Saturday, April 25, 2009


I know it's been a long time since I've written. So to those of you who look for my posts and have been encouraging me to write, thanks for caring and for reading!

God has been teaching me a lot in the past few months, and I've decided to share two of those lessons here.

Lesson One:

The past year was full of change for me. In a 12-month period I lost my job, left my church of 25 years, moved out of my apartment and into my friends' basement, job-hunted, felt called by God to serve my grandmother, purchased a house, moved out of my friends' basement, moved my grandma in with me, began attending a new church, joined a care group at my church, began volunteering with the youth in my church and throughout all that transition went through the ups and downs of some health worries without health insurance. Also during the past year one of my best friends got married and moved across the state and one of my other closest friends left to travel the world for a few months before settling in to serve at an orphanage in Peru for a while. So I found myself in a new place in life with an ever-smaller circle of the people I was most used to depending on for companionship, encouragement and advice. This winter I sunk into a pit of feeling discouraged, isolated and terribly alone. And there in the dark hours of my soul as I poured out my heart to God, I encountered him in a deeper way then ever before. I learned that there are times when he is the only one I can turn to for companionship (he will never leave me or forsake me), encouragement (he is gentler to me than I sometimes imagine and yet lovingly speaks truth to my heart when its perceptions are distorted by pain), and wisdom (he gives it freely to those who seek his heart and his will). I can't be simplistic and tell you that I don't need anyone but him, because I do believe that he created humans with the need to interact with others, and I'm thankful for the new friendships that I have been [slowly] building within my care group at church. But I will say this: God is the One who sustains me. Others may come and go but he is the one who guides my steps, guards my path and gives me those things that I truly need for the journey I am on.

Lesson Two:

Working with Gram has been one of the hardest things I've ever undertaken to do. It involves a complete giving over of myself to the needs of another (yeah, yeah, I can just imagine all you moms out there smiling wrily and arching one eyebrow, nonplussed). I have felt at times like my individual self was ceasing to exist and instead Gram permeates my thoughts, my actions, my wakefulness and my sleep. Every morning is full of getting her up and ready and every evening is full of getting her ready for bed and to sleep. My days, nights, sentences, thoughts, prayers and dreams are interrupted by the dull tweet of her whistle. It has been hard to let go of me and the time that I want to claim as mine (8 hours straight at night, for instance, or showers in the morning, or even time with the Lord in the morning). I am seeing my true rudeness and selfishness come out when I am awakened in the middle of the night to listen to apparently pointless and senseless ramblings from her confused mind. But I'm growing and God is giving me victory in small areas as I learn to see Grandma as he sees her, as I learn to speak gently rather than exasperatedly in the middle of the night, and as I learn to cheerfully and graciously clean up another's messes. I think the hardest thing for me has been the fact that often Gram misperceives my actions and intent. There are times when she grows suspicious of my actions and thinks I am taking her things, lying to her, ignoring her or even treating her roughly. This has been hard because in the beginning I believed that the whole point of this endeavor was for me to improve Gram's "quality of life" by caring for her and showing her love. So if she was going to believe that her caregiver was horrible or abusive it would be far better for her if she thought those things about a stranger than about her granddaughter who should be a source of love and encouragement to her. But with wise friends reminding me that it was clearly God who led me to this place in life, I'm realizing that perhaps his plan for this time is different than my plan for it. If it were true that the value of my service were found in Gram's perception of it or reception of it, then it is a futile task indeed--unappreciated, misunderstood and soon to be forgotten. I now believe that the value of what I am doing doesn't lie in Gram alone. Jesus taught that the things we do for the hurting souls of the world he accepts as service unto him. He sees every interaction I have with my Grandma--gracious and otherwise--and what I am doing is valuable not because it is grand or eternally meaningful to her, but because it is offered as a sacrifice of obedience to HIM! This lesson has deep and far-reaching implications in my heart, but it is very difficult to articulate. Suffice it to say that I am learning that my time with Grandma is not only about HER, but it is also about an amazing God who is using this opportunity in my life as a way to teach me and mold my character.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Fun in the Snow!

