Monday, October 30, 2006

A few tidbits

Not much today to report on today. The above left image is one from last evening, just a minute or so before the sun went completely down. The above right is our Vivvy, definitely being her normal self today, posing nicely as the guardian (or perhaps the devourer, more appropriately) of all that is salmon.

Last week, Elise got a tutorial on making bread loaves. Today was her first attempt on her own. And here is the completion. At least from the outside they look good. I guess we'll have to slice into it to see if they are good all the way through. A bit like some people, perhaps.

Elise has now completed 6 of 14 units in the RN refersher course. So assuming success in the remaining units, she may be done with the textbook portion in just a few more weeks. What then remains is for various paperwork bits to be processed to get her provisional license to begin the clinical portion of the course.

Today, I got my graduation certificate from New York Institute of Photography. So I now have a piece of paper that says I am a photographer.

Okay, so I may have been wrong about not much to write about. We saw our first few snow flurries this afternoon. Here are Amy and Shelley seeing if they can catch any. They were so small and few that they don't appear in the picture. You'll just have to trust me that the flakes are indeed falling.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Frosty Days

The past few days have seen clear days and nights and as a result, the temperature has dropped considerably. Daytime highs are only in the mid to upper 30's with nighttime lows in the low 30's. The upshot is that the north-facing yards have been frosty and icy all day. The photo to the left was taken late this afternoon. On casual glance it looks almost like snow. The forecast says we should be warming up a few degrees later this week as another front moves in with the clouds. But we may see our first snow and rain mix down here as early as this week.

There was a total of eight of us at church yesterday. Elise couldn't make it because the semi-annual CPR class was being held during the same time. So Shelley was asked to lead the songs at the start of Sabbath School. I think this is the first time she's ever done that all by herself.

During our adult Sabbath School class, we never got past the first text -- Genesis 3:15. It's the one that reads (KJV):

And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel.
There were four of us that spent an hour discussing what this verse is supposed to be saying. All of us know what we were taught it is supposed to mean -- that it's a prophetic promise to the Messiah -- but that's only because we understand it with the benefit of the entire historical record that we have.

I think the other problem is that the text is often quoted by itself, so that we don't really think about who it was spoken to. And so when we begin to analyze the words, we can get confused by the object of the thee/thy/thou (you/your). I think that we sometimes come to assume that this was spoken to Adam and Eve, when in reality it was spoken to the serpent with the man and woman simply listening in.

And what is enmity and how is it a good thing as given in this text? What does seed really mean? When Jesus was crucified, he died. So wasn't it more than just a bruise on the heel? In the KJV the word bruise is used in both instances, so wouldn't both eventually recover?

The result was that we explored multitudes of different ways of approaching an understanding of this text and discovered how to make it meaningful for us, today. I wonder how much we simply assume to be true without truly understanding it? I wonder how much we rely on simply being told, rather than working through it ourselves? I wonder how much we miss by being afraid to open up our assumptions to discussion? I wonder how much we lose when we shut down honest questions because we already "know" the "correct" answer?

On to a completely different topic, I spent about 3 hours in the kitchen on Friday preparing my first Indian yellow curry from scratch, together with some Naan. I used tofu instead of chicken in the curry. Overall I was pleased with the result.

Sometime Saturday morning (I think it was early, early morning), our cat, Vivvy, scared herself. We had just gotten a new feather teaser cat toy in a package from Petco. She loves these feather toys. I had stuck it into one of the boots up on our shoe rack before going to bed Friday. My guess is that in the middle of the night, Vivvy tried to grab the feather and with it the boot came tumbling down onto her. I found the boot and the toy on the floor in the morning.

The poor kitty was scared out of her fur. After returning from church, I brought the toy into her presence, and immediately, she dived underneath the bed and would not come out. That was when I made the connection between the toy, the boot, the floor, and guessed at what probably had happened.

Vivvy was even terrified of a length of green yarn. She would have nothing to do with it. I placed her on top of some boxes and immediately she climbed all the way to the top. When I brough the feather toy near her again, she backed up, hissed, and went even further back into a corner.

So it was time to put on my kitty-psychologist hat and work on some desensitization. I spent the rest of the afternoon and evening working on desensitizing her. I brought out the old feather toy and used that to help her get adjusted to the whole concept of feather toys being a good thing. From there we slowly worked onto the toy that caused her fright. At the end of the evening she still wasn't too sure about the toy. She was also terrified of the living room and kitchen areas. When I brought her out, I would have to clutch her tightly, and when I let her go, she would bolt back to the bedroom and make her way high on the boxes.

Before our move, Elise bought some synthetic cat hormones that are supposed to give them "happy feelings" and calm them down. So I sprayed much of the house with it. And then we went to bed. Vivvy moved down to our bed in the middle of the night.

In the morning I tried the toys and bringing her out of the bedroom again. She was again unsure about all this. But progress was being made. After a couple of hours and multiple sessions with the toys and bringing her out of the bedroom, she finally got comfortable enough to voluntarily wander out of the bedroom.

This evening, I think Vivvy has mostly returned to her usual self. I saw her approaching the "evil" cat toy and sniffing it (instead of running from it), she has snuck nibbles from the grated cheese in the kitchen, and she is simply acting more like the Vivvy we know.

So that's been our adventure the last few days. With daylight savings now ended, our sunrise is about 7 a.m. and sunset is just past 4 p.m. Here is a bit of the sunset that we can see. This was taken yesterday.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Thursday, October 26, 2006

The clouds did break today

After I had about given up, the clouds broke for a little while towards evening to let the sun through and light up the nearby hills across the Narrows. So here are a couple of photos showing the fresh snow at the top of the hills.

