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Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Treasures that Evoke Memories

There was no shortage of nostalgia wrapped up in the boxes that hold our Christmas decorations. Each time I pulled something out of the box, it reminded me of the place it sat in our beautiful Stockholm apartment and evoked even deeper memories of how it was obtained. Most of our Christmas decorations have a story behind them and many of them were gifts.
So today I share with you some old favorites that have good histories.
There are two trios that represent so much meaning and joy for me. 

First, the three wise men, each bearing their gifts for the new born baby King Jesus were purchased in Stockholm from the Villeroy and Boch shop. I had first seen them in a friend's apartment and just fell in love with them. Fortunately for me, they were on sale in the post-Christmas "rea" (sale in Swedish) so I snapped them up. They used to hold a prominent place on our fireplace mantle in Stockholm but here they sit on the top shelf of our wall shelves. They look beautiful!
The attractive angel choir with the 60's hairdos are treasures from my childhood. They are marked on the bottom with my mom's initials and '66, representing the date she finished them. Yes, she decorated these ceramic candle holders and I loved them when I was a kid. They sat atop the piano in my childhood home and I remember looking at each of them, wanting each hairdo as my own, especially the pig tails. Of course, I had a pixie cut as a kid so it was all hopelessly impossible to have such chic hair styles!
Savoring the joy of Christmases past, anticipating the joy of Christmases to come, sitting in the present surrounded by treasures that evoke memories are gifts to me on my advent journey.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Advent Beginnings

Yesterday was the first Sunday in Advent, a very significant day in Sweden and many church traditions worldwide have special celebrations to commemorate the day. In Sweden of course, the candle lighting associated with Advent was a welcome tradition due to the lengthy darkness that envelopes the day at this of year. Here in (mostly) sunny California, we are not craving warmth and light in quite the same way but I still can't get away from marking the weeks leading to Christmas with my own 4 advent candles. 
Still happy to count the Sundays and remember that the light shines in the darkness even where it's sunny.
Traditional Christmas decorations have been popping up around town and we attended a Lutheran Church yesterday where the Advent focus came into view. We sang O Come O Come Emmanuel, lit the first candle, and sang Joy to the World. So I was motivated to listen to Christmas music today and get decorating.
I have not seen my Christmas decorations since December of 2014. When we packed everything up after the holidays, the boxes were set aside to go straight into the shipment from Sweden. Given that we were unsure of how long we were going to be in London, we didn't pack any Christmas decorations. So today when we dragged the boxes out of the garage, it really was like Christmas morning as I opened up and unwrapped treasure after treasure. I had forgotten about certain things and others evoked strong, deep, nostalgic emotions. It was quite fun trying to figure out how to decorate our California home with traditional decorations! 
We've been having some chilly, blustery weather out here...45-60F/8-15C...I know, I'm wimpy now, so Doug even got the fireplace going tonight. It is super cozy and allows us to keep the heat off! 


I grew up in southern California so the backdrop of sunshine and palms mixed with Christmas isn't totally foreign to me. It is however Doug's first go 'round with a warm weather Christmas. It's really not all that hard to take, although admittedly today whilst decorating, I did put on a snowy slideshow from Christmases in Sweden. I will miss the Christmas markets, the coziness of candlelight in every window, the lovely decor all over the city, the warmth of an afternoon coffee and delicious treat and celebrated traditions that we enjoyed with our church in Sweden. But I am also excited to be in our own home, to establish some new traditions, to go to parades and light displays here in the desert, to play December golf. 
Truth be told, we're now closer in climate to Bethlehem than the snowy Burl and Ives Christmas scenes so that's kind of interesting. And those in the southern hemisphere have always celebrated Christmas in the dead of summer. Because let's face it...no matter our circumstances in life, preparing for the incarnation has little to do with what's going on on the outside and has everything to do with what's going on in our insides. May your journey be filled with new experiences, wonder in small things, hope, joy, peace and love.