Wow! I can barely remember the last time we had similar snowfall in Portland--probably because I was probably younger than five! It has been a fun week, though. I had mentioned to my mom that the thought of being snowed in at my house with Grandma did not sound appealing, so when snow started coming down last Sunday, Mom suggested Gram and I pack up and come stay with the family for a few days. We've been vacationing at the fam's ever since--sleeping on their couches by night, playing games, eating good food and playing in the snow by least I've been playing in the snow. Gram's stayed inside. :-)

On Thursday Tracy and I hiked up Powell Butte to sled in a drainage ditch up there. We rolled giant snowballs (like the bottom of snowmen) into the ditch to make a steep fast-starting ramp for pushing off. Not only was it a blast--but it was soooooo beautiful! There were dark clouds and thick clouds, and swirly clouds--and snowy clouds and icy clouds. But then sometimes half the clouds cleared and there was this gentle, blue sky to the NW or a fierce, bright sun lowering to the SW. It was one of the best afternoons I've had in quite some time. :-)

Look at that sky!

As a Christmas gift to me, Eric put up Christmas lights on my house and him and Tracy helped me acquire, set up and decorate my tree! Unfortunately...since I've been at the fam's all week long, I have barely seen my beautiful tree. Last night, four of us made the slippery drive to my house to get more meds for Gramma and to pick up my Christmas gifts for people in the family. Here's my dad next to the tree.

My house in the's covering the curb...awesome.
My car after sitting for 24 hours in front of my parents' house.
Looking past my car and down the road.
Christmas lights shade and patterns in the snow.
Last night after midnight I was out with Tracy playing around. It was so cold I was tearing up!

If you'd like to see more of our snow day adventures, peruse my picasa album at

My House

When I moved a friend asked me when I would be posting pictures of my house on my blog. I told her that I would have to unpack first, so it would probably not be for a week or two. Ha! I'm still unpacking, but here are few pictures...finally. :-)

If you want to see them all...go to my Picasa album:

This is the living room, right when you walk in the front door.
My bathroom--make sure to notice the lovely medicine cabinet I installed. :-)
The dining/kitchen area.
The kitchen/dining area.

My bedroom.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

It's here!

For several years I've been toying with the idea of creating a website to promote my photography and/or other skills and hobbies.

This year I was trying to think up a good gift idea for a white elephant gift exchange with adults from my church. Since I just threw out all the strange junk in the move, I figured I should give something nice, but inexpensive. I decided to make a greeting card set using pictures I have taken and coupling them with scripture. The finished product was very nice.

As I'd recently been trying to think of ways to supplement my income, I decided to try selling sets of greeting cards. Each card is 5" x 7" and is made on partially-recycled, linen-textured cardstock and comes with a matching linen-textured envelope.

So, this is the project I've been working on all week long--designing and launching the website. If you're curious to see the site, interested in looking at some of the pictures I've taken, or maybe even interested in purchasing a set of greeting cards, check it out at:

Snippets of my life the past few months.

Well, sometimes it's hard to find the time to write. And sometimes it's hard to find something interesting to write about. I make no claims as to this being particularly interesting, but I just thought I'd show you a few snippets (okay maybe more than a few) of what my life has been like in recent months.

Meet the boys: Gavin (4) and Carter (9 mos. currently; 6 mos. in the picture below) This are my handsome nephews and I'm blessed to generally have them at my house twice weekly. On Mondays I watch the boys while Trish works and on Fridays Trish hangs out with Gram so I can do...whatever it is I may need to do. The boys call Gram "GG" (Great-Grandma). Here Carter and GG take a nap together.

So for some reason Carter loves playing with my Nalgene bottle. One afternoon he was seeming fussy so I gave him my water bottle to distract him while I went to the bathroom. As I was washing my hands I heard him crying. When I reentered the living room there he was sitting in a giant puddle of icy water! Poor kiddo...I left him in it while I went to get the camera.
I have no clue how he managed to get that bottle open! But it turns out he didn't even mind the ice-water. He just was bummed because the bottle had rolled out of his reach (this was before he started crawling.) Once I gave him the bottle back, he was content again.

Ha! if only he spilt water on the floor every week instead of...juice, throw-up, poop, play-dough, cheerios, etc.

