·         Monday, 25 February 2008 – Remembering Caleb (1976-2002)

The Ogan Donor Family…

When Caleb died, someone at the hospital was kind enough to offer us the opportunity to become part of the organ donor family.  An opportnity to let Caleb’s spirit live on through somene else’s life.  This opportunity was a gift to us. 


Caleb lives on in very real ways, making life better for many recipients.  A few of them still correspond with us, so we have the joy of knowing what this gift means to others.  One recipient had waited several years for an organ transplant.  He was about to be removed from the waiting list.  Caleb’s gift was a reprieve for that man and for his loving family.


A few years ago I had the joy of speaking at the Arizona Organ Donor Family gathering.  I looked into the teary eyes of other donor family members as well as the eyes of grateful recipients.  I saw people who had a second chance at life.  I saw people who in their darkest hour, found the courage to share. 


I encourage people to become part of the organ donor family.  I am so grateful to that individual who pulled us aside and asked us to give. 


Do not wait to let your  frineds and family know that you want to be an organ donor.  Be vocal.  Sometimes, friends and family do not find out untill too late that they can make this great gft.  Sometimes they are so overwhelmed with their grief they cannot make ratinal choices.


And sometimes, no one even asks.


This decision has been a great comfort to me and it has enhanced the lives of the recipients and the people who love and live with them.


On this anniversary day, I choose to remember how Caleb’s life continues on in the bodies of others. 


·         Sunday, 24 February 2008 – Peace Corps Week Begins!

Some Peace Corps Humor…

This was in the Friends of Ukraine Yahoo Group e-mail…not sure where it originated, but it is kind of funny!


Peace Corps Week is right around the corner! February 25-March 3! Woo-hoo!

Stumped for ways to bring the world back home? Use this handy-dandy Top 10 List... Complete all 10 and you can get 1,000  CFA, pesos, rupees, or other under-valued currency of your choice :)

10. Tattoo your country's flag (and country of service flag too) on your bicep. Sexy and educational!

9. Rock music from your country of service EXTRA LOUD on your I-POD and educate your fellow commuters.

8. Go to work in host country dress.

7. Present to your local school/ Scout Troop/church group/nursing home/VFW/Moose Lodge/Knights of Columbus/Eagles/Toastmasters/

6. Show your Peace Corps photos to one person who hasn't seen them before.

5. Translate the phrase "Yes We Can" into your host country language. Post a related video on YouTube.

4. Make your favorite host country meal and take it to work. Everyone loves a free lunch.

3. Have a couple of friends over for the beverage ceremony of your service country. Bonus points for Eastern Europe volunteers who serve home distilled beverages.

2. Ask a non-family member to find your country of service on the map.

1. Spend the whole week starting every sentence with "When I was in Peace Corps." Of course, this would be no different from any other week of your life.



·         Saturday, 23 February 2008 – My Grandson's 15th Birthday!

A favorite memory of mine…

…is how we spent the evening before our grand grandson was born.  What follows is the short version of that special day. 


We had arranged a birthday party for Caleb, our long-haired, gentle, high school-aged son. When the phone rang saying Moriah was headed to the hospital to have the baby, pandemonium broke loose.  We dropped almost everything, piled into the car and raced off to the hospital, as any first-time grandparents are likely to do. 


The family and friends that would have, should have, been gathering in our house to celebrate Caleb's big day, were now all squeezed into the tiny waiting room. 


In a matter of moments though the hospital waiting room became a birthday party venue.  Someone had the presence of mind to bring the big pan of chocolate birthday brownies and the "Happy Birthday" banner.  There were even gifts to open.


Everyone was feeling pretty festive.  There was laughing and joking and in one corner a Scrabble game was in progress.  It was a lively group.


Perhaps we were just a bit too lively because a nurse arrived and politely asked us to leave.


Our revelry was not exactly in keeping with hospital protocols, but the real reason for her request was that the family of another patient was not feeling so festive.  They were there waiting for words of relief.  Someone might be dying. 


Of course we quietly packed up our party and said our goodbyes. 


Our grandson had not yet arrived, but the hospital staff suggested we head for home and return later if events became more urgent. 


And so we did.


It was shortly after midnight when we turned the key to our front door.  We barely stepped inside when the phone rang telling us to come back to the hospital and meet our brand new grandson.


