Posts Tagged ‘Holbrook’



Last Monday night, Jeff and I were watching a movie when the power went out in our house–the whole house. Yet across the street, the neighbor’s lights were shining. Apparently only our house was affected.power failure

Now this wouldn’t have mattered much except that the next morning, since I’d agreed to  serve on the Election Board, I needed to be at the city election headquarters at 5:30 to help get the polls open at 6 am. And we had no power, so no reliable alarm clock. Could you have gotten a good night’s sleep?

I didn’t. I woke at 2:30 am, tossed and flipped in bed until 3:15, then read until it was time to get up. Finally, I climbed out of bed and began preparations for the day. Candidly, I’ll admit that I don’t mind brushing my teeth with a flashlight when I’m camping, but I didn’t much care for it in the inky dark of our master bathroom. Finally I was ready at 5:25.

Jeff needed the car, so he determined that it was best to drive me to the City Hall. We stepped into the garage to climb in our car and suddenly stopped to look at each other, horrified. Because of our electric door opener, our car was effectively locked in the garage. I wouldn’t get to the polls on time–oh, no!

Jeff thought for a moment, then called the police, who sent an officer over to City Hall, and fortunately, the election workers found a volunteer to come and pick me up as we walked toward my destination. Although I was late for the preliminary preparations, I got there before the polls actually opened. Phew!

All of us voted on Monday

All of us voted on Monday

As I’m sure you know, friends, over this past week, our nation recognized the anniversary of Bloody Sunday, the Civil Rights event that happened in Selma, Alabama fifty years ago. Voting rights were at the heart of that march and of the vitriol of those who met it with such cruelty. One side desperately needed the right to vote; the other was determined that they should not acquire it.

Fifty years later, an African American president recounted stories of that event in a moving speech. And fifty years later, this former placard carrying, anti-war, civil rights advocate sat as an election worker and watched my neighbors–black and white, Hispanic and Native American–come into the polls and vote freely and unharmed.

No one was concerned about their safety, everyone chatted and laughed together, then went on about their ordinary business. I wonder if the exciting juxtaposition of our little election and the Selma anniversary even occurred to most of us.

Maybe the biggest achievement is that it didn’t, that we can take that sort of safety more or less for granted today. Not everywhere in the country, of course. Not in Ferguson, perhaps. Not in Madison. Not in many communities still divided by leftover bitterness. But at least here in Holbrook. And that’s something.

To top that off, the power’s back on, too!



I Knead You

I admit it! I’m a “crunchy” person. I bake my own bread, make our cereal, can and dehydrate food from our own garden, and generally DIY if I can. In this attitude, I’ve been encouraged lately by an
Australian grandmother named Rhonda Jean, who writes a delightful blog at

Through her, I’ve learned to make my own laundry detergent, glass cleaner, liquid hand soap and a good many other things. Before you start laughing, may I just point out that my laundry detergent contains no harmful chemicals, works as well as yours, and costs less than $2 per gallon? Anyway, Rhonda’s blog is a delight as well as educational. Check it out next time you are feeling crunchy yourself.

On the general topic of crunchiness (?), I thought I’d post some photos of yesterday’s bread making around here. I labor under certain restrictions with my bread. First of all, for Jeff to eat it with enthusiasm, it can be as healthy as I can make it, but it has to look mostly white. I know, I know. Take it up with him.

Next, it has to be…um, squishy. He hates dry bread. In this, I agree with him, so I try to watch the consistency of the dough and length of time I bake it, etc. I rarely make bread the same way twice, but this is what I used yesterday.

My ingredients list for yesterday's baking

My ingredients list for yesterday’s baking

Home-made bread, as you may know, can be made very basic (liquid, yeast, flour, salt+(usually) a sweetening agent) or quite complex. This batch had unbleached white flour with yeast, wheat germ, and salt mixed in with it, a cup of milk, two cups of hot water, some butter, maple syrup, and a cup of oats soaked in warm water for 25 minutes or so. I mixed it up, kneaded it for about 5-6 minutes with the heels of my hands (you don’t want to sink your fingers into a dough ball), and voila!