I've tried (inconsistently) to always have a special project or activity for Gavin and I to do during Carter's afternoon/evening nap. I had hoped that this would give him some needed one-on-one attention. It's hard when Gavin's always being told to wait because the baby is screaming and hungry or GG fell and needs help. Sometimes it feels like he always comes last. On this particular day we made picture frames with magnets for the fridge, and then took pictures to put in the frames. Gavin wanted his frame to be in the picture in his frame.
We did some with the frame and some without. This was supposed to be his strong-man, showing the muscle pose. It cracked me up!
The ONE picture I got Carter looking at me and smiling in... One...two....SPIT UP/click. In the end I laid him on his back and stood above him to get the second picture, he was very easily distracted outside.
Besides spending time caring for Gram and the boys, I've been slowly finishing unpacking. Since my bathroom lacks storage space, I purchased a medicine cabinet off Craigslist and installed it (with some help from my brother, Eric--thanks!). I'm definitely going to make you take a closer look....I worked hard and LONG on that. I even replaced the knobs to make it look nicer than it did before.
To finish the job I had to purchase newer, better drill bits. Here's the new set. It rolls up all real-contractor-like. It makes me feel awesome when I use it.
I've also put up more decorations. Here are some of my favorite pictures which are in the living room. Yep, I got a photoshoot with the nephs!
So, now that I'm more unpacked and decorated, I've tried to have more guests over. There was a streak of four out of five scheduled visits where the invitee was a no-show. It made me sad. :-( This one was when we tried to use the new goblets for the first time, but our guest never came, so the place setting just sat empty. Thankfully, the streak seems to have ended. Thanksgiving weekend alone I had 9 guests!
I've baked pies several times this fall. I found out why crusts were so difficult for me: I had the measurements written down wrong and was using way to little shortening. I had high expectations for the first pie with the corrected crust recipe. But alas, I seemed doomed to fail! Here was that one... Since then, though, I've made 6 more successful pies!
Sometimes on Mondays, between the boys and Gram, the most rest I get in a day comes when I lock myself alone in the bathroom for five minutes to....well, you know. On one particular Monday Carter wouldn't be consoled without me, so I brought him in with me. I put him in the dry tub, but he managed to open the shampoo, drop the conditioner on himself, and then pull himself up to standing and fall down! I had to rock him and sing to him while I was sitting on the toilet, and then he finally drifted to sleep. I waited until he was sleeping deeper and then laid him on the floor so I could finish up. I couldn't resist taking a couple pictures before moving him onto the bed.
Poor silly kid on the bathroom floor!
Only one of my cousins was able to be with us on Thanksgiving, but it was a treat to have Chelsea and her family stay overnight at my place. Plus it gave GG some extra time with some of the great-grandkids she doesn't see as often. Here she is with baby Jezzi.
And here she is with all the Berglund-Ramirez family: Andres, Jezzirayah, (GG), Tayvan, and Chelsea.
Here's the family without the GG. Thanks for the company, guys!

Okay, so there's a few of the things that have been going on with me--at least the photographed ones.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

What Would You Kill For?

I don't usually commentate on current events because 1) there are others better informed than me, and 2) if you wanted the news you'd be reading a news site right now instead of mine. But one news story I heard today I can't get out of my mind, so you get to hear about it.

I actually wanted to entitle this blog post "Greedy SOB's" or few other choice words that I know some of you would find very offensive. I felt that the perpetrators of this act deserved something shocking and disrespectful--BUT--out of respect to you, the readers, I've gone a different direction.

If you haven't read the story yet about a Wal-Mart employee being trampled by a rabid mob, you can catch the story here, and then learn a little bit more here.

I am apalled. Worse than appalled; I am FURIOUS! What kind of a person breaks down store doors in order to grab a shiny plastic toy 5 minutes earlier than planned? What kind of a person shoves to the ground anyone who stands between them and $10 dollars off a digital camera? What kind of a person trips on an injured man and leaves him gasping for air on the floor so they can scamper to the electronics section and grab a plasma TV? Unfortunately, there were thousands of such monstrous individuals ammassed in front of a New York Wal-Mart this morning.

Imagine those who came home from shopping, wiped the [metaphorical] blood off their feet and went inside to wrap up their "bargain" gifts! "Don't you love your new mp3 player? I stepped on a man's head to get it for you!"

I am so angry at these people! How dare they assume that the life and safety of another is worth less than the plastic and metal gadgets they heaped into their carts? I wish there were a way to prosecute every single person who stepped on or over this man in their rush to snatch something before anyone else could. These people are MONSTERS. Horrible, terrible monsters that remind us of the worst things possible about humanity--the darkest parts of our grimy souls.