Settling into a routine

We've been here nearly five weeks now, and we have settled into more or less a routine. Each week, on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday I spend a couple of hours at the church doing things such as janitorial duties, putting together the coming Sabbath's programs and bulletin, reading articles from Leadership Journal and Adventist Review, and the various little administrative tasks of keeping a church functioning. I nearly always walk to the church (although once it gets icy and snowy, we'll see what happens), about 20 minutes, and possibly stop at one of the stores along the way or the bank to do some small errands. Elise stops by around 1 p.m. to pick me up, go to the Post Office to pick up the mail, and then return home for a late lunch.

Sundays or Mondays are my day off. I like to take Sundays off, but if I end up doing some task on Sunday, I'll try to take most of Monday off. I need that to recover from Sabbath duties.

Mondays and Fridays are my sermon preparation days. On Monday I take a broad pass over the material I plan to speak on during the coming Sabbath and jot down the main themes that I want to get across. That way as I go through the week I'm able to be alert for thoughts and ideas that will help develop the themes. On Fridays I go back over all the notes I've jotted down and arrange them into a sermon.

Our Sabbath School teacher has been unable to attend for a few weeks due to injuries. And it doesn't look like he will be able to come for a few more weeks, at least, so I've also been leading the Sabbath School lessons. So I use Fridays to prepare for that as well.

Wedneday evening is our prayer meeting. We just started reading and discussing a book by Jon Dybdahl, A Strange Place for Grace. (Perry, if you're reading this, I didn't choose it just to copy you.)

Thursday is grocery shopping day for Elise. To cut down on our grocery bill (quite important with groceries costing quite a bit more than in the lower 48 which has warehouse grocers like WinCo and Costco), she picks up the weekly local paper in the morning and then plans out the week based on the advertised specials.

As far as the kids, school starts at 9 a.m. each morning. They have a weekly list of assignments that they are required to complete. They choose when to do each one, but at the end of the week, they are expected to complete everything on the list. Whenever they are done with the items for the day, they're done. Sometimes this happens early in the day. At other times, they seem to drag it out for as long as they can.

This past Tuesday morning we had a little suprise. A lady from town stopped by wanting to get some grade school transcripts translated. Somewhere she had learned that there was a new Japanese person in town who might know both Japanese and English. She had spent a few years in Japan with her family. She has a couple of boys who went to school there, and the school here needed the transcripts. She is from a Vietnamese-Korean heritage and she is married to a Japanese man, but he apparently doesn't read Japanese. She was able to figure out most of the transcripts, but some of the teachers' written comments were beyond any of them. So I spent about half an hour translating the comments for her. She works at the Petersburg Fisheries, one of the canneries, where they are currently processing crabs and sea cucumbers. They also process various types of roe, most of which are shipped to Japan.

I never did find the other ministers yesterday. I need to call another one up and find out exactly when and where they meet.

The cooler weather it starting to come in. Yesterday morning after we had quite a bit of rain down at sea level, the clouds broke up a bit so that I could see some of the hills around us. There was snow at the tops of them, probably above 1,000 feet or so. I saw some today as well, but the clouds have been much more stubborn today. I had hoped they would go away for a little while so that I could catch a few photos, but they are not cooperating today.

According to the forecast, the low temps are supposed to continue lowering for the next week so that we should be seeing low 30's and possibly even some 20's by the middle of next week. We could possibly see a few snowflakes at sea level, although the forecast is for clearer skies.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Surprise package

When Elise and I stopped at the Post Office to pick up today's mail, there were two packages waiting for us. One we had expected. It was some electric hair clippers that we had ordered, plus more clothing for padding that Elise's mom sent. With haircuts running $20 or more, it made sense to purchase the clippers and learn how to use them.

The other package was a complete and total surprise. Elise read the return address and saw that it was from my sister. All the (very short) trip back home, we were wondering what in the world it was. It was quite heavy, yet also quite squishy. The box was from an electric hot-water pot but we didn't think it was that.

Upon getting home we opened the packages. The package from my sister contained a variety of food stuffs -- Japanese, Thai, pasta, sauces and condiments. All in all a nice and very welcome addition to our pantry. Our kids went straight for the bags of Japanese gummy candies and the Pocky's.

The I.D.E.A. homeschool organization flew in a couple of staff into Petersburg for two days. Elise met with them last night, and the kids are having workshops today. Amy went to a workshop to learn about Australia this morning, and then both Amy and Shelley went to a science workshop this afternoon. This evening there will be a math workshop with ice cream sundaes afterwards.

When we lived in Portland we thought the weather was changeable, but nothing like it is here. It can go from pouring rain to sun in a matter of minutes, and then change back again just as quickly. We haven't yet had a freeze since our arrival, but that should change in another week or two as we head into November.

I spoke with the Lutheran pastor who is just one week old in Petersburg. He arrived from Beaverton, Ore. The Bible Church pastor's wife that we met this summer grew up in Tigard, Ore, on Bull Mountain -- around where we lived. Coincidence or fate...? I'm told that tomorrow morning the ministers get together at the local (only?) coffee shop in town for a bit of socializing. I hope that the Java Hüs is the right location.

I also spoke with our real-estate broker today and as we feared, the housing market is pretty much dead in Portland right now. Although price appreciation continues, there are no buyers to be had -- sort of a stagflation in the real-estate market. We really don't have much choice other than to sit and wait it out. We've already reduced our price to below 90% of the competition, and our broker continues to market the property. So for whatever reason unknown to us, the property simply isn't selling or even generating much interest. So we will continue to hold fast and pray (which is a lot easier said than done) until God sees fit that the property sells.

Monday, October 23, 2006

A walk through the muskeg

There was a break from the rain and the sun came through for a few hours yesterday (Sunday) morning. Elise took a break from the things she was doing and went out for a walk a short ways up Hungry Point Trail. The trail begins just about a quarter mile from our apartment and goes another half mile or so up to the ball field.

After Elise returned I took my camera with me to see what was up there. We've been here a month, but I had never walked this trail. You can see below a few samples of the sights and sounds that I experienced. The trail is packed gravel on muskeg. But even then there were quite a few spongy spots along the way. Good, waterproof rubber boots or hiking boots are a requirement for walking the trail -- unless, of course, you enjoy soggy feet.