Friday, November 25, 2016

A Thanks-filled Thanksgiving

We had such a great day yesterday! My reward for a very early start was this beautiful sunrise.
 The first thing I did was to pull the turkey out of the refrigerator and get busy making a pecan pie! 
I had never made a pecan pie before and since the ingredients for it were so easy to find for once I enjoyed putting it together. I had no idea it was such an easy pie to bake, especially with roll out crusts!
Then I got busy with the turkey getting it ready to slow roast all day long. It was nice to get it all prepped and into the oven. From there, I could pretty much relax a bit, putzing around the kitchen, getting the other dishes prepped and ready. My sister-in-law found these giant, fresh brussel sprouts and I gotta say, she made me a believer about how delicious they can be when fixed correctly!
It was a beautiful day so we sat outside for a bit and soaked in the sunshine. The Minnesota Vikings were on TV so we recorded the parade and watched them lose once again. They started out so well, but have really faded to be a very average team. But I digress.
Doug wanted us to watch the Ted Talk called Gratitude by Louis Schwartzberg. You can view it here. We've used this clip in various ways through the years and it's such a great reminder that finding beauty and gratitude in small things is how to really cultivate a life filled with gratitude. It was a great pre-meal viewing.
I was excited to set the table with the beautiful china that I inherited from my mom. I had not used it for 2 years because of moving around this world. Each time I take one of the pieces and set it on the table, I am filled with memories of our own family celebrations. The china has a great story too...my mom bought it in Sweden back in 1956 when she traveled through Europe as a single woman. We used it throughout my childhood and I always loved it. She gave it to us when they downsized and we shipped it back to Sweden! We loved decorating our table and enjoying meals with it as we gathered many people from the around the world in our home. Now it is back in California where it spent so many years in the Mullen household. It is truly an heirloom that evokes deep and warm connections. 
Our garden yielded some beautiful things that we enjoyed during the day. We juiced the grapefruit, limes and lemons and enjoyed freshly squeezed cocktails and since I hadn't bought any flowers, I simply went out and clipped away at the beautiful blossoms that surrounded us! They made for a lovely centerpiece and fit in well with the desert mileu. We ended up eating indoors because it was a bit windy on the patio but the sunshine streamed through well enough. 
While getting the food ready we got a call from Doug's brother and our nephew in Minnesota. It was fun to hear the voices of other family and know that they were celebrating well across the country.
Finally the turkey was done, the sides were finished and we were ready to dig in. 
I am very thankful that Doug's mom and sister could join us this year. It was delightful to share our first Thanksgiving back in the US with them and fun for them to do something new as well given the reality of losing Doug's dad last March. Obviously there was more than enough food! But we are set for a good round of leftovers today and my cousins will join us which will be really fun. 
We were stuffed to gills with delicious fare. 
 In fact, everyone was so full that we didn't even eat pie. But I had to at least taste it! It was delicious and I'm sure others will enjoy it today! 
We ended our evening under a starry sky around a fire in our backyard. Sitting out on Thanksgiving evening was definitely something that Doug and his family had never experienced. It was perfectly relaxing and a great way to continue the rich conversation that the day of leisurely eating and drinking gave way to. 
On this day after Thanksgiving I continue to be filled with thanks. I will not support the craze that is Black Friday. Shopping is the last thing that I would want to follow the day we enjoyed yesterday. Instead, I'll probably find my way back to the patio, relax on the loungers, maybe take a swim and soak in the jacuzzi, eat leftovers and continue to enjoy the joy of being with loved ones in this new and beautiful place that we call home. I'm grateful. I hope you are too. 

