Archives for June 2011

Book Review: The Eve Tree

I’ve been reading Rachel Ford’s blog Journey Mama for years, ever since I began blogging myself.  She first drew me in because of her lovely honest writing and her interesting life.  She lived in the California redwoods back then.  Now she lives in India with her husband and children, which I find even more interesting.  Recently she’s been writing a novel, no small feat since she and her husband have three young children.

When Rae asked if I would write a review of her novel The Eve Tree I agreed happily.  After all, I’ve loved her blog for years– I consider her a friend. But hand in hand with that eagerness there was also a bit of concern.  I don’t read a lot of fiction these days due to my busy life.  What if I had a hard time getting into the book?

I shouldn’t have worried.  I found the characters in this book believable and intriguing.  There were lots of ‘yes!’ moments,  where she perfectly captured an emotion or an experience I’ve had myself.  And just the experience of reading fiction again was a delight to me. There was an element of escapism, yes– something I love about fiction.  But also it was a chance to turn over experiences of my own, to hold them up against the descriptions of the characters in the book, and in the process gain a bit more insight into what it means to be an imperfect human, to struggle with challenge, to love and be well loved.

I very much enjoyed The Eve Tree and I am delighted to say that along with the copy she gave for me to read, Rae has also provided a copy to give away to one of you.  If you would like a chance to win a copy, please comment below and tell me briefly about a recent book you’ve read!   I’ll select a winner early next week!

A hundred notes on the same string

Ever feel like God is using everything in the universe to teach you the very same thing over and over?  It’s been that way with me for the past year or two or three, maybe longer.  It took awhile for the message to actually lodge in my brain, though.

So many times in life my focus has been on results.  Have I been successful in what I’ve been trying to accomplish?  If not, what can I change to make things work better next time?  I’m a problem-solver by default.  Failure to me has always been a fuzzy concept, merely a temporary circumstance.  A speed bump.  A chance for a redo.   I operate under the conviction that if at first I don’t succeed, a different approach is the way to success next time.

Tiny example:  our family just got back from 5 days of church camp where it was my job to grocery-shop and get the food to camp. For 110 campers. The first few years that I shopped for food I over-bought by a good bit– came home after camp with way too much food. With a few years of experience under my belt, this year I really wanted to get closer with my quantity estimates.

I ended up spending a cool $100 less than last year (about $1550 for 1090 meals)  and wouldn’t you know it– we ran out of a few things.  Nothing major– there was still enough food.   But every day, at every meal, I watched like a hawk and schemed how I’d do it better next year.  Near the end of camp after listening to a bit of my out-loud scheming, a friend raised an eyebrow with a smile and gently said, “Even you can’t get it all perfect, Mary.”

My friend’s words were spoken with love and gentle respect, not mockery.  And truth be told, I wasn’t really whipping myself– I was just problem-solving. But there it was anyway. The message God’s been telling me in a hundred ways for years.

My contentment cannot depend upon my idea of success in life.

Sure, sometimes I succeed 100%, and I’m happy.  But life doesn’t come with guarantees.  There’s mothering:  no guarantees there. Kids are born with free will, and they continue to exert their will their whole lives, with varying levels of apparent ‘success’ at any given moment.  Marriage, however wonderful, has a share of challenges, of moments that look nothing like success. Friendships sometimes encourage, sometimes deeply challenge.

If my heart withers with unhappiness every time circumstances don’t work out well, every time people don’t act how I think they should act, wow– I’m going to spend a lot of my life discontent.  Floundering, even.  No matter how carefully I try to mother, no matter how hard I try to do right, to balance and juggle, there are always times when my life feels like a big fat flop.

If I base my peace of mind on circumstances or people or my surroundings or my own performance, I’ll be one big walking thundercloud.  I’ve been there, done that.  It ain’t pretty.

Instead each and every day I’ve got to turn my eyes upon Jesus,  the Savior who redeems my life from the pit, the Savior who renews my strength each day, the Savior who will take me home to heaven someday.

My hope is in the Lord.

Not in circumstances.

My hope is in the Lord.

Not in people.

My hope is in the Lord.

Not in a clean house or a fit body or good friends or a loving husband or any other earthly gift.

Yes, I will rejoice at the earthly gifts I’m given.  Peaceful afternoons and loving spouses and riotous poppies and shiny sinks and good health and great friends, and children whose precious faces make my heart squeeze with joy– they’re all gifts from my Maker.

But they’re not the source of my Hope.

My Hope is in my Lord, who died to save my soul and who will bring me home with Him to Heaven some day.

My Hope is in the Lord.