What is muskeg? You can go to this US Forest Service page to find out more. Basically it is sphagnum moss and water that continue to pile on top of one another, with some other dead organic material, until the whole pile can be more than 30 feet in depth. You can see below a sample of the colorful sphagnum moss. There is very little in the way of nutrients in muskeg so very few real plants are able to grow in it. The places where trees and other plants do grow are typically the shallower areas where the roots are able to find their way into real soil.

Along the way there was a little forested area where at the edge I found five or six Stellar's Jays making their home. They would fly out of the tree canopies out to the open muskeg to forage, and then fly back into the trees.

Taking advantage of the weather, I encountered quite a few others on the trail -- most with their dogs. I said "Hello" to a pomeranian, to what appeared to be a German Shepherd, and another four or five little dogs. One of them has a uncharacteristically low, deep growl -- something I would expect from a very large dog rather than one that was about a foot long and six inches tall.

More photos are at Most recent images are towards the end of the page.

On my way back I got a call from Elise saying that we needed to go help clean up a kitchen. The original plan for Sunday was to do that in the morning, but we had a call saying we didn't need to come. Once the people who went to help got to the site and started working on it, they discovered it was a monumentally larger job than was estimated (by a factor of five or so). So we went there and worked on it for another four hours or so, scraping, scrubbing, washing.

The Tualatin church had Communion service this last Sabbath. I was thinking about how long it might be since the Petersburg group held a Communion service. Part of what the Adventist church does as part of Communion is foot-washing as we believe that it is an important part of the example Jesus left for the disciples during the Last Supper.

I was also thinking how meaningless and almost farcical the whole ritual of foot-washing has become in light of our experiences and culture. If it's supposed to be a reminder of how we are commanded to serve one another, it's really lost its thrust. As I was thinking again about holding Communion in Petersburg, I realized that the Petersburg church group doesn't need reminders or lessons in serving one another -- they do it all the time. It's done in ways that are real, meaningful, and serves a practical purpose. The Petersburg group doesn't need symbolic reminders. They are living it in their real lives.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Sermon audio for October 21

We had ten in attendance today, including our family. This audio is my adaptation of the sermon, Surely, supplied by the EGW Estate.

Technological marvels

Here in Petersburg, there is no Best Buy, Circuit City, Fry's, and other electronic speciality retailers. We do have a Radio Shack occupying a corner of the "department store." And the other hardware store also sells a few common consumer electronics.

We also don't have a big pet store like PetSmart or Petco. There's a feed store about 7 miles out of town. One of the hardware stores stocks some basic pet supplies from cats and dogs to fish and reptiles. The city's vet died a little while back.

So the town isn't exposed (or perhaps overexposed) to the latest in various gadgets and gizmos as happens in a larger city or a more physically connected area. The 2-year old BlackBerry(TM) device I use is a relative novelty, even though the cell providers around here do offer it. It's been called the BlueBerry or HuckleBerry on more than one occasion.

The star of the show has got to be our Litter-Robot automatic cat litter device. Even the (compared to the Litter-Robot) rather inferior LitterMaid(TM) and similar products are uncommon enough that cat owners are relatively unaware of them. And so the oohs and aahs heard when the Litter-Robot is demonstrated is perhaps a bit like that exclaimed by someone experiencing a personal computer for the first time.

I'm not trying to make this town sound like the backwaters, because it isn't. For a price, or with enough searching, just about anything can be had. It's just that when a town is isolated like this, I think that people by necessity become self-sufficient with the resources that are readily and commonly available, and it becomes difficult to imagine anything different or, perhaps, better (though in many cases, "progress" is not always better).

Maybe there's a lesson here for all of us. Maybe it's that we should be careful about getting so inward focused, whether on ourselves or in groups that we commonly associate, that we forget that there is a world outside of us and that once in a while, we could learn something by taking the time to observe what is going on outside of our comfort zones. Just a thought...

I think the source of our moisture problem may have been identified, or at least a very strong culprit identified. Gerry and Deloris dropped by for a visit last night. (They saw in passing that we had our door open -- the reason was to let the cool air in -- and so they just stopped by to say hello.) We chatted a while and learned that construction here typically doesn't use vapor barriers underneath. What results then is that the moisture that collects -- inevitable given the conditions -- eventually gets absorbed by the floor and moves up into the interior. So we concluded that this is what is happening with our apartment and being in the ground floor. Gerry told us that many houses have one to two feet of standing water under the buildings. Ick!

Friday, October 20, 2006

A little taste of India

I'll get to the India part shortly...

My day was spent mostly accomplishing a number of church-related tasks. As this Sabbath is Spirit of Prophecy and Heritage Sabbath, I adapted the supplied sermon to mold it to fit better into the direction I see our church going. I then looked at ordering some business cards and stationery, but after seeing the prices (i.e., we can't afford it) and finding a document with guidelines for what they are supposed to look like (e.g., meaurements, colors, fonts) I spent a couple of hours putting those together. And then I spent some time preparing to teach the Sabbath School lesson in the morning.

Elise has now successfully passed the first two of fourteen units in her RN refresher course. She appeared quite tired after a whole week of studying for her class, teaching our kids their schoolwork, and other daily duties.

This afternoon Shelley rode her bicycle into town all by herself. Coming from a large-ish urban area (Portland metro), naturally we (I think Elise in particular) has some concern about letting children go out and about by themselves. But here, all the kids go hither and yonder with really no cares or worries. Shelley's destination was the library where she found another book to bring home.

About a week ago, Elise borrowed an (Asian) Indian cookbook from the library. I've been going through it noting recipes that I want to try. This evening I decided that I could try my hand at baking some Naan (flat bread). So I put together all the ingredients -- milk, yeast, sugar, baking powder, salt, yogurt, egg, flour, oil -- and baked some. Elise put together a relish of tomatoes, cilantro, onions, and roasted cumin; and also cooked a pot of lentils. It all came together quite well, and we all enjoyed the meal. I enjoyed the little bit of exotic taste and a change from pasta, beans, rice, and tortillas that have been pretty much our mainstay since our arrival.