A Thanks-filled Thanksgiving

We had such a great day yesterday! My reward for a very early start was this beautiful sunrise.
 The first thing I did was to pull the turkey out of the refrigerator and get busy making a pecan pie! 
I had never made a pecan pie before and since the ingredients for it were so easy to find for once I enjoyed putting it together. I had no idea it was such an easy pie to bake, especially with roll out crusts!
Then I got busy with the turkey getting it ready to slow roast all day long. It was nice to get it all prepped and into the oven. From there, I could pretty much relax a bit, putzing around the kitchen, getting the other dishes prepped and ready. My sister-in-law found these giant, fresh brussel sprouts and I gotta say, she made me a believer about how delicious they can be when fixed correctly!
It was a beautiful day so we sat outside for a bit and soaked in the sunshine. The Minnesota Vikings were on TV so we recorded the parade and watched them lose once again. They started out so well, but have really faded to be a very average team. But I digress.
Doug wanted us to watch the Ted Talk called Gratitude by Louis Schwartzberg. You can view it here. We've used this clip in various ways through the years and it's such a great reminder that finding beauty and gratitude in small things is how to really cultivate a life filled with gratitude. It was a great pre-meal viewing.
I was excited to set the table with the beautiful china that I inherited from my mom. I had not used it for 2 years because of moving around this world. Each time I take one of the pieces and set it on the table, I am filled with memories of our own family celebrations. The china has a great story too...my mom bought it in Sweden back in 1956 when she traveled through Europe as a single woman. We used it throughout my childhood and I always loved it. She gave it to us when they downsized and we shipped it back to Sweden! We loved decorating our table and enjoying meals with it as we gathered many people from the around the world in our home. Now it is back in California where it spent so many years in the Mullen household. It is truly an heirloom that evokes deep and warm connections. 
Our garden yielded some beautiful things that we enjoyed during the day. We juiced the grapefruit, limes and lemons and enjoyed freshly squeezed cocktails and since I hadn't bought any flowers, I simply went out and clipped away at the beautiful blossoms that surrounded us! They made for a lovely centerpiece and fit in well with the desert mileu. We ended up eating indoors because it was a bit windy on the patio but the sunshine streamed through well enough. 
While getting the food ready we got a call from Doug's brother and our nephew in Minnesota. It was fun to hear the voices of other family and know that they were celebrating well across the country.
Finally the turkey was done, the sides were finished and we were ready to dig in. 
I am very thankful that Doug's mom and sister could join us this year. It was delightful to share our first Thanksgiving back in the US with them and fun for them to do something new as well given the reality of losing Doug's dad last March. Obviously there was more than enough food! But we are set for a good round of leftovers today and my cousins will join us which will be really fun. 
We were stuffed to gills with delicious fare. 
 In fact, everyone was so full that we didn't even eat pie. But I had to at least taste it! It was delicious and I'm sure others will enjoy it today! 
We ended our evening under a starry sky around a fire in our backyard. Sitting out on Thanksgiving evening was definitely something that Doug and his family had never experienced. It was perfectly relaxing and a great way to continue the rich conversation that the day of leisurely eating and drinking gave way to. 
On this day after Thanksgiving I continue to be filled with thanks. I will not support the craze that is Black Friday. Shopping is the last thing that I would want to follow the day we enjoyed yesterday. Instead, I'll probably find my way back to the patio, relax on the loungers, maybe take a swim and soak in the jacuzzi, eat leftovers and continue to enjoy the joy of being with loved ones in this new and beautiful place that we call home. I'm grateful. I hope you are too. 