Apparently dear grandson Cameron wanted to allow his Uncle Caleb to have his own birthday so he kindly waited until after midnight to make his long-awaited appearance.


How lucky are we?  Another very special person to celebrate.


And we do. 


Remembering Men’s Day in Ukraine!

The 23rd of February is an unofficial holiday in Ukraine: Men’s Day.  Back when Ukraine was part of the Soviet Union, this day was known as Soviet Army Day.

It is a tribute to all the generations of Soviet soldiers and people who courageously defended the Motherland from invaders.  On Men’s Day, all men - from boys to seniors are congratulated and receive gifts.

This is a prelude to International Women's Day which is celebrated on the 8th of March.

February 23rd is of no real significance in Ukrainian history.  It is borrowed from the Russians (and their history). 

Best wishes for abundance, health, joy, and love to any of my Ukrainian Male friends who may be reading this post!  I lift a toast to you!  8-)



·         Friday, 22 February 2008 – Caleb's Birthday

Starving Grief…Feeding Happiness…

The moon is huge.  The great, golden orb is reluctant to give up the sky and dances across the snowcapped mountains, while behind me the sun prepares to take over the stage.  I turn and look.  The morning sky to the east is pink and golden. 


The air is brisk, the temperatures in the 20's but the feel of springtime is in the air.  So are the birds.  They swoop and glide.  There is much bird-talk.


At the end of the leash in my hand, my impatient companion has her nose to the ground, sniff, sniff, sniffing along.  We loop around and take a long-cut.  We are not eager to head back home. 


As the bright day dawns so thoughts dawn in my head also.  Today is the anniversary of my son's birth.  He would be 32 now.  Except he died just after his 26th birthday.


As I follow along behind the dog, I replay memories of the day he was born and then move on to other stages of his life.  Despite the cold air, I am warm.  Happy memories have that effect.


Of course I wish he had not died.  But must one event define us forever? 


Before my morning walk, I read a Covey quote from "The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People".  It refers to the idea of starving problems and nurturing opportunities.


It may be this way with grief too.


If one clings to sorrow and sadness and all the associated feelings, it is as if we are feeding a small bitter creature who will happily dine and grow, becoming larger and larger and more powerful. 


Better to starve that creature.  Better to cultivate the memories and the joy, retelling the good stories and laughing as you share them. 


Starve grief and feed happiness


I wander back to the house, smiling and grateful for so many things. 


·         Thursday, 21 February 2008

I miss having time to do the things I want to do: journaling for one thing.  Writing and reading and other artsy things I like to play at.


I barely have time to eat and sleep…


Somehow our life in USA is consumed.  The days are so scheduled and the to-do lists get longer and longer.


Our culture pushes us hard and not in the most healthy direction. 


I am fighting the way work bleeds over into personal time.


Life is not about work.


Life is about walking barefoot in the snow, watching the almost full moon and pausing long enough to let a tear of joy slide down your cheek.  It is about staring into the fireplace, holding hands, reading aloud, writing poetry, ironing clothes and enjoying the smells and the heat and the sense of accomplishment.


Life is a good long walk in crisp morning air, it is the feel of hot water and lots of suds as you wash your favorite dishes; it is the scent of fresh laundry; life is listening and eating a little chocolate…it is about the people in our lives…time to sip tea, to linger and laugh…It is writing long letters, sipping wine from a goblet and splashing on lots of cologne and wearing red…and eating waaaaay to much and dancing off the calories (who cares about calories!?!)..


Our experiences in Ukraine (and our years in Spain) make me yearn for this pace…


But now, I must go off to the office…with so many words unsaid, so many thoughts and dreams to explore…people to love and pups o snuggle…sigh…



·         Wednesday, 20 February 2008

My brother-in-law, back in Iowa following his recent Phoenix/Santa Fe vacation, shared this poem below with me – not sure who to credit, but it is pretty accurate.  Yep, this poem reminds me of why I left Iowa (of course summers there are equally bad – 100 degrees and 100% humidity!)  Visiting Iowa?  Go in September or May…then it is a wonderful place!