The Aurora forecast for this weekend is very high. It's too bad that the weather forecast is calling for clouds and rain throughout.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Misty Sunset

Today was another one of those cloudy, rainy, drizzly days... Until this evening, that is. The clouds broke apart, the sun peeked through, and provided some stunning plays on contrast.

Here are a few images from this evening. The way the mist appeared on the distant hills amidst the trees, it looked almost like snow -- in fact, when Amy saw some of them, she too thought they could be snow. Real snow seems to be a few more weeks away still.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Miscellany - Oct. 18

A few items of interest (well, I thought they were interesting :) from earlier this week that got lost as I was rambling onto other things...

Sunday morning I tried to find an open fueling station. I needed one because I had agreed to help clean up rubbish from a trailer belonging to one of the church members. The trailer had been rented out and was crammed full of junk inside and out after the tenant had left.

I know where a gas station is located, but it was closed (opens at 10 a.m. on Sundays) so assuming this is like the ones in the lower 48, also assumed that the pumps were also closed. I came back on the way to hauling a load to the dump and as I started pumping (first, I noticed that there was no credit card swipe on the pump I used), a sign telling customers that the pumps on the other side take credit cards and are open 24 hours a day. Okay, so another new thing for me to learn...

With three other church members, we spent about 4 hours hauling stuff out to the dump. Later I learned that we hauled off close to 7,000 lbs. And this is just the stuff that was piled up in the carport and its proximity...

On one of the trips to the dump, I came across a couple of deer. I must have startled them because when I noticed them, they were prancing away (just like you see on the roadside signs!). Only one of them headed right for a chain link fence, green at that. And with a WHAM! crashed into the fence, bit the dust, wobbled about stunned and dazed before it managed to get back up and in a non-prancing gait made its way away.

Yesterday we got a package of 15 full-spectrum, daylight (5000 Kelvins), compact flourescent bulbs. Even with extra shipping charges, the per-bulb cost is less than what we can find around here for lower quality bulbs. So now our apartment is brightly lit, and night or day, sunny or cloudy, we have daylight indoors. And we use much less electricity now. I can't fathom why America is so fascinated by the yellow incandescents. I saved a few of the bulbs that I took out to put back in when we move. I had to throw out about half because they were burnt out, or looked so awful (you know how old bulbs seem to dim and yellow) that they were not worth reusing. The only incandescents remaining are the set of globe bulbs that line the bathroom vanity area.

Amy built a plant box several days ago and put in a CF full-spectrum bulb bought locally. Shelley built one yesterday and put a bulb in that I donated to her from the set that I got in the mail. The difference is rather stark. The one from yesterday is nice and white -- the one bought locally has the infamous, ghastly, greenish, typically flourescent hue. And it cost 40% more. Sigh...

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Doing better

It took a few hours, but after pouring out my discouragements and such, I got enough motivation to suit up for a ride on the bike. And then it took another hour or so to work up enough motivation to actually get the bike down, take it outside, and get on it. It was almost like the bright, clear, sunny skies were mocking me... Maybe it was. In any case, I did get out and spent around an hour pedaling -- 30 minutes of it at a very hard pace. And that seemed to clear out some of the fog, cobwebs, and dust that had been collecting over the last few days.

In response to yesterday's posting I got messages from Elise's mom, dad, and my dad. It's encouraging to know that we are not alone in experiencing life's struggles.

All the stresses adding up resulted in tremendous fatigue at the end of the day. I was in bed at 9 p.m. -- the only thing preventing me from actually getting to sleep were some sore muscles from the hard efforts earlier in the day. Elise took care of that by giving them a bit of a massage.

Elise has started her RN license refresher course. She obtained the id/password for the online portion of the course and has begun studying. She is waiting for the textbook to arrive in the mail.

A few months back, during lunch following our worship time at Tualatin, I mentioned to the guest speaker about what we were in the process of going through. I mentioned to him that we were commited to doing this at all costs, even if it meant draining all our savings, investments, and retirement. It was easy enough to say then, but now that that looks closer to reality, it is, in fact, very difficult to accept. With Shelley only five years away from college, and Walla Walla College (soon to be University) costing $20K/year today, how are we ever going to manage that five years from now, I wonder?

Since I didn't get a call yesterday from the place I applied for employment, I assume someone else got the job. I've been thinking about it, and it just seems that employment requiring me to be present during fixed days and hours is going to be in conflict with my primary "job." For example, next January I will need to be at pastor's meetings in Anchorage during the good part of a week. That just won't go over too well with most employers. So maybe it is best that I don't look for a "normal" job. I just don't know.

Monday, October 16, 2006

On possibly being a hypocrite

I am feeling terribly down this morning. I think it is a combination of a whole bunch of negative things just coming together.

Saturday night, it just seemed like my anxiety closet was left open and there was nothing that would shut the door. I drifted in and out of restless sleep all night. Periods of wakefulness worrying about things such as our house not yet selling, about having no steady or reliable income, worrying about not being the right person for what is needed for the church here, and worying about whether or not I made the right decision a month ago. And then my dreams would basically be about the same things. It was a terrible night -- one nightmare after another.

And then there are all the little inconveniences -- if a store here doesn't carry something, I can't just go to the next city down the hhighway -- because there isn't one. It can be ordered in, but that takes time and expense. And many online retailers won't ship to PO Boxes or charge exhorbitant shipping, even for small items. I found that it's cheaper in some cases to have things shipped express to the lower 48, and then have someone there re-ship it up here. It's a different mindset that I need to have to live here, and I worry that maybe I don't have what it takes...

And then I worry about Shelley. It just seems like her attitude towards other people, particularly towards her sister, is getting worse and worse. If Shelley doesn't think something will be fun, or if she doesn't feel like it, she won't do it. I'm told and can recall that I may have been that way around that period of my life, but was it as bad as we are now experiencing with Shelley?

