence, made a toast: “Woody and Rae, you’ve got the Silver. Now go for the … [Read more...]

The Teller Window

Here’s an ‘aha’ about perspective and choice that hit me just this week. I write a lot. And I design gardens. The garden business works to get me out with people and plants, some of whom appear in my fiction – the plants, I mean. I’m Out and About, working on gardens, I need lunch and a break from shoveling. I’m Celiac. Gotta be Gluten free. Since I also want good taste, I head off to Taco Time. Taco Time means crispy tacos with real meat, excellent cheese and fresh lettuce. So, that’s where … [Read more...]

Why Survive the Apocalypse?

I’m looking at our world in a brand new way this year. Life is fragile, and we are part of that fragile fabric. Aware of the ephemeral, I decided to gift my family with the first step in a survival kit. Ever since, I’ve been watching the small habits and charming humor in the people around me. I’ve been smelling the morning, greeting the raccoon and the chickadees, really studying the texture, the light and the shadows in places that I often take for granted. I’ve had some readers comment … [Read more...]

Hold the Hose

Remember that fantastic water pump I told you about? The one that goes with our barrels of drinking water? Well, not so fantastic after all. I didn’t see that the pump had a huge drawback. It has to be lubricated. Meaning, it does a great job if what you want to pump is oil or petrol. But water? Bloody hard on the thing. So, you may remember that I tested my pump in the kitchen sink. The next time I got it out to try on the water barrel, it froze in mid crank. Urchhhhhh! Several unboltings … [Read more...]

The Truth about Garden Hoses

We’ve been talking about getting prepared for emergencies. We started with the most obvious need – water. So, if you haven’t been with us, look back through December 2014 and January 2015 to see how the Richens picked out a barrel safe for drinking water and a hand pump for each of the families on our Christmas list. Here we are in February and have you filled your barrel? No? I hope at least that you have decided to buy one and are setting it up. As we set up ours, we found a flat place out … [Read more...]

The Great Disaster Kit collection – Buying a Pump for your Water Barrel

Buying a Pump for your Water Barrel. Onward in our quest to outfit the family in case of water problems in Portland (like the e-coli scare of last year) or in case the Pacific Subduction Zone decides to make a move on us. As you may have read in our previous installment, Family Ready for the Big One?, we bought our water barrel from Alberto at Myers Containers. Next, we needed a pump to siphon the water out of the barrel when disaster arose. Woody and I have a mechanical pump of the old … [Read more...]

Family Ready for the Big One?

(And the small ones too) Our Pacific Northwest’s big earthquake hasn’t happened yet, but it could happen any time. Geologists have been expecting the big one and have been trying to warn us for quite long enough. We should all be aware of the Subduction Zone facts. Enough of passive information gathering. Want to get ready? Join me as I help my extended family, and you all, get ready for that predicted event, or any smaller events between now and the #9 earth moving that is predicted. … [Read more...]