A Thanks-filled Thanksgiving

We had such a great day yesterday! My reward for a very early start was this beautiful sunrise.
 The first thing I did was to pull the turkey out of the refrigerator and get busy making a pecan pie! 
I had never made a pecan pie before and since the ingredients for it were so easy to find for once I enjoyed putting it together. I had no idea it was such an easy pie to bake, especially with roll out crusts!
Then I got busy with the turkey getting it ready to slow roast all day long. It was nice to get it all prepped and into the oven. From there, I could pretty much relax a bit, putzing around the kitchen, getting the other dishes prepped and ready. My sister-in-law found these giant, fresh brussel sprouts and I gotta say, she made me a believer about how delicious they can be when fixed correctly!
It was a beautiful day so we sat outside for a bit and soaked in the sunshine. The Minnesota Vikings were on TV so we recorded the parade and watched them lose once again. They started out so well, but have really faded to be a very average team. But I digress.
Doug wanted us to watch the Ted Talk called Gratitude by Louis Schwartzberg. You can view it here. We've used this clip in various ways through the years and it's such a great reminder that finding beauty and gratitude in small things is how to really cultivate a life filled with gratitude. It was a great pre-meal viewing.
I was excited to set the table with the beautiful china that I inherited from my mom. I had not used it for 2 years because of moving around this world. Each time I take one of the pieces and set it on the table, I am filled with memories of our own family celebrations. The china has a great story too...my mom bought it in Sweden back in 1956 when she traveled through Europe as a single woman. We used it throughout my childhood and I always loved it. She gave it to us when they downsized and we shipped it back to Sweden! We loved decorating our table and enjoying meals with it as we gathered many people from the around the world in our home. Now it is back in California where it spent so many years in the Mullen household. It is truly an heirloom that evokes deep and warm connections. 
Our garden yielded some beautiful things that we enjoyed during the day. We juiced the grapefruit, limes and lemons and enjoyed freshly squeezed cocktails and since I hadn't bought any flowers, I simply went out and clipped away at the beautiful blossoms that surrounded us! They made for a lovely centerpiece and fit in well with the desert mileu. We ended up eating indoors because it was a bit windy on the patio but the sunshine streamed through well enough. 
While getting the food ready we got a call from Doug's brother and our nephew in Minnesota. It was fun to hear the voices of other family and know that they were celebrating well across the country.
Finally the turkey was done, the sides were finished and we were ready to dig in. 
I am very thankful that Doug's mom and sister could join us this year. It was delightful to share our first Thanksgiving back in the US with them and fun for them to do something new as well given the reality of losing Doug's dad last March. Obviously there was more than enough food! But we are set for a good round of leftovers today and my cousins will join us which will be really fun. 
We were stuffed to gills with delicious fare. 
 In fact, everyone was so full that we didn't even eat pie. But I had to at least taste it! It was delicious and I'm sure others will enjoy it today! 
We ended our evening under a starry sky around a fire in our backyard. Sitting out on Thanksgiving evening was definitely something that Doug and his family had never experienced. It was perfectly relaxing and a great way to continue the rich conversation that the day of leisurely eating and drinking gave way to. 
On this day after Thanksgiving I continue to be filled with thanks. I will not support the craze that is Black Friday. Shopping is the last thing that I would want to follow the day we enjoyed yesterday. Instead, I'll probably find my way back to the patio, relax on the loungers, maybe take a swim and soak in the jacuzzi, eat leftovers and continue to enjoy the joy of being with loved ones in this new and beautiful place that we call home. I'm grateful. I hope you are too. 

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Thanksgiving in the United States of America

It's Thanksgiving eve here in the United States. It feels like a whole new feeling to be preparing for this day on US soil. It's been kind of weird for me to dial into the season given the perpetual sunshine, palm trees and general lack of autumnal clues! But earlier this week Doug's mom and sister arrived from snowy Minnesota and I finally went to the store to begin some serious food shopping. We were also treated to a super fun visit from a young woman who grew up in our church in Stockholm who was out to spend Thanksgiving in Los Angeles. It was so delightful to see her as her family had always been part of our Thanksgiving celebrations in Sweden and we also spent the last several Christmas Eves with them as well. And while I am excited about a new tradition in California, admittedly, my thoughts have wandered to the wonderful Thanksgivings we shared around our table in Sweden. We always included Americans but also other nationalities for whom this traditional American meal was a first. We won't have any first timers around our table this year but it is a gift to share it with family.
Last year in London we shared in the worship service at St. Paul's cathedral, a very memorable experience and we know that our friends still in London will enjoy once again. We shared the rest of a day with a good buddy pastoring in Vienna...we skipped the Turkey day cooking and went to a pub instead! Good memories of Thanksgivings past. And now we're on the eve of making memories of Thanksgiving present.
It has been very exciting for me to be on US soil as I've prepared for the meal this year. After years of substituting ingredients for things that were unavailable in Sweden, paying as much per kilo for my turkey as I paid for the entire turkey this year, scrounging to find the biggest turkey and hoping to find one that weighed close to 10 pounds, it has been a culinary nirvana to have every amazing ingredient and then some at my fingertips! I was amazed that even before Halloween, Thanksgiving food began to appear in the stores, (not to mention the plethora of Christmas decorations!) and it dawned on me that I would not have to struggle once to find what I wanted! Stuffing mixes, pie fillings, pie crusts, corn bread, pecans, pumpkin, canned cranberry, fresh cranberry, frozen cranberry, and turkeys of all shapes and sizes. Because we are so few around our table this year, I was actually looking for the smallest turkey in the store this time around and 14 pounds was the most petite! There will be leftovers, turkey pot pie and turkey chili!
Added delights include plenty of space in my refrigerator, an oven big enough to get the turkey and other sides in all at the same time, watching the parade in the morning instead of having to wait until the afternoon and the best part of all...enjoying the day as a holiday with the rest of the nation instead of creating my own little holiday in a world in which very few others were celebrating!
In addition to the coma inducing food that we will indulge in, we are set to eat on the patio with the top temperature rising to 23C/73F. We anticipate a delightful afternoon together.
Of course, above and beyond the food and the store, this wonderful American holiday is a day to stop and give thanks for all of the things in our lives that bring joy and meaning and beauty. I'm so thankful for my sweet husband, for friends around the world, for family spread near and far and for the beautiful home that we are establishing together here in California. Too many things to name...so humble and blessed to enjoy the life that I do. I hope that even if life is hard right now, you can find those things which bring you joy and for which you are very thankful.Wishing you and yours a very happy Thanksgiving. 