Iowa Poem


It's winter in Iowa

And the gentle breezes blow

Seventy miles an hour

At twenty-five below


Oh, how I love Iowa

When the snow's up to your butt

You take a breath of winter

And your nose gets frozen shut


Yes, the weather here is wonderful

So I guess I'll hang around

I could never leave Iowa

'Cause I'm frozen to the ground!!



·         Tuesday, 19 February 2008 – Mark's Birthday!

Our House Guest's Depart

We Collapse on the couch, grateful to have our routine back, but happy to have sent time with family. The birthday celebrations are rescheduled till this weekend.


My e-mail in-box fills with warm birthday greetings from so many friends.  Several of our Ukrainian friends send wonderful wishes for Mark.  I forward them all to him.  He smiles and laughs.  Especially a heartfelt note about his “Jubilee” birthday (he’s not quite yet 60!).


It is good to see him smile and laugh.


We open cards and gifts.  More smiles and laughter.


We decide to have a belated celebration at a local Spanish restaurant (El Farol) – a wonderful splurge and one that will recall many memories of our ten years in Spain.


We fall into bed and sleep the sleep of happy people…



Monday, 18 February 2008

It is our choices that show what we truly are,

far more than our abilities.

—J.K. Rowling

A Peace Corps Rant…

Santa Fe is a community where there are many undercover Returned Peace Corps Volunteers (RPCVs).  At first, you may not notice them among the characters who populate the "City Different".  But they are out there teaching school, promoting causes in non-profit organizations, working in the state department, teaching college classes, raising kids, etc.  You cannot really characterize them and sometimes you can be surprised by where you find them and on which side of the political fence they may be on.


One thing is certain, if (or when) the words “Peace Corps” surface, there are generally many interesting stories to share.


This time of year, RPCVs may be a bit more visible.  Why?  Because Peace Corps Week is celebrated the first week of March and RPCVs frequently find ways to share their experiences with a broader audience.


It was on a rainy March night in Michigan that (then Senator) John F. Kennedy made the speech that would go on to change the lives of thousands (millions?) of people around the world.


The idea was simple and effective.  Volunteers simply lived and worked among people in different cultures around the world.  They arrived, assessed the situation they found themselves in and then found ways to contribute their skills and talents to make the world a better place.


While the PCVs projects may have been effective and sustainable (or not), people's lives were changed by simply living side by side and observing what each brought to the table.  PCVs learned as many lessons (maybe more) than they shared with those around them.  This simple idea is still effective and each year thousands of Americans volunteer to serve.


There is a huge pool of RPCVs scattered around the USA.  They are a valuable resource to teachers and community leaders here in America.  They can speak to students in geography and world cultures classes; they can share lessons on language and on service before self. They can speak to issues of diversity, poverty, discrimination, equality, and other moral and ethical dilemmas not to mention health and social issues.


Many RPCVs actively pursue the third goal of Peace Corps: bringing their personal stories and experiences back to share with friends, family and the public. 


Other RPCVs become buried in the mundane activities and challenges of life in contemporary America.  They fail in their duty ad privilege to share.


I wish our educators and leaders would cultivate this amazing resource.  I wish our RPCVs would be more proactive in giving back to their American communities.


The Peace Corps experience is powerful.  It affects not only the volunteer, but the extended family as well…yet so many RPCVs simply return to the USA, assume a job and gravitate back to business as usual in modern day America. 


I wonder what would happen if we channeled our energy and put it into service, fulfilling President Kennedy's vision by actively and enthusiastically sharing our experiences. 


We fail to complete the task if we do not take the initiative and share what we have learned. 


It should not be a passive experience, but an active giving back


Where does all that idealism go?  How is it that RPCVs can seem so selfish and unresponsive? 


Sunday, 17 February 2008

Drive to Chimayo to dine



Saturday, 16 February 2008

Yard Sales and Touring Model Homes



Friday, 15 February 2008

The Georgia O'Keefe Museum & Palace of the Governors



Thursday, 14 February 2008 – Valentine's Day!

I awake to find myself hugging a fluffy white bear.


"Hug me tighter" he says, "Tighter, tighter, Tighter toooo tight!" he continues as I open my eyes and stare at him with a puzzled look on my face.


The talking fuzzy bear continues to chatter away, but the sound I hear is my sweet husband saying, “Happy Valentine's Day!"


And there is a big heart-shaped box of chocolate-covered caramels – dark chocolate and they are all mine!