And He will never disappoint.

Scenes from family camp

Eldest and youngest

Cousins eating Oreos at the lake

Cousins that scream together stick together. (Except when one falls off the tube.)

Erika and Israel watching the volleyball game. Kind of.

Row, row, row your boat….

Sunset on the lake

My 19yo rocking the guitar in the chapel

My 16yo playing drums AND harmonica in chapel

Where the little kids hung out to be cool. And wet.

Our oldest daughter Amanda and her husband Ben

Our littlest hanging out with friend Alyssa

A rousing game of ‘dust’ball

Our 13 year old son was right in there with his big brothers

Our 13 year old daughter and her friends figured out how to play leapfrog on this big ball.

Little sis still has some growing to do before she masters that ride.

Our other 13 year old son whittling by the campfire with a friend

Our 15 year old daughter with some of her favorite people in the world

Our 9 year old enjoying a snuggle with her Oma (my mom), who is definitely one of the favorite people in both our worlds.


When life won’t play along
And right keeps going wrong
And I can’t seem to find my way
I know where I am found
So I won’t let it drag me down
Oh, I’ll keep dancing anyway

Linky love: something for everyone

Possibly my most eclectic link list yet

Vintage Frugalities –  my grocery frugality posts mirror lots of this advice

Inside the mind of a marathoner — not that I’m thinking of running a marathon

Training kids to work — this is how my mom taught me to clean a bathroom — I use this method too

Their other father — Thoughts from an adoptive mom on Father’s Day

Child-brides in Ethiopia — working to give Ethiopian girls a better life


Where I’m From…

A very long time ago, way back in 2006, I started this blog.  I realize that was only 5 years ago, but wow, a lot of life has happened in those five years. Back then we only had 8 kids, and our baby was just a year old and I hadn’t written any books, and none of my kids were grown yet. Seems like an eternity in a way.

Back then I did a writing project on my blog called, “Where I’m From”.  I was just thinking about earlier today. It was a lot of fun– you can read more about the format here. This evening when reading my blogs, I stopped by my friend Steph’s, and lo and behold, she’s written her version of this fun project. I decided that I really ought to post mine again. If you decide to write one too, please share the link in comments. I’d love to read it.


Owlhaven: I Am From

I am from thunderstorms and muggy nights and green-sky tornado warnings. From Cream of Wheat on school mornings, and White Castle burgers on Sundays and Dreft sitting on the washer when another new baby was on the way.

I am from the white parsonage next to the brick church surrounded by oak trees rustling in the breeze. I am from June bugs and fireflies on summer evenings. From oak tree whose acorns pelted unsuspecting friends from the leafy heights, from Four’O’Clocks that looked divine tucked in little girls’ hair.

I am from churchgoers and readers and baby-lovers, from Leonard and Marie and Hazel and Dale and Marvin and Julia. I am from inquisitive minds, and skillful hands, and loving hearts. From “all things work together for good” and “ don’t wear those shorts– they’re indecent.”

I am from forever-Lutherans who believe you work hard and trust God for the rest of it. I’m from Nebraska farmers who survived a tornado and put baby chicks in the bathtub for safekeeping when the chicken house blew away. From Swedes and Norwegians and Germans.

From mom’s homemade pizza and granola and whole wheat bread. From “Aunt Edie” pancakes slathered with butter and powdered sugar. From whole milk straight from the farm where we petted the calves and they sucked our fingers with sandpaper tongues. From apples we got by riding a ferry boat and visiting an orchard ourselves.

From the grandmother who got kittens for me to dress and trundle in baby carriages when I visited each summer, from the grandfather who called me Emsie, and the other grandfather who farmed so full-bore that when he stopped he could fall asleep in the midst of the noisiest gatherings.

I am from Polaroids and Kodak Instamatics whose flash cubes blinded your eyes then were tossed in the trash. From black-paged photo albums where precious pictures were placed with loving hands, and family and faith were valued above all the rust-gathering trinkets that any amount of money could buy.

Gina’s Eggplant Lasagna

When we were in Chile this spring for our daughter’s wedding, we were invited to the home of her ‘host mom’ Gina. Gina is a wonderfully gracious hostess and a fabulous cook. While we were there, she served us eggplant lasagna.  It was so delicious that I requested the recipe on the spot.  She graciously sent it home with Erika. After I made the recipe, we decided for the first time in years to plant  eggplant in our garden.  Sadly last week one of the plants died in a tragic weeding accident, and I promptly went and bought four replacements– thus is my level of enthusiasm for this recipe.  Try it.   Love it.  Tell me about it.  I am hungry right now just thinking about it.


