Happy New Year!

We have been busily packing up our belongings. In a few short weeks we will be moving to Canby to be closer to Dustin's job. We found a cozy little house with a BIG garden. It should be perfect for the next 6-8 months or so until we (hopefully) buy a house. Since we will be gone next week, we basically have to have everything packed this week so we can move the weekend of the 12th. I have to say, I'm getting weary of all the moving. The good news is that we've gotten pretty good at it!
Christmas was both fun and busy. My parents, my Grandma, and Dustin's parents were all here for several days. We also hosted the family Christmas party for my side of the family the weekend before Christmas. Abby had a blast opening presents. The sound of paper ripping made her squeal. She also reveled in the constant attention from all the grandparents. To everyone's delight she began saying grandma and grandpa. It took a few days to get her back to the usual schedule after everyone left!
Tomorrow is 2008! Once upon a time, I would spend New Year's Eve coming up with resolutions. They were usually similar from year to year, and despite my best intentions, they would only last a few weeks. Since I have found that to be a waste of time, I decided that I will spend this New Year's Eve being thankful for all the blessings in the previous year.
We are all healthy. We have a wonderful place to live. Dustin has the perfect job with great employers. We've made some good friends through a church group and a play group. God has met all of our needs, even if we didn't realize it at the time. Abby is growing into a happy, independent little girl. I could go on, but I don't want to bore you. The point is that we've been blessed, and I'm thankful for it.
Happy New Year!

A New Job and a Sermon

I got in the mood to write today, so I thought I'd fill you in on the recent big news here. While I'm at it, I might get in a short sermon on the end. Missionary pilots need to practice that, you know... ;-)

Today is Sunday. I love Sundays. They are a little taste of the rest we will have in heaven. There is plenty of work to do while we're still here, though. I have felt for a long time that a big part of the work I have to do here involves flying airplanes. I've been very happy with the job I've had for the last year here in Troutdale working on airplanes, and have spent a lot of time recently studying in hopes of becoming a flight instructor. That is the way most professional pilots move into work which requires more experience. One day at work several weeks ago, a pilot/mechanic who I have worked with in the past came in and told us about a new job he was taking. I mentioned that I was studying to become an instructor. He reminded me that he had told me several times in the past about the job which he had used to transition to being a professional pilot. They really need a mechanic right now, he said.

I didn't sleep very well that night. Although I'd known about the job for some time, it suddenly "clicked" with me that it might be exactly the right job for me. Maybe it just hadn't been the right time before... I didn't wait long to call. Yes, they needed a mechanic, and yes, as a pilot I could possibly do some flying as well. The company is called Bergman Photographic Services, and they use a fleet of five diverse airplanes for aerial photography. The next Saturday I went to their office in Sellwood and we spent several hours talking. I took home an employee handbook to peruse, and told my boss about the possibility on Monday. Last Wednesday I took the day off of work and drove to Sellwood again. From there I went with one of the brothers who own the business to Aurora, where they have a new hangar which houses that half of the operation. I went along on a maintenance flight which was also a kind of evaluation of my abilities. It went well. We shook hands that evening and the next day I officially "gave notice" at my current job.

I'm pretty excited. Both the maintenance and the flying will be excellent experience which will mesh almost perfectly with the goal of missionary aviation. I will begin working for them at the beginning of December, and will move right into the on-staff mechanic position which has been vacant for the last year. I will also begin training for the type of flying they do, beginning in their Cessna 180 and hopefully eventually working my way into flying nearly full-time in all of their airplanes. These include a J-3 Cub, Cessna 210, Cessna 310 (twin), and a turboprop Commander.

Since the job is in Aurora, we will need to move soon to avoid many hours of commuting. Although we all love the house we are in now, we are enthusiastically looking for a new place. Sarah is pleased with the developments, although no one really enjoys the idea of packing boxes!

Also, happy ThanksGiving! I am so thankful for so many things! May you realize the many things you have to thank God for also.