Why does this bug me so much and why do I worry about it so much? I think it is because, right or wrong, I think it reflects on my ability to lead a congregation. If I am unable to manage my own children, who am I to think that I can lead and manage a church? And when others see what my family is really like, I feel that what they see would turn them off. And that adds to my despondency and second-guessing about coming here.

The straw that broke my back this morning was when I saw what happened to one of the orchid plants that we brought up. The cats had been chewing on it for the entire time we'd had it here, but there were still leaves and enough hope for it to possibly recover. But this morning I discovered that the cats had chewed off all of the leaves to just a couple of inches. I still hope that it will recover, but I have virtually no optimism left that it will. I feel like it will just be a matter of time until the plant finds its way into the trash.

And as I think about it, maybe why it was just such a shock is because in many ways I see myself as that orchid. I feel like I've been chewed down to the stumps. When I look at myself today, I don't see much hope of things getting any better. I don't see the light at the end of the tunnel. I just see a downward spiral into the sewer and abyss.

All of my strength seems to have been taken away. I can talk and preach about persevering in difficulties, of placing trust in God and not myself, but when the rubber hits the road, it is so much more difficult to the point of near impossibility. I truly feel like a hypocrite -- I say one thing but am totally incapable of actually putting it into practice...

Saturday, October 14, 2006

"Our" Deer

This afternoon the family of deer that frequents the grazing grounds, that is our apartment's front lawn, came by again and Amy decided that it was time to go have a closer look. Somewhere around 6 to 10 feet seems to be the distance that the deer consider "close enough." (The first two were shot using around a 300mm focal length, so the distance appears much closer than it actually was.)

This morning right before our Sabbath School time, we were talking about the deer. Sheena, a young woman, who recently began attending commented that her response to tourists who exclaim, "Deer!" as they point them out is, "Tree!" because the deer in Petersburg are about as numerous as the trees (perhaps a bit exaggerated, but nonetheless apt). And after a few weeks of seeing so many deer, the response turns into, "Deer! Slow down!"

Deloris then added that when they had moved to the lower 48 and/or on visits there, their children's comments about cows were approximately the same as those made about the deer by those coming up here from the lower 48. It's all a matter of perspective, I suppose.

I hope that as time goes on, I don't lose the sense of wonder that I have about this place. Because if I did, that would be a real shame. So far, there has not been a day that goes by that I haven't been in awe or surprised by something from the book of nature.

Sermon audio for October 14

Today's sermon is based on Philippians 1:12-30. The theme is proclaiming the gospel by living it.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Drying out, finally

It's been four full days since we got our dehumidifier. It's been working hard for 8-12 hours each day. Today it seems to have finally stabilized the indoor relative humidity (RH) level around 40-45%. I had it run for 12 straight hours and when I took out the collection bucket to empty it, it was nearly full -- 2.5 gallons of water collected from the air. I can't figure out where it all comes from. I don't think our cooking and bathing add that much to the air, or does it? My guess is that the carpet and walls were pretty damp and that today it's finally gotten to a somewhat equilibrium point.

Today, for the first time the toilet tank is no longer sweating, and the cold water pipe under the sink is no longer dripping condensation. And for the first time tonight, I noticed that the RH didn't shoot up as soon as the unit was turned off, which was the case the previous three days.

What's really puzzling is that the absolute humidity outside is actually less than what it typically has been inside. So when I open the door and let the outside air (where it's usually raining, RH 95%+) in, the inside RH goes down quite a bit. So whatever is causing the indoor humidity has to be coming from within. If anyone else has some other ideas, I'm curious to find out what other possibilities might exist.

This afternoon I submitted an application for part-time employment at an art gallery and framing shop. It looks like four days a week, six hours per day, at least through the holiday season. We're not yet at a desperate condition, but having a bit of incoming funds to help with the rent or groceries would really help out. Elise probably won't be working until the beginning of next year at the earliest, so it looks like I need to bridge the gap until then. If this doesn't come through, I saw a full/part opening at the local, weekly paper for a pre-pub position doing layouts and such.

If I'm not supposed to have a paying job, then I'm okay with it. At this time, I'm just not sure which way I'm supposed to go with it. It would be nice to have a paying job, but the negative is that it adds to my day and subtracts from the time spent in church related work. We'll see what happens, and I'm okay with however things turn out.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Various topics

There hasn't been a whole lot new the last few days. Here's a pic of Vivvy and her new favorite spot as mentioned in the last posting.

And here is our other cat, Stripey. He's hoping the door will somehow open so that he can enjoy the view and possibly sneak out when we're not looking. This morning he and a deer encountered one another without the benefit of glass in-between. I think Stripey, for a few moments, thought perhaps he was a mountain lion -- starting to stalk the deer that could easily kick a housecat like we throw a bean bag -- even if the housecat is a somewhat large, 16 lbs.

Couple of days ago the girls got a package from Gummy (Elise's mom). Here are a few of the contents.

Elise has enrolled in an RN refresher course with the goal of regaining her license here. When she spoke with the Medical Center HR, it was apparent that they would rather have an RN than to hire her on in some other role. The classroom work can all be done online and takes 120 hours. There is a clinical portion following that takes another 80 hours. So we hope that she can successfully complete this course and that this will allow her to secure work and lighten our financial load.

Speaking of finances, this weekend we are reducing the asking price of our house by $10K. That will bring the price to just below $450K. The goal is to increase exposure to potential buyers by bringing it inside the next lower block of searches. Hopefully this will generate more leads and will lead to a successful sale.