  • 3 big eggplants
  • 3/4 pound hamburger
  • 1 onion
  • 1 cup tomato sauce
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 t. salt
  • 1/2 t. pepper
  • 2 cups white sauce (recipe below)
  • 6 slices of mozzarella cheese
  • 1/2 cup of shredded parmesan cheese


Cut the eggplant lengthwise in slices about a 1/4 inch thick.  Rub all sides in salt and let it sit for 1 hour. Rinse them off well and then dry them. Put sliced eggplant in a large pot enough water to just cover the eggplant, and cook eggplant until it is soft but not falling apart, about 10 minutes.  Drain water off and set them aside to cool.

Fry the onion until it is transparent, then add the meat and cook til browned.  Then add tomato sauce, oregano, salt, pepper, and a bay leaf. Stir together, simmer on low for 5-10 minutes, and set aside.

Next make the White Sauce:


  • 2 cups milk
  • 2 T. butter
  • 2 T.  flour
  • 1/2 t. nutmeg
  • 1/2 t. cinnamon
  • 1 t. salt
  • pepper

Melt butter in  a medium sized pot on the stove.  Whisk in flour, nutmeg, cinnamon, salt, and pepper.  Add milk and heat until thickened and bubbly.  Remove from heat and set aside.

Next, assemble the lasagna.  In a 9×12 pan layer the different parts .  First spread out a layer of eggplant slices, as if they were noodles.  Next spread on half the meat, 1/3 of the white sauce and 1/3 of the cheese.   Repeat the layers:  eggplant, remaining meat, some of the remaining white sauce and some of the remaining cheese.  Finish with a layer of eggplant, the remainder of the white sauce and the remainder of the sliced cheese.  Top with the grated parmesan cheese. Bake at 350 degrees for 30-45 minutes, until cheese is slightly browned and bubbly.

Variation : instead of soaking the eggplant in salt, just slice into rounds without peeling, and fry in a little oil before assembling in lasagna.

See Jane Run

It was cool out when my alarm rang at 5:20 Saturday morning.  My race didn’t start til 8:30, but runners had been instructed to arrive by 7.  So just after the sun rose John and I were off with our youngest two kids in tow.  I’d had coffee and a little bit of rice for breakfast– that was the only thing that sounded safe that early.  I opted to wear my running dress because it is sleeveless, stays in place, and has 2 back waist pockets that are big enough for my phone and my Zune.  Over top of the dress I had my race shirt and my jacket, both of which I intended to pull off before the race.  But when we got to the park where the race would be run, I was glad for the layers.  It was in the 50’s and felt pretty darned cold.

We’d gotten there right at 7, and I already had my bib number on my front and my timing chip velcroed onto my ankle.  So there wasn’t really anything we needed to do.  A gal with a microphone was pep-talking the mob of milling ladies, and promising 80’s style aerobics for warm-up in a few minutes.  John and the girls and I wandered through the expo booths, then took the girls over to the park to play for awhile. Soon the girls had found some other kids AND a squirrel, which they were all soon chasing from tree to tree in the play area.  The squirrel looked amused. So were we.

After a little while we headed closer to the starting line and spotted my friends Shana and Nichole. I’d done one training run with them a couple weeks ago, so it was fun they were also running this race.  I was sure they’d finish ahead of me, but at least we’d be starting together.

We could tell it was almost race time when the lines for the bathroom got scary-long.    The half-marathoners were sent off at 8.  We who were running the 5K still had half an hour to wait. My timing chip was feeling tight around my ankle, so I took it off and wound the velcro strap around and around my shoelaces instead.  That felt better. I wasn’t really nervous, just excited to get going.  I’ve been running miles lately in 10-11 minutes, and I had a plan in my head.  I didn’t want to go out too fast, so I was aiming for an 11-minute first mile, and was hoping to do the second and third miles a bit faster, with a minute of walking at the one-mile and two-mile marks.  I literally had never run more than 3 miles.   But I’d google-mapped it and knew t was just across a bridge and down a little hill.   Hopefully it wouldn’t be too bad.

Shana, Nichole, and I optimistically put ourselves towards the front of the pack– behind probably only 50 people or so.  I crossed the starting line 13 seconds or so after the gun sounded.  The first part of the run was easy, easy.  I had my music in my ears, settled easily into a comfortable pace, and it felt like the crowd was just carrying me along. Nichole moved ahead immediately.