Once again I have to say I love Sundays. This morning we listened to a sermon on the subject of "Heaven." It wasn't the best sermon I've ever heard. In fact, it was a bit of an odd juxtaposition, as the sermon covered some of the possible "physical" aspects of heaven: "streets paved with gold," precious stones, "endless light," and "no more sea." I found my attention wandering. Although we're all a bit attached to this world, our culture of materialism seemed to have insinuated itself very incongruously into this sermon. It was not that the sermon was technically inaccurate so much as that the emphasis was misplaced diametrically from where it belonged. As we all know from so many celebrities' lives, one can live a tortured hell of an existence while living in a place with "streets paved with gold." In fact, if happiness has anything to do with wealth, our society should be literally "the happiest place on earth."

We were visiting a church we don't usually attend, so I don't know if the worship after the sermon is the normal order during their services, but it couldn't have been more appropriate. The songs were powerful... Not "I Have a Mansion" or some other foolishness continuing to compare heaven to the marred beauties of this earth, but true worship of God and his greatness, an expression of our love for Him, and a desire to see His glory. As the lethargy in the room lifted, I felt like those few minutes of worship were a far clearer foresight of heaven than the preaching had offered. I thought of the fact that for all of time and beyond there rises around the throne of God the refrain of "Holy... Holy... Holy..." and that I was, in my poor way, joining that song.

This is why I love Sundays. I felt a rest then... A rest in the exhilaration of giving praise with heart and mind which is accepted by a sovereign God, but which can never begin to be enough. I thought of heaven. I thought of being at rest... being truly at home. I've never felt quite at rest here. I've moved a lot. The Bible mentions that we are "strangers" and, in fact "aliens" in this world. We don't belong. No matter if we spend our lives building a home to live in, and root our feet firmly in the soil of this earth, we can NOT stay, and we can NOT take it with us when we go. NOTHING. Even if we still have memories of this world, they will be like the misty memories of a half-remembered dream, fading as quickly as morning fog before the heat of a blazing sun. Only once have I wanted to "go home" and had a picture of a place on this earth in my mind. After backpacking across Europe and being on the move almost constantly for six months, never having a place to rest for long, I longed to return to my family in Oregon. I was tired in a sense far beyond the physical. There was such a relief of rest when I finally walked through that doorway again and into "my room." I imagine this is only the slightest inkling of what it must be like to finally pass the threshold of "death" and really and truly go Home. It will be an endless rest from being a wandering stranger for the years of this terrestrial journey.

Until then... there is work to do. Give Thanks!


My Latest Project

A shirt for Abby! And it actually fits!

Please help...

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. The Breast Cancer site is having trouble getting enough people to click on their site daily to meet their quota of donating at least one free mammogram a day to an underprivileged woman.. It takes less than a minute to go to their site and click on 'donating a mammogram' for free (pink window in the middle). This doesn't cost you a thing. Their corporate sponsors /advertisers use the number of daily visits to donate mammogram in exchange for advertising. Here's the web site! Pass it along to people you know. http://www.thebreastcancersite.com/

Thank you!

Future pilot?

Not even 14 months old and already showing an interest!

Up Before Light for Tofu and Bananas

This morning at 5:30 AM our alarm went off. This is quite unusual, even on a weekday. It is even more unusual that I will roll over and let it go until Sarah turns it off. She hit snooze... twice. The advantage to living in a house over an apartment is that I can turn a CD all the way to top volume to help get us rolling, and the neighbors don't complain, even if the sun isn't up yet.

By 6:20 we were out the door. After a few bites of breakfast, a lot of mad scrambling, and cramming three layers of clothing onto Abigail, we pinned racing numbers on Sarah and Abigail and headed downtown to participate in the "Race for the Cure" fundraiser against breast cancer. After a bumpy ride on a schoolbus shuttle, we found ourselves in Waterfront park, next to the river; the first wave of what would be 46,000 runners and probably another 20,000 supporters. Booths were set up along the length of the park which housed corporate sponsors including radio stations, Yoplait yogurt, a jeweler, and an Irish dairy! The sponsors were bent on being sure no one went hungry or without a hat or keychain! As the pink-clad crowds thickened, we battled our way through to stand in lines for handbags, yogurt, bananas, pink underwear (from Macy's), energy bars, hats, bottles of water, cubes of tofu, boxes of soy milk, and cubes of (delicious!) cheese! We were handed stickers, keychains, and coupons for innumerable items. Had we wanted, we could have even had a free massage or manicure!