Dough set for first rising

Dough set for first rising

At this time of the year, the house is a bit cool, so this aluminum bowl gains warmth from a couple of inches of warm water in the second bowl beneath it. This makes the bread rise more efficiently.

After a couple of risings, it goes into the greased bread pans to rise once again. This was a batch of three loaves. We only use two most weeks, so it allows me to give a loaf away. This time, the extra loaf went to my wonderful hairdresser, Elsa.

Bread set to bake after a couple of risings.

Bread set to bake after a couple of risings

I’ve known my oven for three years now, so I know that it bakes bread best at 365 degrees. Some people use 375, some use 350 degrees. Like the flexible ingredients in bread, the temperature isn’t terribly crucial.

Just out of the oven and lightly buttered on top

Just out of the oven and lightly buttered on top

I tip a loaf out of the pan to check the bottom and be sure it is done. If it is, I set the bread on a rack, take my baking brush, and coat the loaves thinly with butter.

I then commit bread-baking heresy by covering the loaves with a clean towel. I understand that for many people, a nice crisp crust is important, but my favorite bread-taster likes a soft crust, so it gets the towel treatment.

And now, it’s ready to eat. There’s just no beating warm home-made bread with fresh butter. I think Rhonda Jean would approve!

Ready to Eat

Ready to Eat and appropriately squishy

The Squirrel Season

One Day's Harvest

One Day’s Harvest

Oops–does my title sound as if I’m hunting for squirrels? I promise that’s not the case, but I am imitating the activity of the squirrels right now. Translation? My garden is coming in in full force. Winter is not far behind, so I’m trying to store up as much food as I can for that time when nothing grows. Just like the Midwestern squirrels I used to watch as a child–I’m getting ready for the days ahead.

It may very well be stubbornness–or something even less flattering–that has caused me to move to one of the driest and least hospitable places for growing crops in the entire Southwest and then take up gardening. But I never had time to do it before. Now I do, and the garden has rewarded us generously.

I love to see pretty jars of canned food lined up in a storage cupboard or on a countertop. You can’t beat the flavor of the fresh tomatoes, corn, and potatoes you harvest at 4:30 and serve at 5 pm. My freezer bulges with loaves of zucchini bread and bags of home grown pumpkin for our Thanksgiving pies. This year, I discovered that our warm Arizona garage is the perfect place to dry herbs, too, so this year’s dill dip will be made with our own dill. It’s kind of fun to be a squirrel after all!

My favorite produce this year came from a peach tree my son Joe and I planted three summers ago. At the time it was not much more than a stick that barely reached our shoulders. This year, despite a late frost that nipped most of the blossoms, the tree (now higher than my head) produced a total of three lush, delicious peaches. Next year, I tell myself, will be the bumper crop. Provided the frost doesn’t get too aggressive, of course.

Our church organist tells me the apples are ready at her house, and we can have all we want. Applesauce, apple butter, apple pie filling–yum! You’ll find me in the kitchen again this week, making like a squirrel. Come on over–I have a peeler with your name on it!

garden 016

Fresh-Dried Dill, Sage, Rosemary, and Parsley. No Thyme, sorry.

Fresh-Dried Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Dill. No Thyme, sorry.

First Peaches from a Tree we Planted Ourselves. A red-letter day!

First Peaches from the Tree We Planted Ourselves. A red-letter day!


New Every Morning


You know the quotation from Lamentations (it may be the only one you know from Lamentations, if you’re like me!) about God’s compassions being new every morning? The verses conclude “great is thy faithfulness.” Here’s a little story about the truth of those verses.

The last half of 2013, while personally happy for Jeff and me, made us a little nervous. We’d hoped for more growth at church, more people in the pews on Sunday mornings, more involvement in Bible Study, more hearts open to learning. We love each one of our wonderful members, whose faithfulness has been steadfast in the extreme, I need to point out. Their sacrifice for their church has been a model. But I think some of them were also wondering if this was going to work! A former student of Jeff’s from NAU said to him a while ago “What are you doing here in a place like this?” which didn’t build his confidence, though it was meant lovingly. Satan was obviously working overtime to discourage us.