The pace felt so easy that I was tempted to try to speed up and run with Shana when she passed me.   But I knew the adrenaline was carrying me now, and also that she has been running a lot longer than I have.  I settled for following a bit behind her.  It was comforting to see her turquoise shirt moving along, still in my sight.  Around the half-mile mark it looked like I was running a bit faster than I’d planned, so I tried to take it just a bit easier.   I’m kind of kicking myself now, but I was really afraid of going out too fast and then crashing at the tail end of the race.

Around the 3/4 mile mark John and the little girls were waiting to cheer me on.  It was fun to see them and to high-five the little girls while I was still feeling fresh and strong.  There was a woman panting like a steam engine next to me for awhile near the one mile mark, and I was glad I wasn’t that whipped already.

At the one-mile mark my watch read 10:43.  Good.  I made myself walk for a minute, as planned, though I was still doing fine, then got back into a steady pace.   The second mile went well too.  I could see Shana ahead, pulling a little away from me, but not crazy-far.  I passed lots of walkers.  It looked like several other runners were doing what I was doing– taking short walk breaks, then running again.

At the far end of the loop, we went over a bridge across the Boise River, which meant running up a pretty steep ramp.   I attacked the hill with a little extra speed, still feeling strong.  Google-map said that the 2-mile mark was just past this bridge, but there was no sign on the race course.   I kept running until I was sure I must be a bit past the 2 mile mark, then walked a minute, which felt good.   I was getting tired, but plowed back into running quickly.

When I saw the little white church on the edge of the BSU campus I was glad. Now  I knew exactly how much further it was, which felt good mentally.  I was going to make it just fine.  I decided to see if I could close the gap between Shana and me a little.  I could still see her less than a quarter mile ahead, so I picked out a person to pass right in front of me, then another, then another.  One gal obviously didn’t want to be passed– she sped up when I tried to come around, so we ran side by side for awhile.

The 3 mile mark was just before the ‘Friendship’ bridge crossing from the BSU campus back over the Boise River to Julia Davis Park.  Now I was almost to the finish line.  Twenty feet from the bridge, I saw Shana run off the far end of the bridge– she was so close. On my end of the bridge a race volunteer cheered me on. I fist-pumped and cheered back with a smile– then hit the incline on the bridge and instantly wanted the breath I’d wasted cheering.  I plowed up the bridge feeling lead-legged.

Down the other side of the bridge I got a little faster, and tried to keep that speed going on the flat at last bit of the race course.  Somehow I made it past the woman who hadn’t wanted to be passed a bit earlier, but I barely noticed it, being intent on the finish line. I glanced at my watch and saw I was over 34 minutes.  Ah well.  Close to my goal time, anyway. I saw John and the girls at the last corner and waved, then lengthened my stride to make my best sprint attempt.  (Not sure if I got much faster in the end, but I had sore arm muscles the next day, so I know I at least was pumping my arms.)

Across the finish line a volunteer put a medal around my neck, and another collected my race chip.   I knelt down to help get the chip off, and then felt like it was a big effort to get back to a standing position. That made me glad– I wanted my legs to be good and tired. My official finish time was 34:32, just half a minute slower than my goal of 34 minutes.   I was already second-guessing my decision to let Shana get ahead of me at the start of the race though.  She’d finished less than a minute ahead of me.  I think with a little more effort I might have been able to stay with her the whole race.  Maybe.

Shana and I walked off the course together, looking for water and our families.  Then it was off to collect our champagne glasses and chocolate, a fun perk of the race.  The glasses had rims that were dipped in chocolate, which my 9 year old was delighted to take care of for me.  The little girls were also delighted to help me with my post-race goodies: bagels and bananas and Luna bars and fruit leather.  We stood under the trees talking and visiting for awhile as other 5K finishers came through.  The first half-marathoner came through in 1:23, which meant she’d average 6.5 minute miles– for 13 miles!  Yikes.  I idly wondered if I’d ever be inspired to try that distance.  Hard to imagine at the moment, considering the level of intimidation I’d felt today over 3.1  Next time I will push a little harder, but all in all I think it was a good attempt at a first 5K.  I made it– hooray!

PS– My time put me 18th  out of 66 runners in my age group.  🙂



Look at all the pretty things
That steal my heart away
I can feel I’m fading
‘Cause Lord I love so many things
That keep me from Your face
Come and save me

We are we are caught in the in between
But we’re fighting for what we already have received
We are we are caught in the in between
But we’re fighting for what we already have received

Morning fun

I get to go run a 5k this morning!  Boise greenbelt, a friend to run with, hubby and kids cheering me on, chocolate and other goodies at the finish line.  Good fun!  Am hoping I can run 3.1 miles in less than 34 minutes, but we’ll see….   Wish me luck!