I should mention the pink. Probably one in every two-hundred people there was male. The place was literally swimming in estrogen! Pink is the official color of support for the fight against breast cancer, and almost everyone was wearing some pink, not leaving out the grandmas with hot-pink dyed hair. If you didn't come wearing pink, you could get pink stickers with which to decorate your face or pink foam bunny-ears from the Energizer bunny.

At 7:30 the first wave of runners, the 5k race, departed. The news helicopter hovering overhead filmed the sea of pink surging through the barricaded streets of downtown Portland. At 8:00 we rushed to the starting area, quickly loaded Abigail into her "backpack," and Sarah and Abigail started on their 1-mile walk. I had the heavier burden of cameras and the amazing pile of pink objects and food we had acquired.

It didn't take long for them to finish, although with the crowds, it was more of a "stroll for the Cure" than a race. Fortunately we had agreed where to meet afterwards, although since I was waiting there, I wasn't able to be at the finish line. After another half-hour waiting in line for a hat, during which another group of (running) runners departed, we elbowed our way through the still-thickening crowd back to our schoolbus. Sarah and Abigail accomplished something neither of them had ever done before, and we still made it to church (a little late).

The Flat Mailbox Morning

Sun 8/26/07

I got up only slightly later than my normal time and came downstrairs to take a shower, let the cat out, and start breakfast. It was just after eight and I was sitting down to check my e-mail when I heard a sound which can only be made in one way, a crunching bang, from the direction of our driveway. I've never heard an accident before, but I knew immediately what it was, and jumped from my chair to look out the window. A cloud of dust was beginning to settle, and I could see the front of a green Ford Explorer where formerly the corner of our driveway, a chainlink fence, and a wall of twenty-foot tall arborvitae had stood.

I leapt up the stairs two at a time and jumped from my bathrobe into clothing, telling Sarah to dial the police and call our landlord as well. By the time I had run out to the wreck another car had stopped. The cabin of the vehicle was only slightly damaged, although the driver's window was completely gone. The driver, a middle aged man, was conscious, and appeared unhurt but for a few scratches from glass. He was shaking, though, and gripping the steering wheel and shifter spasmodically while repeating that he was, "just going to work." I asked him if he was hurt, or had hit his head, and finally discovered that he had diabetes. In shocking circumstances it can take several minutes to sort things out, but he got out a candy bar to eat, raising his blood sugar level, just about when the police arrived, and was feeling back to normal soon. In the meantime a tow-truck company pickup had stopped, and soon a firetruck and ambulance arrived.

His name was Owen, and he'd been westbound on his way to work when he must have temporarily blacked out, waking up to see an oncoming car. He swerved and somehow overcorrected into the opposite ditch, where he sideswiped a power pole, which totalled the front left end of his truck, and started it spinning counterclockwise until it completed a quarter turn and came to rest, nose in, about where our mailbox used to be. The Sunday newspaper was spread for twenty feet in either direction. Fortunately, nothing was damaged which money can not fix. Only a few scratches on Owen, and our power was out for half and hour until the power company sent a truck to reset the cutout and repair the minor damage to the pole. I am thankful that he woke up in time to avoid a head-on collision, that he slid passenger-side first, and that I hadn't decided to go out and pick up the paper just then. I'm also just a little thankful he wasn't fifty feet further down the street, where our garden is... The corn is just getting ripe...

As of today: our flattened mailbox has now been replaced with a new one, and the chainlink fence is up again, but we can now see when our mailman comes through a gap in the arborvitae...

She's Standing!

The day after her birthday, Abby decided to stand. I was sitting on the couch and all of a sudden, she was standing right in front of me! Ever since then she has been pulling herself up on everything. A few days later she started cruising, going down the couch and around the coffee table. Now, in the mornings when Dustin brings her in the bedroom, she crawls over to the side of the bed, pulls herself to standing, and says "Hi!" Her newest words are hi, froggy, and puppy.