And finally, here is a photo of a young bald eagle that we saw yesterday. He/she/it was on this pole just across the highway. I saw it when I awoke, and it was there when I walked over to the church. It was still there when I returned about 3 hours later.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006


The dehumidifier we ordered three weeks ago finally arrived yesterday. It's been working hard since it got plugged in yesterday, and it's already collected quite a bit of water. We've gotten the indoor relative humidity down to the mid-40's, though when it's turned off the RH goes up into the 50's. But there is hope that after a few more days it will get down in the 40's and can be maintained there. The only thing now is that the unit also produces heat so we are living in a rather tropical environment. Vivvy has found herself a new favorite location -- behind the exhaust of the dehumidifier, where all the nice warm, dry air comes out!

At the Post Office today, I picked up a bicycle storage stand that I ordered a few days ago. So now we are able to store two of the bikes in the kitchen, freeing up a little room in the storage room. Elise discovered that neither of the hardware stores carry big "S" hooks. I was hoping to use them to hang the other bikes up off the floor in the storage area. So I have some wall mount bike hangers on order. Anything to free up a bit more space!

Elise and the girls rode their bikes to the Library this afternoon. It was a great day for that. Elise came back with a bit of a scrape on her elbow. Apparently she fell while trying to slowly go up a hill, following after Amy. (Yes, there is a small rise between our apartment and the city proper.) It doesn't look too bad though.

The living room looks almost like a normal living room now. It also serves as classroom, music studio, my art studio and office, and Elise's office. So as you can imagine, it is still quite crowded.

Pastor Dave Brown was supposed to come over to Petersburg from Wrangell this weekend, but he called me this morning to let me know that it would be best if he stayed in Wrangell. Their church is starting nominating committee time and he believes it best that he be there to make sure things go smoothly as possible and remain that way. He hopes to make it here next week.

The weather has warmed up a bit in the last few days. All the snow that had fallen on the lower mountains has melted away. The rest of the week looks pretty good - warm and relatively dry. But according to the latest forecast, we may be seeing colder weather come in next week.

Monday, October 09, 2006

A Call from Portland

Just now, while starting my preparations for the next sermon, I received a call from a cleaning company in Portland. I think they wanted me to use them to clean the offices at my place of business. Even if I wasn't in Alaska, I really don't think I needed an outside cleaning service... I suppose my home office did get cluttered and dusty at times, but would I have needed someone else to clean for me? Hmm...

Anyway, after I told the caller that I was in Alaska, that she got me on my cell phone, she started asking about what it was like here. I informed her about the weather conditions (mostly cloudy and wet, but a couple days a week can be just absolutely beautiful); the astronomical conditions (days do get shorter in the winter, but not completely dark like it does above the Arctic Circle); the town (a mixture of America's about 40 years ago and modern touches). She asked about how long I would be here (must have thought I was on business or vacation...) and when she heard that I would be here for the foreseeable future, she became curious as to why and what I was doing.

It's interesting that my next sermon is going to on Philippians 1:12-30 and I had just written down some thematic points about living the gospel before preaching it, and how we need to always be on the lookout to recognize opportunities to share the gospel.

I told the caller that I made the move with my family to pastor a church here. That piqued her curiosity even more as she noted that I had previously been in the tech field and how far removed that is from pastoring. So I was able to give my highly-abridged, 30-second story of how I had grown dissatsified with what I was doing, my search for more meaning, and that I believed God had led me here. I ended with telling her I really don't know how things will turn out for us, but we'll see where God continues to lead.

We ended the conversation by her noting that she hears some interesting stories, and that our story is certainly up there. It is my prayer that somehow our brief conversation planted seeds and opened doors for my God to continue His work. And I ask all who read this to continue prayers for us that we may be cognizant of all the opportunities God places before us to live and preach the gospel.

It's interesting how many of these little opportunity vignettes we've had since we entertained serious consideration of making the move here. I sometimes wonder if that's what God intended all along -- the destination is certainly important, but perhaps what happens along the way is even more important.

P.S. I think I'll use this as my sermon illustration!

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Yesterday's posting updated

As promised, yesterday's posting is updated with pictures. For more, you can always go to

Even after multiple rinsings of Amy's socks from yesterday's mud incident, it is still very brown and the water coming from it continues to remain dirty. The socks may be beyond salvage. I'm afraid to see what the boots are like.

Our apartment is looking less like a storage unit and more like a home. I can actually see space between furniture pieces in the living room with enough space to sit on the couch and the chairs!

Saturday, October 07, 2006

B&B (Bed and a boat trip)

We spent Friday once again trying to clear out more space -- this time in our bedroom. By late afternoon we were able to clear up enough to bring in the bed and set it up. And Friday night we were able to sleep in our bed once again for the first time in over three weeks. During those three weeks we were in sleeping bags for all but two of the nights that we spent on the ferry. We haven't been able to completely ditch the sleeping bags though -- we can't find the rest of our bedding, so for now, one of the sleeping bags acts as our comforter/bed spread. There is still sufficient boxes stacked about the room to make life interesting, enjoyable, and adventuresome for our cats.

Sabbath morning we were treated yet again to another wonderful sunrise. Initially there was low fog and only the peaks of the mountains were visible. But as time went by the fog quickly dissipated until the water and the base of the hills appeared. There were enough clouds and mist to keep things interesting. There was a continuous succession of low clouds and mist traveling through the Sound.

Following our Sabbath services, we had a quick lunch and then met the Herbrandsons at South Harbor to go out with them on their boat. We traveled through the Narrows and up Petersburg Creek. The tide was extremely high this afternoon. It was so high that the riverbanks were a few feet under water. Gerry told us that he had never been through this area when the tide was so high, and as a result, we were able to go farther up than he had ever gone before. We did get stuck for a bit on a sandbar, but with a little bit of pushing and shoving, the boat came off. The boat uses jet engines rather than outboard props, so it can travel through very shallow waters. When "stepping" (hydroplaning), it apparently only needs about six inches of water. When it isn't, it needs about ten inches.