Peace Lutheran has grown, of course–just very slowly. I’m not bragging to say that this has never happened before in Jeff’s ministry, just stating a fact: it simply hasn’t. We know many of the reasons why churches here are slow to grow–the size and stability of the town, with little movement in and out taking place, the preponderance of the LDS membership locally, and so on. But growth’s been so slow as to be worrisome at times. We’ve had to abandon our modest vision for church growth in favor of trusting that God had the ultimate and best vision. Wouldn’t you think that would be an automatic mindset, given the years we’ve worked in the Kingdom? But it wasn’t. We needed to learn–really learn, not just in theory–a lesson in trust ourselves.

And recently, several things have happened in our own hearts. We’ve come to trust more deeply than ever before that high growth or not, our congregation will be fine, and we will be fine in it. As we’ve trusted more completely and left Peace’s growth or lack of it in God’s mighty hands, we noticed something curious happening. The numbers began to go up just a little. Some more folks began to attend from the community. Because Jeff conducts Saturday night chapel there, the numbers of folks from Bread of Life Mission has also risen, just a little. I can’t help but see the connection with God’s lessons in trust.

We realized also what a blessing it is to have small numbers, but the chance to go deep with members who wish to grow. My hyperactive (in a good way) husband plenty to do here between church, Kiwanis, and the Chamber of Commerce. I have a job I love at the library and a garden that could feed three times as many people as it feeds now. We love living in Holbrook, which may not be the most beautiful town in Northern Arizona, but which is certainly one of the friendliest. Optimism replaced concern in our hearts. Numbers began regularly swelling into the 30’s and sometimes even 40’s instead of the 20’s (Could 30+ people be called a “swell? Or at least a faithful insect bite?)

Last Sunday, we took in new members, whose pictures are above (I hope none of you is in the Witness Protection Program!). Just a few new members, not dozens. But they’re sincere, earnest Christians, whose faith will strengthen Peace Lutheran and build up the family of faith here. For the next two weeks, we have an adult baptism each Sunday. And those will also be sincere commitments, a fact which delights us. We’re hopeful again, but we’re letting God write the script, not trying to take the pen from His hands to write our own. We needed to learn this lesson, and I’m grateful that he took the time to teach us. Indeed, His compassions are new every morning!


Who’s that Knocking at my Door?

ImagePicture this: it’s late on Christmas eve, and the last of the expected family members have just arrived. In the midst of our hugs and laughter, the doorbell rings. We pull open the door, wondering who would have the audacity to come at this late hour, on this special night. Outside the door in heavy fleece and Green Bay Packer cap stands our son from Guam, Andrew. He wasn’t expected to make it back half-way around the world, but he’d taken some vacation from work, spent some time with friends in Texas, and then got to Holbrook on Christmas Eve. After the tears and the welcome embraces, I asked my daughter if she had known he was coming. “We all knew except you and Dad. We couldn’t wait for him to get here!” What a welcome surprise he was! Other than our sadly-missed granddaughter, Kayla, who was in Washington, we were all together for Christmas. What a gift!

But another surprise would add to the joy of Christmas dinner the next day. Matt and Arlene announced their intention to marry within the next year! Every face at the table reflected happiness at the announcement, none more so than Matt and Arlene themselves.

Our new daughter-to-be was born in the Philippines, the eldest child in a large and beautiful family. She’s lived in the US her whole adult life, is an engineer by training, and works at Chase with Matt, though in different areas. To our delight, she’s an active Christian with a tremendous heart for others. And she’s fun–enthusiastic, smart, and up for anything. This couple realize they aren’t children any more, and they both know how fortunate they are to have found one another. We know, too, and are so pleased by their relationship. We’re looking forward to a wedding soon. You can see the happy couple in the photo below.


And finally, the Johnson clan is shown below:


Hope all your Christmas surprises were good ones, too–and Happy New Year!