The day is just beginning…Happy Valentine's Day indeed!  


CALEB Library Project

Last year, we sent this postcard out from our Peace Corps site in Ukraine.  It was in lieu of a Valentine. 


CALEB Library (Contributing to Africa’s Literacy and Education with Books) is named after our son, Caleb.  We encourage you to send gently used books to rural northern Malawi. The project started as a memorial to our son, and in this anniversary month (22 Feb 1976 – 25 Feb 2002) we hope friends and family will keep the momentum going! 


To find out more, go to my home page and follow the links to CALEB Library Project. 


Unfortunately, US Postal Service rates have almost quadrupled since last year.  Media mail is about $4 a pound now!  This makes sending used books a more expensive prospect, but it also means that your gift is more greatly appreciated.


Wednesday 13 February 2008

Forget the Tea – We Sip Tall Gin and Tonics and Talk all Night!

Last night, we stayed up late visited, our conversation lubricated by tall, cool adult beverages. 


This morning we struck out to visit my brother-in-law's nephew. 


Later we met downtown and ended the day lingering over dinner at the Zia Diner. 



Tuesday, 12 February 2008

House Guests Arrive – Busy Week Ahead!

My sister and her husband will arrive today.  They are at the midpoint of a happy vacation that found them at the Renaissance Faire in Phoenix.  They will have tales to tell. 


We will drink too much coffee.  When members of my family gather, we tend to converge in the kitchen and sip coffee (my sister, the rogue, sips tea). 


On the whole, we do not site-see well either.


We like to simply visit.  We talk about nothing.


We will play Scrabble.


Life is simple.


Simple is good.


Life is good.



·         Thursday, 7 February 2008 – Gung Hay Fat Choy!

Happy Chinese New Years!

My daughter is a rat…I mean that in the kindest way!

This is Year of Rat!  Rats are busily pursuing personal goals.  They are ambitious and are known as one of the hardest-working signs.  Rats can expect to overcome recent setbacks or obstacles.  They can look forward to a year in which they really shine personally or professionally.


I am a snake

That means, I am romantic, wise, strongly intuitive, but also a bit Vain, and stingy when it comes to money


Some famous people who are also snakes include: Musician Dizzy Gillespie, TV and radio personality Dick Clark, author J.K. Rowling, actress Sarah Jessica Parker, actor Charlie Sheen

Fu - the Chinese word for 'luck'



·         Wednesday, 6 February 2008

Slow Dancing to my February Blues…

There are so many happy events in February, yet, there is a shadow over them all.  I look toward the sun, yet, over my shoulder, I feel the darkness growing, casting a shadow…a chill spreads.


Today, a co-worker invited me to consider the prospect of being a grief councilor for young people.  The invitation appeals to me.  I think I have something to share.  It took me by surprise though. 


It may be what I need.  It may be something I can give…I can find and share joy, in a situation that can seem joyless…


How could she know what a gift she offered to me?


“Freely you have received, freely give…”


(Google www.gerardshouse.com for details)


Thinking of Caleb – Feb 1976-Feb 2001


(Visit Chris & Dagmar Radloff’s blog – Google it…)


·         Tuesday, 5 February 2008 – Super Tuesday & Fat Tuesday

Ukrainian Traditions…Blini-Fest!

If this Tuesday is not already grand enough, we could be celebrating Maslenitza too well, actually, the orthodox calendar is different than what we follow in USA, but hey, I say, let’s honor diversity and I love pancakes


Boris Mikhailovich Kustodiev’s Shrove Tuesday Pancake feast!



Actually, in 2008 Maslenitza week passes from March, 3 till March, 9th. (Orthodox Church Calendar.) but by our calendars, today is the day!


Maslenitza, which translates, roughly, to Pancake Day, lands on the Tuesday before Russian Orthodox Lent begins. Russians, Ukrainians and other Slavic cultures cook up a stack of blini - big, round crepes that symbolize the return of the sun.

Traditionally blini are served with caviar, herring (yes, herring) or salmon, sour cream and butter or maybe condensed milk.  Activities are outdoors and there is folk dancing, singing, and, as usual, there's vodka, lots of vodka.  Locals will tell you - vodka helps neutralize the fats and it is necessary with such a meal


During this pre-Lenten indulgence, no one eats meat, but they gorge on lots of butter, cheese, sour cream, and, of course, lots of pancakes.  Lent follows Maslenitza.  Lent is the strict and long - it continues 7 weeks.