Oregon International Airshow

Last weekend was the Oregon International Airshow. The Blue Angels were scheduled to be there, and Dustin had gotten free tickets through work. We had planned to go on Sunday afternoon because Abby's birthday party was Saturday. However, Abby and I got a cold partway through the week, and Dustin woke up not feeling well by the end of the week. Sunday afternoon we were sitting around trying to decide if we were up to going or not. We finally realized that a little cold wasn't worth missing an opportunity like this, so we got all the baby stuff packed and put on sunblock. Halfway there it started to rain... not the forecasted weather.

By the time we got parked it was raining steadily, but we decided to stick around for a while. It's a good thing we got there when we did because the Blue Angels performed within half an hour and then the show was over! We didn't even have time to walk around and look at anything. Nevertheless, I have to say that the show was awesome. The first highlight was seeing a Sherpa (if you don't know what it is, you won't care), and then several fly-bys of the F-117A "Stealth Fighter," the delta-shaped black mystery-plane which (we just learned) is being retired soon and will be replaced by the vectored-thrust F22 "Raptor." If you've never seen the Blue Angels perform, make a point of it, although not while trying to hold an umbrella and put your hands over a baby's ears at the same time. The first part of the show features "Fat Albert," the C-130 "Hercules" that the Blue Angels use as a transport. It has four turboprop engines, and can carry a load approximately the size of a boxcar at speeds up to 350 Knots (according to the announcer). The nickname is apt, as "fat" and "chubby" are words which come to mind when looking at one. With "JATO" rockets (Jet Assisted Take-Off) the C-130 can lift off the ground almost as soon as it starts moving, and nearly vertically. Once airborne, it has time to accelerate to normal flying speed at thirty feet above the ground before the rockets burn out. The short-field landing was incredible too. Approaching extremely slowly for such a large airplane, the pilot made a precise touchdown and brought the plane to a stop within about 350 feet!

The Blue Angels themselves, six F-A18 fighters, are amazing. They demonstrated the abilities of the aircraft with very short takeoffs followed by near-vertical climbs. They also demonstrated precision slow-flight side-by-side, standing almost on their tails... held up almost solely by engine thrust. One made a pass at over 1000 miles-per-hour (according to the announcer), battering our eardrums. There was almost not enough time to see it! I can't imagine what it would be like to be an enemy against a plane you don't hear coming until it is past, and one that moves so fast you couldn't lift a weapon in time, let alone aim or fire. Their precision maneuvers at high speed were great. They fly within feet of eachother, rolling all together, or splitting up in what was our favorite, the Blue Angel's "Fleur de Lis." They also come rushing head-on at what must be a combined speed of over 1000 mph if not more, then roll their wings vertical at the last moment to pass belly-to-belly. Abby enjoyed it, too, but didn't like all the noise.

It took a very long time to get out of the parking lot. To avoid traffic we took a break at the first Burgerville, our favorite fast food joint. The rain didn't stop until we were most of the way home.

We were too tired to wash off the sunblock.

Birthday Season Continued

Abby had her second birthday party last weekend. The Smith family met at Pietro's Pizza where Abby enjoyed her first taste of pizza, opening presents, and birthday cake. Grandma Smith let her play with the cake a little before it was cut, and pretty soon she was digging away. After she had her own piece, I glanced over to see her stuff half of it in her mouth!

Birthday Season

It's hard to believe that one birthday can involve so much stuff. Especially when the birthday girl won't even remember it! We celebrated Abby's birthday with the Radford side of the family last weekend, and will be celebrating with the Smith side this weekend. Then, of course, we will do something on her actual birthday. Her favorite part so far has been the paper and ribbons. She wasn't too sure about her cupcake, licking it tentatively and then only eating a few bites. We'll see if she goes for the cake this weekend.

Abby's First Camping Trip

For weeks, through the hot and into the comfortable weather, I was really looking forward to our camping trip. It was to be the first one since before Abby arrived. We spent all week getting ready. I spent a lot of time on details on our 1977 Volkswagen bus like hanging the funky green curtains as Sarah finished them, installing another seat belt, and lubricating the squeaky windshield wiper mechanism.