After we had turned around, we stopped at a trailhead and started to hike west, but only a few hundred feet in discovered that the trail was a couple of feet under water and we could not get through. So we backtracked and went east. While on this trail, Amy saw what appeared to be a mud puddle just off the wooden planks serving as the trail. We've learned since arriving here that Amy loves rain and puddles even more than the sun and dry ground. When it rains, she goes out. So true to form she (apparently) decided to test out this puddle as she found the siren call of mud puddles irresistible. Unfortunately this was a muskeg pool - which means that even though it looked like there was solid ground just below the surface, the "ground" was just an illusion. Muskeg pools are sometimes known to go many feet below the surface. Fortunately, Amy was able to grab onto the trail plank and only went down as far as about her knees, but not before her boots went below the surface. Plenty of water and mud had to be drained out from her boots, and through the rest of the hike, there was a continous, rhythmic "squish, squish," coming from her direction.

We returned to the boat and set off again towards the harbor. We stopped for a few minutes at a little island, about 30 feet long and 15 feet wide. A number of us scrambled about, but Amy, apparently having had enough adventures and cold feet for the day, decided to have a restful time reclining on the bow of the boat.

Once again we got going and shortly we encountered two sea lions at their dinner table. One was particularly active in catching salmon (probably) and violently swinging it about and tossing it with its neck as it chowed down. Sea gulls flew over to pick up any remains. As soon as one fish was completely eaten, it would dive down in search for another. The gulls would float about and fly around wondering where their dinner disappeared to. A few minutes later the sea lion would pop up with another fish, and the gulls, a few moments later would all take off and swoop over to the new location of dinner.

Saturday afternoon was Petersburg's annual go-cart race. On the way back from the harbor (to get some dry socks and clean clothes for Amy), we came to where they were holding the races and stopped to watch for a few minutes. We saw creatively decorated go-carts, some more suitable to racing than others. There was a team formed around the "Finding Nemo" theme. The go-cart was decorated as Nemo and once the cart crossed the finish line, three other individuals, dressed as other fish came over to push the cart away.

The week of prayer was more successful than I had hoped for. There were four to seven of us that gathered together each night for eight nights. I think this helped us to get to know one another much better than we ever could have during just a regular once-a-week service. Following the meeting we had supper at the church with a few of the members.

On the way home, in the clear sky, we saw the Harvest Moon (well, perhaps a day late but close enough!).

We are now entering the time of year when the Northern Lights (Auroras) make their presence visible. We haven't seen them yet, but hope that we can soon. Tonight would be a great time because the sky is pretty clear.

Sermon audio Oct. 7

This is the first in a series of talks taken from the Epistle to the Philippians. Today's sermon is taken from chapter 1 verses 1-11.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Recycling and Rainbows

Contrary to impressions that may get projected by Alaska, there is some environmental concern, at least in Petersburg. Perhaps that is because Petersburg is on an island and everything that gets thrown out ends up in a very limited area. So there is incentive to reduce the amount of waste that goes into the dump.

Recycling just isn't as convenient as it is in a progressive city such as Portland, Ore. There the regular waste service includes recycling service. Here, there is no such thing. Recyclables have to be taken to bins in the city, and the scrap paper has to be taken to the baler facility. But pretty much all recyclables are handled via these mechanisms.

One thing that isn't handled is yard and garden debris. So what do people do with them? If your property is located near the water, you just dump it onto the rocks and water and let the sun, rain, and tides take care of it. At least that's what I've seen now on two occasions.

And if you're looking for some garden mulch, find some beached seaweed and take it home with you to lay out on the ground. I've been walking to the church and one of the houses I pass by on my way has a little flower bed with seaweed on it, amongst the flowering plants -- something I've not seen until I came here.

One would think that after a while the scenery outside would begin to repeat itself. In some ways, yes, they do. But even though similar, it is never quite the same. We've had on and off showers, sometimes heavy today, and during one of the sunbreaks, were treated to a double rainbow. We hear that on rare occasions, a triple rainbow might be seen. I don't have a wide-enough lens to capture the entire rainbow from end to end.

There are hundreds and thousands of gulls that live on the beaches here. It is an amazing sight when they take off to flight en-masse. I was fortunate enough today to have the rainbow in the background.

This is the island that is directly in front of our apartment. Sometimes it's completely hidden in fog. At other times it's only partially obscured by mist and clouds. Sometimes it seems as if mist is being generated and rising from the island itself. And sometimes, with the sun in just the right place, the whole landscape seems to have a special glow.

Our unpacking process continues. The kitchen is now looking less like a morass of utensils, pots and pans, food, office equipment, and furniture, all thrown in and blended together. It's looking almost civilized.

By the way, if you are interested in sending packages to us, the best way to do it is to use the USPS Priority Mail Flat-Rate boxes and envelopes. You can stuff as much as you can into them and regardless of weight, the rate is the same.

We've been told by numerous residents that the mail service is just not very reliable here. So if it is anything critical, I advise using Registered Mail/Return Receipt. Our check for the cleaning deposit that we sent around two months ago has not yet shown up. I probably need to place a stop on the check and write another one...

Our week of prayer meetings this week have gone pretty well thus far. We've had two to four others joining us each night. Through the discussions, often going off on a tangent and way off topic, we've come to know and understand at least these individuals better. We are also understanding some of the incidents in the past that have resulted in some rifts. It seems, unfortunately, that in churches, no matter how small or large, people are hurt. I wonder: Is it possible to have a church where the group is so safe and relationships so secure that if someone does cause hurt, that the hurt individual, instead of disappearing and holding it in, can go to the offender and reveal the hurt? And where the offender can humbly admit to the wrongs done? I wonder... and hope.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006


And unpacking, and unpacking... I'm not sure which part of moving is the worst part. We've used full-service movers twice now, and each time the unpacking seems to be the worst because we have no help to do it. The packing and moving is fine because, even if stressful, the movers do it all. But when it comes to unpacking, we're on our own. And it's doubly bad when the contents are meant to go into space twice as large as we are currently in.

We've cleared up a bit more space in the apartment. It's not quite an obstacle course anymore. We even had space in our bedroom for sleeping bags side by side instead of trying to fit them into the little walkway between stacks of boxes.

