Tuesday, December 30, 2008

About a storm. . .from The Shack . . .

A New York Times Bestseller, The Shack is sure to jolt your preconceived ideas about God. . . and, in the midst of the storm we recently had in the Portland Oregon area, he has a great take on storms. . . I love what the storm did for us. . . perhaps, there is even a greater message about storms in our lives. . .we had no electricity for two days and so we set up our old woodstove in front of our house and stayed warm surrounded by snow. We roasted marshmallows and made smores with hersheys chocolate bars and graham crackers, my 5-year-old's favorite treat around the campfire. The storm interupted our routine and I loved every minute of it. We played spoons by candlelight and lantern, we snuggled on the couch. My son read his books by flashlight. . . .

Here, an excerpt about a storm- from William P. Young’s The Shack

"There is something joyful about storms that interrupt routine. Snow or freezing rain suddenly releases you from expectations, performance demands, and the tyranny of appointments and schedules. And unlike illness, it is largely a corporate rather than individual experience. One can almost hear a unified sigh rise from the nearby city and surrounding countryside where Nature has intervened to give respite to the weary humans slogging it out within her purview. All those affected this way are united by a mutual excuse, and the heart is suddenly and unexpectedly a little giddy. There will be no apologies needed for not showing up to some commitment or other. Everyone understands and shares in this singular justification, and the sudden alleviation of the pressure to produce makes the heart merry." -

Friday, December 26, 2008

Snow Days Remind Us To Slow Down . . . Christmas Day MY Turn in Clackamas County Weekly Oregonian newspaper

(A shorter version of this was originally published in the Clackamas County Weekly section of The Oregonian newspaper, 12-25-08)

I love these snow days home with kids.

Since the start of the winter storm that hit Portland area Sunday, I have been loving this time of forced slow down for us.

Initially, when the storm hit Sunday, I had a very busy week ahead, with church and a Christmas Tea and a concert and parent helping at school and Christmas concerts and holiday events. But, beginning with Sunday, I bowed out of all of them and most were eventually canceled anyway. I was thrilled for the change of pace. Somehow, I breathed easier.

Every day, my grade school children have been watching the Television to see if school is canceled, and they wait till the W’s to come across the screen; they want to see it over and over again: “West Linn-Wilsonville School District closed.”

What is funny is that they have known the night before as it was texted to my older high school son’s cell phone and we have checked online.

But, my children were so excited anyway to see it on screen. These days off have been so fun for them. And for me.

I remember growing up in southeast Portland and how thrilled I used to get having snow days. Back then, it didn’t seem like they announced the closures of school until the actual school morning, so we’d get up early as usual and turn on the TV or radio to find our school mentioned as closed. The buzz was memorable.

And, now, I get to experience this time with my own children. Each day home with them is a new adventure. It’s been great getting all bundled up in our snow pants and jackets and gloves and scarves and boots, and getting the sleds out to go play in the snow. We have been walking down our street and we see other people out walking with their children in the snow. And on Highway 43, we have seen people strolling, a cup of Starbucks in their hands and grocery bags in their arms, meandering up and down the street.

Generally, in this area, you rarely see people out walking, but this week, people are forced to, and I enjoy it. It is what makes a community. You meet new neighbors when you walk places. And, you see parents talking to their children.
Someone asked me if I am going crazy having the kids home this week and I said, though sometimes I pull out my hair when they fight, I am truly enjoying this time.

We have made cinnamon rolls together and roll-out Christmas cookies. We have walked to neighbors’ houses and stopped for a cup of coffee and hot chocolate at Starbucks and gone sledding and walked to the park. We have played card games and watched Christmas movies and had tea with neighbors.

I have heard people worry that they are not getting their Christmas shopping done as they would have this week due to the road conditions, but I say, exactly. Simplify. Cut back. Do our children really need all the material items we were going get?
The memories we are making with your children is a much greater gift. It’s one big adventure the week before Christmas. Something different. Something out of the ordinary. Schedules melting away to a more simpler existence. Allowing ourselves to relax and not be so busy. Being closer to home together means slowing down together.