Friday night we wore ourselves out packing the bus and cleaning up the house... and we still had a few things to do Saturday morning before we rolled out of our driveway around nine. The drive to the coast went very well. We headed north on I-5 to Longview, Washington, watching the cars whiz by at seventy while we cruised at a leisurely fifty-five. Although the bus would probably go seventy, it certainly isn't designed for it, and since we were on a leisure trip, I wallowed in the idea of being able to drive slowly, enjoy the scenery, and avoid the stress and heart-attack that the caffeine-slurping cell-phone junkie driving 85 raced past us to reach. At Longview we re-crossed the Columbia river and then floored the throttle to maintain that 55mph over the sometimes steep road to Astoria. The bridge from Astoria into Washington is narrow and looks easily tall enough for an aircraft carrier to drive under (especially when you're driving a wobbly VW over the top). After the tall arch it cruises along for half a mile just over the water... probably only a few feet deep. It was at this point that I first noticed that the weather was not what I had hoped. The occasional light showers were becoming less occasional and more regular. We drove straight through to our campground about twenty miles up the peninsula in Long Beach. Fortunately Abby was able to fall asleep when we pulled the curtains closed in the back of the bus, and got in a nap just before we arrived.

After checking in and looking around, we took the proprietor's advice and headed several miles back to Ilwaco to check out the trinkets for sale at the modest Saturday Market and get a bite to eat at Ole' Bob's Seafood. We have a backpack carrier that we put Abby in so she can ride up high and we can get around. As we walked, we overheard nearly everyone we passed comment on it, and got quite a number of compliments! This continued throughout the day, much to our surprise, since we thought they were quite common. After a fresh crab melt and some clam chowder we headed back to Long Beach. We parked some distance from the beach, due to traffic, and walked down the main street. If ever there was a "tourist trap" Long Beach is it! There are amusement arcades, theme restaurants, and knickknack shops packed solidly on both sides of the street; and you can buy a shirt that says "I Love Long Beach, WA" without walking more than ten steps from any spot on the whole street.

We walked down to the beach where the annual "Sandsations" sand-sculpture contest was just ending and grabbed free hot-dogs before inspecting the sculptures. Unfortunately the tide was coming in quickly, and since we hadn't brought our wading-shoes we only got to see the backs of some of them. We wouldn't have gotten a whole lot wetter in the surf, however, as the rain was quite steady by then, and the wind was gusting strongly. We saw several castles, penguins, a mermaid, and the Deathstar, but the highlight was King Kong, who's shoulders and head jutted up six or seven feet above the beach.

It was nice to get away from the soggy crowds and head up the peninsula to the "Jumpin' Good Goat Dairy." On the way Abby grabbed a nap, and we were all ready to go again in time for the daily tour. Abby is intrigued with all animals, and grinned hugely when the little "kid" goats nibbled her fingers. I tried my hand at milking the goats, since Sarah was too shy, and found it quite easy... most of the work consists of installing and removing the vacuum tubes that do the actual milking! After that we visited the billy-goats and sampled the dairy specialty cheeses... quite good really! Several were a bit too "goaty" for us, but some had very little unusual flavor, and we bought one to bring home.

By the time we headed back to the campground it was very windy and pouring rain. The inside of the bus was fogging up, so I used several strands of wire and a multi-tool to temporarily wire the heater fan... something I wasn't expecting to need when we planned this camping trip in the ninety-five degree weather! Unfortunately something else in the system is bad, and I had to settle for wiping off the windshield with a rag. The windshield wipers on the bus then began to squeak. As we neared our campground I saw three bear cubs run across the road and remembered that they had mentioned giving left-over goat milk to a bear that hung around the goat farm! I wondered if Abby smelled anything like left-over goat milk.

It was time for Abby to go to bed soon after we arrived, so we "reconfigured" the bus by folding down the back seat into a bed, and set up Abigail's portable tent-bed (inside). In the midst of the pouring rain and trying to get the cooler and stove and everything else we needed where we could reach it for dinner without waking Abby, I tried to slam the sliding bus door (which never does close quite right), and it fell off it's front rollers! I grabbed it and tried to maneuver them back into place, at which point the back roller fell off it's track, the back lower corner of the door bent against the ground, and I had the whole thing in my hands! The rain continued to pour down, although I couldn't get much wetter than I already was, as I dug into the far corners of the bus for screwdriver and flashlight (never go ANYWHERE in a VW without tools!). I finally determined that the back roller would go on with a bit of finesse, but for the installation of the front rollers nothing would suffice but a swift kick. After that it was "as good as new," but we were a bit more cautious with the door the rest of the trip!