Thursday, November 17, 2016

The Grant

   I recently announced that I was thrilled to be a recipient of a pastoral study grant from the Louisville Institute. My topic will be 'Welcoming the Stranger: A Study of How the Church Can Provide A Place of Belonging for the Immigrant.'
This verse shapes the project in important ways.
   Since leaving Immanuel International in January of 2015, I have wanted to find a framework around which I could write about our time with that amazing congregation. While I was in Europe, I also had the rich opportunity to speak a few retreats with other International churches which allowed me to broaden my contact with the deep impact that these International churches were having on the foreigners and immigrants that were moving into their cities. I began to develop a theology of welcoming the stranger to understand more deeply God's heart for the foreigner in scripture. The Old Testament is full of narratives that reflect this deep concern and I felt compelled to flesh out the connection between developing a hospitality based ministry in order to help the foreigners among us (which at time, included me) find a place of belonging. The church should be the ultimate place of belonging and time and again I have seen the International church achieve this beyond race, culture, socio-economic status and many other things that often divide the US church.
   Because the grant is singularly focused on how our research can benefit the US church, my goal will be to take the stories of those in International churches, combine it with the theological implications of welcoming the stranger in scripture and hopefully come up with a compelling challenge for the US church to be more welcoming to those different than they are, especially immigrants who are often met with hostility in the society around them.
   So in addition to the theological study that I will be able to pursue, the grant will provide funds for me to return to Europe and conduct a series of interviews with church members in several of the International churches with whom I have had a relationship. Of course, Immanuel International will be the showcase but I look forward to having conversations with folks in London, Paris, Brussels, Luxembourg, Zurich, Lucerne, and Berlin. The timeline is not yet set.
   Other aspects of the study will include visits to some churches and institutions that are already doing significant work in this area in the US. Trips to Chicago and Seattle are included in my budget so I look forward to those conversations as well.
   I will travel to Louisville, Kentucky the first weekend in February for preliminary meetings with the grant providers. All recipients are invited for a weekend of orientation and planning. And as of yet, I've only received notification via email. Apparently more documents are coming via post. So I have a lot of questions as well but am deeply honored and thrilled to have this opportunity during this sabbatical season from church ministry.
   Thanks to all who helped me put the proposal together, writing recommendations, supporting my efforts and affirming my gifts. I look forward to sharing more and more as the project begins to take shape. In the meantime, let's all remember to look for ways to create a greater sense of hospitality to those lacking a sense of belonging, keep an eye open for those folks who live feeling like they are on the outside looking in to a dominant culture who often behave in hostile ways towards the stranger in their midst.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Election 2016: Why I Am Hurting

It has taken me awhile to be able to sit down and process my thoughts. I have been filled with overwhelming despair since the reality of Trump's presidency began to unfold on Tuesday night. I've had to lay low on social media because I have not wanted to have my feelings of despair and disbelief shut down. The deep pain that many of my friends and family are experiencing due to being people of color, gay, muslim, or liberal is deeply disheartening and painful. This morning I finally jumped back on Facebook, commenting on a post my husband had made that garnered much support and some chastisement and I responded to someone asking my opinion on the Van Jones post I made on election night. Both of those comments are embedded in this blog.
Here's what's important to me. This goes much deeper than being disappointed in an electoral outcome. I've lived through that before and survived. When people who voted for Trump are telling me to get over it and get on with it, this is what I'd like for them to understand.