And, that is exactly what Christmas season is about. Slowing down. Taking time to bake with our children. Taking time to have tea with friends. Taking time to walk places.

The snow storm happening so close to Christmas is a good reminder that we should slow down not just when we have to. But because we want to. Indeed, because we need to.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Parents complaining about having kids home? Come on people

In today's Oregonian newspaper, a story highlighted how (working) parents were frustrated with having schools closed this week due to the stormy weather conditions. Parents, please. Say it is not so.

We have so little snow in the Portland area and so few snow days off from school in any years- parents and people need to just chill. And enjoy this amazing time with your children.

It is so pretty outside, the snow reflecting off the trees. Christmas a week away. Kids excited to have a few extra days off.

Schools are doing what they need to do to keep kids safe by closing. Perhaps parents should be doing what they should be doing- taking care of their children --and not complaining about having them home. I love having my kids home and the schedule less hectic.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Art brings Mother and Daughter together

Here's a story I wrote for today's Oregonian's Clackamas County Weekly-

The smell of fresh-baked pumpkin bread fills Kim Millen's home.
Her 21-year-old daughter, Andrea Millen, a senior at Warner Pacific College, decided to bake while home for the evening preparing for their mother-daughter art show that runs through Dec. 27 at the West Linn Public Library.

"This is a miracle, that she is baking," Kim chuckled.

The pumpkin bread joins an already full plate. Besides taking classes, Andrea works at Starbucks, is doing an internship and applying to the doctoral program in clinical psychology at Pacific University's School of Professional Psychology. And she's preparing for a January mission trip to Honduras.

With all that going on, Kim is thrilled by her daughter's interest in doing their first mother-daughter art show.

"We have always been so close, it seemed like a natural progression in the transition in our lives, culminating into this," Kim said. "I was really excited that she discovered painting. She has always been more into drawing -- she is very accomplished in that realm -- and she has just started painting."

Andrea grew up surrounded by the arts, taking dance, theater and music at a young age.

Kim, 53, has painted since high school and also danced; she has a bachelor of fine arts degree from the University of Arizona. Kim's mother, brother, aunt and cousins are all artists or art educators.

Kim has focused on watercolor for 35 years and more recently turned to acrylics, specifically abstract painting.

"I take all the feelings I have inside and put them onto paper. I paint the way I feel," said Kim, whose art is featured at local Starbucks. She also has sold her work at the Portland Art Center.

Andrea, who has focused on charcoal portraits of people and animals, is beginning in acrylics. The art show will showcase their various works.

Kim turned to teaching art when she started her family two decades ago. She taught at Community Christian School, among other locations, as well as to home-schoolers in her studio.

"I am passionate about children and sharing the wonders of integrating art into their lives," Kim said, adding that she is looking forward to teaching adults. "My passion is sharing with others the wonder of what connecting with art can do in our lives, whether that be just being able to view a piece with more open eyes or daily appreciate the world's beauty on a deeper level."

Ultimately, she says, "my happy thing is helping others."

Kim and Andrea say their favorite place to paint is the bathroom converted into an art studio in Kim's home. "I feel good in here," Kim said of the studio. "Andrea comes home to paint here. I like the closeness."

Andrea, a 2005 Riverdale High graduate, says her long-term goal is to incorporate art into therapy. Her internship is at the Salvation Army's adult rehab center for men in Portland, where she goes two or three nights a week.

"It has to do with clinical counseling. The men generally have the option of going through the program or going back to jail or back on the streets," she said.

Andrea says her passion is "just understanding why people do what they do -- behavior, thought processes." She hopes to be able to combine her creative outlet with a career in psychology. "Art is therapeutic. I hope to tie art into it."

Shannon McBride, a Lakeridge High School art teacher who is on the committee that chooses shows for the West Linn library, said she liked the concept of a mother-daughter art show.

"What I was particularly enthusiastic about as an art educator was having a younger artist represented," she said. "It is important for the kids that come to the library to see someone younger showing their work publicly. And I like the inter-generational connection, of a mother passing on her art to her child."


Hidden Lake


Cousins bicycling at Champeog Park

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