I moved one of the computers that we brought over to the church, together with one of the printers. The church office now has a working PC and printer. I need to find a modem, because the PC doesn't have one, and I'd like to be able to go online from the church. I think one of the other PCs has a modem in it that we don't need in the apartment. So component swapping I'll go.

During the move, our digital piano and the power cord got separated. Shelley had been unhappy about that, because she was so looking forward to playing the piano again. Today I found in one of the boxes a power cord that I think got separated from a CD/Radio unit. It's the standard audio equipment power cord so I used that to plug the piano into the power source. Shelley was pleased.

BTW, the rain is back.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Absolutely Clear

Aside from morning fog and clouds, we've had two absolutely clear days now. We've been able to see the high mountains to the north and east. I'll add pictures as soon as I have a little time to pick out the good ones and work on them a bit. It's been getting chilly because it's so clear. This morning the outside temperature was definitely mid-30's, though I didn't see any frost.

As the flowering season comes to a close, our landlady set out the potted plants off the walkway onto the grass. As if on cue a whole family (mother, two 1+ year old fawns, and two less than year old fawns) came strolling onto the lawn in order to nibble away at the flowers and leaves. These deer have no fear of people. They come up to the walkway in front of our doors, and only back away a couple of feet when we open the door and step outside.

Yesterday, the movers on this side of the ocean delivered our household goods. They came in a 40-feet container about 2/3 to 3/4 full. When they started I was really wondering where all of that would fit. The boxes and large items kept coming off and in, and the apartment continued to fill up. We had most of the boxes stacked floor to ceiling in our bedroom. Some of the other odd items went into the kids' bedroom. Most of the furniture went into the living room and kitchen. And our washer and dryer went into the storage cubicle (no hookups here).

The whole delivery took about four hours. At the end there was barely any floor space available to move about. Before heading to our week of prayer meeting, we moved a few things around in the living room to provide a bit more living space. Our coffee table is now sitting vertically against a wall. This saved about 16-20 sq. ft. of floor space.

Once we returned from the church we spent another session of rearranging some of the boxes and items to provide some floor space for sleeping. Shelley is on the couch; Amy is on a borrowed twin bed; Elise and I are still in sleeping bags placed in narrow pathways between the boxes.

Our cats are just loving this new arrangement. There are so many little nooks and crannies, and high places to explore! Unfortunately that means that they are making little kitty noises at odd hours of the night, waking us up. We also have an automatic litter box called the Litter Robot. It's great in that it makes the whole process of cleaning the litter almost effortless. The bad thing is that when the cats use it, it makes noise. And with our heads fairly close to the bathroom which contains the Litter Robot, when the cats decide to use it, it woke us up.

Until our house sells and we have more room, many of the things that we don't need immediately will be going into one of the unused rooms at the church for temporary storage. Other things that we moved that we don't need ever (so why did we move them in the first place, you ask? Good question!) will be going to the dump or to the Salvation Army store.

Speaking of our house, we got some good news on the Portland area housing market from Ken Crawford (AK Conference President), who was recently in the area, and from our broker. It looks like the market is starting to wake up from its stagnation with pending sales rising and inventory falling. Price appretiation is still in the double digits, so hopefully that will prompt buyers sitting on the sidelines to enter.

Sunday, October 01, 2006


Perhaps I should speak about clouds and rain more often during the church service. It just might lead to drier weather. Today was one of the nicest days we've had so far. The weather forecast for the next two days show similar weather patterns.

After getting out of my sleeping bag (hopefully this bedding situation will not last too much longer) this morning, I was going through my usual routine while also maveling at the sight of the distant mountain peaks, covered with perpetual snow/glaciers. This was our first sight of these peaks since our arrival. After pondering about it for an hour, I decided that I really should go out and capture some images while the peaks were visible. So I went off about half a mile down the road with a camera and couple of lenses.

I spent about an hour on the rocks below the whale observatory. This used to be the city dump many, many years ago. Now during low tide it's mainly rocks with barnacles, though there is still quite a bit of broken glass and old scrap metal lying about.

In addition to the many gulls about, there are also many flocks of scoters that bob about in the water and occasionally taking off into the air. Here is one of them starting to take off.

One of the landmarks visible from the island is Devil's Thumb, a rocky peak located on the mainland, on the border between the United States and Canada. In this photo it is the leftmost peak.

I really should start taking compass readings when I make these photographs so that I can later determine what most of these peaks are called. Today, I spent a great deal of time looking at some topo maps and then trying to recall in which direction I was facing when I snapped the shutter.

This is an ordinary sight around here -- that of a fishing vessel going out to sea. This one is heading off towards the Sukoi Islands in Frederick Sound.

I also went out cycling again, as one can never guess how the weather might change around here. I went 12.5 miles out and back for a total of 25 miles. My sit bones were sore afterwards. I thought about why that might be the case. Twenty-five miles is a regular distance that I do. I think it has to do with the absence of stop signs and stoplights here. I spent the entire 1-1/2 hours seated, going pretty much at a strong pace. My body isn't used to that. Even in the countryside of Oregon, I come across stop lights and stop signs that force me out of the saddle, but here in Petersburg, I can spend as long as I want seated on the saddle. Because the inclines on hills aren't that steep, I don't have to get out of the saddle for any of the climbs.

The family that is constructing the house next to the apartments stopped by to look at the progress this afternoon. Both Amy and Shelley have become acquainted with their kids -- 3 girls and 1 boy. They spent a bit of the early evenings running about the front yard of the apartments.

A few people have come together, two nights now, for the week of prayer reading/discussion and prayer time. I hope that our times together have been as beneficial and edifying to those that have made time to attend as it has been for me. Every night for a whole week may be too much for a group with so few members, so I don't expect that we will have a group every night. But even if not, Elise and I can hold the meeting between just the two of us.

With the clearer nights, the temperatures are dropping. It looks like we may reach down into the mid-30's tonight.