During Lent, people eat no fat or meat.  There are few entertainments. Life is bleak.  People work hard, pray and cleanse their soul.


Who cares about elections and politics?  Suddenly I have an urge for a Denny’s Grand Slam with pancakes, eggs and lots of bacon on the side!  (BYOV of course!)…mmmmmmmmm…What a great tradition!


·         Monday, 4 February 2008

A 2-Hour Snow Delay

How do I spend this extra 2 hours of my life?  I indulge in the magic of the mundane. 


I wash the dishes in my bright kitchen, enjoying the multiple sensations of hot water and the scent of soap, the splash of water, the rainbows that appear if one pays attention.  Miss Zia watches, tail thumping on the floor as I sing a few lines of a favorite song.  She cocks her head and her eyes follow me as I work (or is it play?).


 I listen to the radio, feeling the brief pleasure of being a lady of leisure – a woman who can pick and choose the events of her day.  At least for the next hour or so.


Soon I will be off to the business world, trying to focus on numbers and consequences, strategies and plans…but I will have pleasant memories of a couple hours of grace, here in my own kitchen.


E-Mail Excerpt…

Feeling philosophical...no, feeling content (not complacent...)


Visit this site (link above) and enjoy a little window into each day of this person's life...a small daily ritual


I like this idea...take time to log a drawing, a collage, a painting, a caricature, a photo, a poem, lyrics, a prayer ...it is not about art, it is about living...  I want to walk the pilgrimage route across northern Spain on the Camino de Santiago de Compostela...it means thousands of steps each day (approx 20-22 kilometers a day for 31 days).  Is that art? 


Is life art?  Perhaps...



On a 2 Hour Snow Delay Today, with Expectations of More Snow Tonight


More Monday, 4 February 2008

Friday’s commute home & Monday’s Commute in Caught me off Guard!!

My usual leisurely commuting time is somewhere around 10 minutes most days.  Yes, it is wonderful to have such a short, stress-free commute. Even on a bad day it is nothing like my daily crazy drive during our Boston years or the scary, snowy 40 minute trip to base from Marquette Michigan to name a few of the more challenging commutes I’ve been obliged to tackle.


Friday I was caught totally off guard.  I mad the turn on Rodeo Drive shortly after 5 PM Friday and spent most of an hour trying to go the last mile and a half.  It finally dawned on me that the chaotic traffic conditions (unaided by any traffic police) were not due to an accident, but rather due to political campaigning.  Senator Obama was speaking at the SF Community College, which is near our humble home.


Over 5,200 people gathered to hear him speak. Thousands more were turned away at the door.  And all of them traveled on this stretch of the road. 


What kind of cars to Senator Obama supporters drive?  It appears they drive large gas-burning vehicles and they seem to think the laws are just suggestions…or so one might surmise from the traffic mess I was trapped in.


I was the only vehicle to turn off Richard’s Road…everyone else stayed in a long, slow-moving line to the community college.


Monday’s AM commute was a mess too.  Bad weather forced the community college to close and public schools to delay opening by two hours.  At 10AM, the road I sat on for an hour on Friday going the opposite directions was at a standstill again.  Snow was coming down and I considered just going back home again.  If the temperatures drop this wet snow will be treacherous ice. 


But where did all this traffic come from on this Monday morning.  I have traveled this route on other snow-delay days at this same hour.


I am safe and dry and warm, sipping coffee here in the office…hoping for a

real snow day on Super Tuesday/Fat Tuesday


·         Sunday, 3 February 2008

Repeat of Last Sunday - Reading Camino Blogs

We woke to a fresh blanket of snow. 


Now late in the day, the fat snowflakes drift down again.  Inside I consider how lovely it will be if we have a snow day tomorrow (one of the perks of living in snow country).  It is too soon to say, but the forecast looks promising.


I’ve spent the day immersed in reading blogs, journals and websites on the Camino de Santiago.  I want to do this.  I want to set a date, to make it more real…


September seems the best month of the year to undertake this wonderful adventure, but that does not fit in with my responsibilities.  My VISTA position expires in November so 2008 does not look feasible. 