Life Changes–and Things that Stay the Same

My head spins with the changes in our lives these days. Does yours?
–A couple on Guam, whom we love like our own children, added a son to their family last week, bringing the total of their children to five. They hadn’t exactly planned this late addition, but God planned it. Merry Christmas, Joe and Angie!
–Our son Matt brought change to our Thanksgiving table in the person of Arlene, a woman he’s been dating for the past year. She’s fun, lively, and loving, and she fit right into the family circle. Of course, being a mom, I had to ask–is she the one? Wait and see, he told me. But she’s coming again for Christmas and I can’t help wondering…well, I’ll keep you posted. We’re definitely in favor!
–Concern for our own health led Jeff and I to change our diet and health practices about a month ago. We aren’t finished changing them, either. Doing it, but not loving that change too much. Ugh.
–Son Joe and his Brenda are growing increasingly concerned about Brenda’s parents, who are older and a bit fragile. One option is a possible move to California to help out. I applaud their sense of responsibility, and yet my heart aches at the thought of them not being nearby. Not all change is joyful, even when it is right.
–My first seed catalog came last week. It’s time to start thinking of the changes I want to make in the garden next summer. Sometimes I read articles about ‘extending the gardening season.’ I don’t want to extend it. I want to get away from the work and the worry of gardening for a few months so that I feel enthusiastic when that first catalog arrives. I need that change of pace.
–You know how it is. You have lots of friends you know well enough, and then, if you’re fortunate, you develop a tiny handful of truly special friends. You tell them whatever’s on your heart, you laugh harder with them than anyone else, you keep up with one another’s families. They form the cornerstones of your support network. Yesterday, one of my four or five closest lifetime friends died. I’m glad we’ve kept in touch during her illness, and that our last conversation blessed us both. Her faith beckoned me and many others to a closer walk with Christ. I know her destination. But I wept when I ran across one of the recipe cards in my collection with her name on it yesterday afternoon. The world–my world, anyway–is impoverished by her loss. Certain changes cause an impact that we’ll feel for the rest of our lives.
–This morning during my devotions, an old idea hit me with renewed power. Jesus is the same, yesterday, today, and forever. Like a star that stands still while all the rest orbit restlessly, He offers stability that does not, and will not, change. No matter what else happens, good or bad, he is a true North Star, the unchanging point of reference by which we navigate through the changes of our days. May the Christmas stars of this season remind you of the One who does not change.

The Library on Route 66

ImageImageThe advertisement appeared in the newspaper a few months ago for a Job Help Instructor at our local library. Well, I didn’t know what a Job Help Instructor would do, but teaching is something I know about, so I applied. I didn’t really expect to get the job, but if there was anywhere in Holbrook I would enjoy working, I knew it was the library.

Ours is not an enormous library. It’s not the best one I’ve ever been in, I suppose. But it’s so much, much better than I would have expected for a town of 5,000 people that it delights me whenever I step inside the doors. I’ve always loved the staff there, who go out of their way to be pleasant and will do anything they can for their clients. The library director  (shown above) is talented, creative, and amazingly competent. What she manages to do on our shoestring budget should be studied by the federal government as a model for careful management!

Anyway, I got the job. Turns out that no one else bothered to apply, so I’ve spent the last few months learning to be a job help instructor. What that means is, I’m stationed in the library’s computer lab to assist clients who don’t have computers at home, or don’t know how to do things like write resumes, compose cover letters, apply for jobs on-line, etc. My work is strictly one-on-one for these tasks, and I enjoy it enormously. I love the library atmosphere, and my colleagues are every bit as much fun to work with as I expected. Lots of students come to the lab, too, which allows me to be in contact with young people again, something which a former teacher really misses.

Of course, there is a down side. To say that my technological competence is “limited” would be to flatter myself. But I’m the person on hand in the lab, so when people have problems with technology, I’m the one who gets the questions. I’m much more competent now than I was a few months ago, and I expect to be even better by the time my one-year, grant funded job is finished next summer.  When it is slow in the lab, I get to work at the circulation desk, where–I’ll just be honest here–I’m mostly useless. But my co-workers are cheerful about correcting my mistakes and explaining procedures over and over.  Even though I’m relegated to handling the simplest tasks, I love greeting people who come in and spotting new books I can’t wait to read. 

 I’ve retired a couple of times already from various teaching jobs. I may never have another actual paid position again when this one ends. But if so, what a blessing it is to finish up my working career at the Library on Route 66! Be sure to come in and see us if you’re ever in Holbrook.