Embedded in this election are subtle and not so subtle nods to returning to the “good 'ol days”. The problem with this sentiment is that those good 'ol days were mainly good for white men. I think many people were tired of being "bossed around” by a black man and certainly were unwilling to be bossed around by a woman for another 4 years. (Incidentally I think we are 10-20 years from electing a woman) Trump preyed on this mood with a demeanor that was deplorable throughout this election. This has nothing to do with party politics although I'm not thrilled that the government has gone Republican, I understand that as part of the process. What I see now is that (half of) the US has elected a demagogue who doesn't know how to do this job and someone who has verbally assaulted every category of person except rich white men. Where is the outrage over this from white evangelicals? What baffles me the most is how the hell so many WHITE Evangelicals got behind this disrespectful and rude person. Who is the church in the US? What ever happened to they will know we are Christians by our love? I would have more patience and understanding from the white evangelicals who voted for Trump if they would come out and denounce his hateful behavior and rhetoric. Instead he has modeled rude, disrespectful behavior that has spilled over into our society and they remain quiet. Where in Trump's rhetoric is there anything that smacks of compassion, care for the vulnerable, or economic equity? These happen to be the top things Jesus addressed in scripture. My ire is not about insulting people with whom I disagree. If you ask my close Republican friends about my ability to have a civil difference of opinion, I think you would see that for me it's never about agreeing. But in this case, it's in part about how the church has had a big role in electing one of the most insulting human beings to be in public life. As a pastor, I believe we must rise up and denounce the evil that has been affirmed. Politics aside, this man has ushered in an era of permission to be disrespectful unlike any we've seen. When the KKK rejoices over a President Elect, it's time to stand up and say enough. When I see bullying on the rise, the news tonight of kids shouting build the wall, the fear and trembling among minorities and women and I consider that a large part of the white church ushered this era in, I feel great despair. 

If you are a Christian and you voted for Trump, and if you are wanting me to now get on board and disregard my feelings of disappointment, then please show me how Trump's agenda reflects the kingdom of God. If you can't do that, then don't chafe at the criticism being leveled at you. At the very least, I would like to see Trump supporters show a bit of sensitivity to those who are genuinely afraid and feeling pushed aside due to this election. Why can't Trump supporters or even Trump himself issue an apology for the rude, vitriolic, demeaning statements that have been made about certain segments of society? Why is it so important for Trump supporters to hush those who wanted a very different president? I need to see some compassion coming out of the GOP. I have not seen that for years and it frustrates me to no end. I cannot take a church seriously who espouses love for God, love for country but will not take steps to show tangible concern for the most vulnerable in our society.

I will withhold my blind respect for the president-elect until he reveals to me that he will respect the office of the Presidency. His acceptance speech was the most humble he's been in his life but I just have to wonder...does a leopard change his spots? I am dubious. His meeting with President Obama seemed to strike a good tone. But what happens when the bear gets poked again? It will happen. We lampoon politicians in this country. Alec Baldwin has work for 4 years. Trump has shown an inability to handle disappointment or criticism, both which will be present throughout his presidency. I hope and pray he will be able to rise to the office with dignity and respect, two qualities that have been sorely lacking thus far. 

I am decidedly unexcited about his potential cabinet appointments. Mostly old white guys. You think Newt Gingrich is a good face for our foreign relationships guy? Sarah Palin? Seriously. You have to be kidding me, right? At some point we have to talk about competency again. And we have to talk about race and gender. Putting Sarah Palin and Ben Carson in his cabinet is tokenism and does not prove that he is an equal opportunity guy. If anything, it hurts the cause because it pretends to be inclusive when all it is is tokenism. The fact that neither of them are the best people for the job adds insult to injury.