I am also angry at the store. This is not a Wal-Mart tirade--I'll let someone else write that blog. This is a tirade against Any Store--because that's where this could have happened. One of your employees was killed--killed--in the line of duty serving your store. And to honor him you shut the store down--for five hours! You shuttled off the injured, cleaned up the mess as best you could, and reopened your mangled doors because not to do so would be to lose your largest day of profits of the year. Take some responsibility! Show shoppers that they CANNOT trample a man to death and just come back later to get the deal they so wanted. Close your store--close all your stores! Refuse to open your store on Black Friday next year as a way to honor your victim and prove to the crowds that you will not tolerate violence--even in the name of Materialistic Consumerism, that god of these masses.

But that will never happen.

Maybe those of you who think that it's strange for me to get so riled up over this incident are right. I know there are further-reaching tragedies occuring in the world. I am definitely not saying by addressing this one incident that this one loss is worse than the hundreds of lives lost, for instance, in the recent Mumbai tragedies. These crazy militants terrorize for their ideals--as hateful and horrible of ideals as they may be. They are wrong and their crimes have sickened and saddened the world at large. We have learned to expect such behavior from violent radical political and religious groups who value their ideals over their lives and the lives of others. But today we have been confronted with a new group of people--a group of seemingly innocuous shoppers hunting for christmas gifts for family and friends--and we have learned that from them we can expect senseless and remorseless violence for discounted price on some piece of thing that will more than likely be within in a landfill within 10 years. Which heart is uglier? The twisted heart that aligns itself to a horrible and violent cause or the apathetic heart that cares nothing for the man gasping for breath on the floor, but eagerly runs off to fill their cart with gadgets? At this moment, I feel that they have similarities we may hesitate to recognize. Both view others as objects that stand between them and their gods--whether their god is a twisted ideal or an iPod deal. And both have killed in the name of their god.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Hope for An Overcast Heart

Generally I love fall; the colors and scents blend together in a way that makes me smile with secret delight. But this fall has felt darker to me, as if it's nothing more than an omen of fast-approaching emptiness of winter.

It had been mostly cloudy for a few days in a row and then on Wednesday it started to rain. It rained and rained and rained until gutters and drain grates were clogged and everywhere there were streams pouring off of roofs and lakes collecting on roadways and intersections. The sky was filled so thickly with clouds and precipitation that daylight seemed like dusk and dusk like midnight. In the oppressive grayness of Wednesday I saw that the tree branches were mostly empty and the leaves that lingered were wilted brown dripping sludge from their limp forms. There was no color, there was no life, there was no beauty there. Just unending ugliness and death--winter had already come.

But today something surprising happened. I awoke to bright light filtering its way through my blinds. The rain was gone. As I drove Gram to her therapy appointment I was surprised by what I saw along the roadside. Yes, some of the trees were mostly asleep for winter, but many of the seemingly brown trees from the day before were actually still in that drowsy state of being that only trees can achieve with such red, orange, yellow and green beauty. My eyes soaked it all in and each hue brought a ray of warmth to my heart.

Recently my life has been overcast. Depression is an oppressive cloud over my mind and emotions. It is so thick and dark that it blocks the sun from my eyes and shades the colorful leaves of joy and peace and hope from my vision. The world around me is actually the same as it has always been, but when my heart is shrouded in darkness it can barely see the good and beautiful things in life. Instead everything from activities to relationships to the future seem dark and dreary and dead. Although my mind knows the Sun still exists, I can't feel his warmth or nearness.

Today was a good day, though. One thing that I have found helpful in my recent recurring struggle is to recognize that my perceptions are inaccurate, and today was a reminder of that. No matter how dark it feels, the sun is still real, still there, still giving light and warmth--even though I may not feel it--it is there on the other side of the clouds. And no matter how dead and dreary things may seem in this darkness it is only the way I see them not the way things really are, just as the leaves still were multi-colored even though they looked brown and dead in the shadows cast by the clouds.

So, you who are suffering under a cloud of darkness, know that God is here with you though you may not feel him, and that his promises are true though your faith may be faltering. Realize, hopeless heart, that the things that overwhelm you, bring you sadness, anger, self-loathing and despair will not crush you. You will survive them and you will grow through them. And remember that at some point these clouds will clear and life will be warm and beautiful again.

Do not trust your overcast heart. It cannot see what truly is.