The trip is about 500K – at about 20K a day, I need about 30 days plus transportation to and from Spain. 




I remind myself NOT to outline things.  Just trust that “right motives give pinions to thoughts” (MBE).  Know that things have a way of unfolding if one remains open to opportunities.


In my experience, many unlikely things have become realities.


So, I will enjoy the process…like the actual journey itself, it comes to fruition step by step by step.


A philosophical post...about annoying people (they are everywhere!)...

Love means to love that which is unlovable, or it is no virtue at all.

- G.K. Chesterton

I read the Camino blog entry below this post and scribbled down the following observation (which I posted online for potential PCVs to discuss).  We all come to this (Peace Corps) adventure from different backgrounds and with expectations...This woman's experience seems typical and worth considering, particularly for people heading off to be a Peace Corps Volunteer.


It is interesting how one expects a certain idealism or altruism to dominate the personality-type of those who participate in such activities.  Peace Corps Volunteers (or pilgrims) are often disturbed by the attitudes of the other volunteers…other people often seem to somehow “not measure up”…in reality we are all wrestling our own demons.


That annoying person can teach us a lot about our own character.


FYI: I have heard that Mother Theresa and other notorious do-gooders have rather “difficult” personalities…maybe because their sense of mission makes them more intense, more direct. 


I often say - “Being pleasant and cheerful all the time is not easy...It’s easy to be a jerk!"  Being kind, proactive and responsive (rather than reactive and snarky) is a talent worth developing. 


Excerpt from "Before the Camino" - a blog


"..Before going on the Camino I thought that I would meet new and interesting people, and I did. I also discovered that the same type of people that annoy me at home annoyed me on the Camino


For some reason I had thought that the type of people that annoyed me were particular to my country and society. I found on the Camino that they were universal. I was disappointed and naive. No matter where I went the people were generally the same and fell into the usual categories.


This meant I had to change my outlook. If the same people were always going to annoy me what could I do about it? I don’t like to feel annoyed so something had to be done.


My solution was to act and treat the people that annoyed me differently. Instead of trying to ignore them or get away from them as fast as possible I spent more time with them. An extra 10 seconds, an extra minute – this was something that I had to do slowly. I could not expect too much of myself in the beginning.


As I got to know them I cared, they still annoy me, but now I care at the same time and the balance seems to work for me...."


·         Saturday, 2 February 2008 – Groundhog’s Day

I suspect the local groundhogs are not afraid of their shadows…the sun shines brightly down on NM almost everyday of the year.


People raised here really have no way of understanding the gloom and grey of a winter in other parts of the USA.  Gray clouds do not linger long.


On this fine day, there is a snowstorm in the forecast, but the first half of our lazy Saturday is almost warm (48 degrees). 


We drive into the mountains to Espanola.  My mission is to explore the weaving and fiber arts workshop there.   I am happy as a child with a chocolate ice cream cone on a hot day as I wander around this wonderful shop.  Beautiful woven items are for sale and hundreds of fiber arts books and colorful yarns line the wall.  In the back room women weave and make baskets and laugh too.  The women running the store indulge me as I babble on about my weaving experiences.  Mark patiently indulges me too.


I emerge from the shop a few hours later, carrying a stack of times and smiling happily. 


As we head back down to Santa Fe, grey clouds crud the sky and the snow threat starts to look like it may be real.


·         Friday, 1 February 2008

People seem to lose their eyesight as they age – does this allow them to blunt the sharp corners of life.  Does hazy vision allow people to not see the flaws that sharper eyes fix on?  (Or to look past the flaws to see the things that really matter?)


As our faculties become less sharp, we also become less critical and more accepting. 


Many young people I meet or interact with seem so critical and so ready to find fault.  They seem trapped, unable to believe in the good of other people, incapable of not ascribing ill-motives to the actions of others. 


Is it a blessing to lose acuity and be able, at last, to look at the heart and not the mundane details of a face?  I think it is.


All this superficial mortal stuff really impairs our spiritual vision.







FYI: If you want to read about our

Peace Corps Ukraine adventures,

start with January 2005 - May 2007.


Now we are in AmeriCorps/VISTA adventures

Right here in Santa Fe, in the USA!

Life is good!