If Trump is serious about wanting to be the President for all people, he will need to tone it down and realize that half of the nation voted for something very different. I had expected that HRC would've leaned to the center. Will Trump be able to do the same? If he wants to be President for the whole nation, he needs to be willing to listen to people who disagree with him. His first 100 days plan feels archaic and unhelpful. When he says that “Obamacare” is a disaster and he will repeal it on day one you know what that says to me? I am losing my health insurance. Why not put forth a better plan that still helps people get affordable care? As one friend put it, "He has a chance to do something helpful and what he is saying instead is 'screw you''. I need some conservatives to articulate in clear terms a modicum of compassion and concern for the most vulnerable in our society. And I need the white evangelical church to defend the gospel in ways that reflect the economic and social values of Jesus. Until I hear that, don't be short with me about why I am grieving and struggling with such deep feelings of despair and bewilderment. At the very least, you could say to me, to other democrats you know, to a gay person who is scared that their marriage will be nullified, to an immigrant who is terrified to go out in public, to a muslim who does not feel the freedom to practice their religion in this 'free' society, I'm sorry you are hurting. I hope we can do better moving forward.

Monday, November 7, 2016

Patio Project

The last of the major yard projects are finished! Our outdoor living space is complete and we are excited to be able to be outside for meals and relaxation. The last major project was to dye the concrete on the patio. Doug investigated the technique and product and we are thrilled with how it turned out. It was a lot of hard work and grit but totally worth it.
We have a large backyard patio. Here in beautiful California, your patio can double the size of your living space because you can be outside for so much of the year. I anticipate that our main dining area will now be on the patio. So we really wanted to make it nice. Here is what the patio looked like before we started. 

We really liked the tile enhancements but the concrete itself looked shoddy. We chose a dual color stain that would give us a terracotta type of finished look. But before we began anything with the color, the patio had to be power washed and then washed again with an acid wash and etcher so that the stain would penetrate the concrete. Then the real fun began. We had to tape over the stripes of tile and all around the edge of the house and pillars. 

This was back breaking, painstaking work! It was like doing squats for 3 straight hours. Getting tape to stick to concrete is not easy! We made a good team though. But wow, they aren't kidding when they say the hardest of part of painting is the prep work!
 With all of the surfaces covered, Doug was ready to start with the base coat.
Using the sprayer that we purchased along with the stain, he employed the technique that he had learned about on youtube. What did we do before youtube? Lots of trial and error, I suppose, but with stain, error is not good!

Initially, I was unsure about the color as it was kind of peachy. But then I remembered that it was just the base coat. This had to dry over night.

Once we were satisfied with the coverage of the base coat, it was time to put on the top coat. We were both super pleased with the color. It is this beautiful, rich, lovely desert appropriate color and it went on really nicely. 


Then that layer had to dry! Next step was to remove the plastic and touch up the spots that had bled into the concrete stripes. Also painstaking work. Harder for Doug than me as I simply poured the paint thinner into the groves and he did the hard scrubbing with a wire brush. 
 Finally, Doug took a cloth and ran the stain along the edges to give the stripes a distinctive and finished look. It looks amazing!
The last step was to apply the sealer and we went with a wet look.

It looks absolutely beautiful! The sealer had to set for 72 hours before we could walk on it so finally yesterday afternoon we were able to put the furniture back. We had purchased one more sitting area and a fire pit in addition to the dining table and loungers we already had. It was so lovely watching it all come together. 
 We sat out in the late afternoon as the sun was going down and enjoyed the cool of the evening. We ate dinner on the patio and enjoyed some time after dinner looking at the stars and marveling at the beauty that surrounds us. We took a little ride in our golf cart to take in the beautiful sunset and gave thanks to God for the wonderful blessings that we feel so humbled to enjoy.
We were both saying that sometimes we can't believe that we own this home, that this is our place for as long as we want it to be. We spoke of my parents and how much they would've loved what we are doing and how we long to share it with them. Doug's mom and sister are coming for Thanksgiving and we other friends coming around Christmas and New Year and we are so excited to share all of this with them.