I was glad for a short lull in the rain (if not the wind) during which I cooked dinner. At least I have a lot of experience using that type of camp stove... every once in a while living on a boat and in a (previous) VW bus comes in handy. I dumped the large box of firewood which we had brought all into the fire pit at once, box and all, and lit such a conflagration that the whole campground (or at least our neighbor's tent) would have become a raging inferno had it not been for the soaking weather. We didn't last too long before crawling into the back of the bus and into our already-damp sleeping bags. By this time everything was moist. The humidity inside the bus was only slightly less than that under a running shower-head. I whispered a chapter of "Through the Looking Glass" and turned the flashlight off. It was far from the end of the night, however. The rain drummed down on the roof of the bus wildly like a hailstorm on a kettle-drum, and the wind rocked us in a way which called to mind boats and oceans. I don't know how many times I awoke. Several times I heard the small jingling sound made by a toy we had left with Abigail. She must have been awake a lot too, but not once did she cry or make any other noise but that little jingle. Some time around 2 AM the storm let up and we got a little sleep.

Everyone was ready to go in the morning. Sarah wanted to go straight home, but I knew we needed to have breakfast first, and so cooked up bacon and pancakes with tea while at the same time packing up the bus for the road once again. It was once again raining steadily. After wiping the condensation from the inside of the front windows with paper towels (so we could at least see a little) we headed for home. Halfway there the squeaking from the windshield wipers became so intense that Sarah was afraid it would wake up Abby from her nap. I had considered bringing WD-40 along... but had to settle for a squirt of cooking-spray, which fixed the problem immediately (at which point it quit raining). We got home around two in the afternoon to find sweltering heat and sunny skies.

Although this camping trip had probably some of the worst conditions I have ever encountered, we got home in relatively good spirits. Tired? Yes! Abby went straight to sleep. Glad to be home? Yes! It was so nice to be out of the soggy bus. Successful? YES! Abigail's first camping trip... and we didn't pack up and drive home before breakfast... ;-)

Finally...an update!

Well, it's been a while since we have updated this. Quite a bit has happened in the last few months, so I'll give a brief overview. In February we moved from our apartment into a rental house. It's probably twice the size of our apartment and has lots of open space for Abby to roll around. We also have a large fenced yard and a garden. Dustin has spent lots of time in the garden and recently put in an irrigation system. The plants have loved the hot weather and now it's looking a lot like a jungle! Unfortunately, the aphids took over the broccoli so none of it has been edible, but we've had lots of lettuce and strawberries and a few carrots so far.

We sold the Mercedes (it turned out to be very unreliable) and got a '77 VW bus. It needs some interior and exterior work, but it runs well and Dustin drives it to work. We hope to gradually turn it into a campmobile.

Abby is becoming less like a baby and more like a little girl every day. She'll be 11 months old on Friday! She rolls or scoots wherever she wants to go, and there is rarely a dull (or quiet) moment around here. She eats like crazy! Her favorite food groups are paper and shoes, but she'll eat anything we feed her :) We got a cat, and Abby loves her. The feeling isn't mutual, but the cat is tolerant and loves the attention.

Dustin still like his job. The last few weeks were a bit slow and he had some unexpected time off, but we enjoyed having him around. He is currently working toward getting his flight instructor rating, and recently finished a ground school class through PCC. He also bought a small (tiny!) sailboat (with holes in the bottom!!) and has been fixing it up.

I've been busy trying to keep up with Abby and the housework. The price for a bigger house is extra cleaning! Between Abby and the cat I have to vacuum everyday. I also decided to try canning. So far I've done raspberry sauce and mint jelly. I'm hoping to do a bunch more over the next few weeks.

We are going to camp with Abby for the first time this weekend. It should be an adventure! Especially since we'll be camping in the bus!

I hope to start updating this site every week or so, so make sure to bookmark it! I'm sure I said that last time, but this time I really mean it! :)

-Dustin, Sarah, and Abby