Category Archives: Friends

Facebook: I don’t get it.

So I’ve heard lots and lots about Facebook, so I decided to join. I joined MySpace about a year ago as research, but it didn’t impress me. I’ve been there a total of two times. Now, I guess MySpace is so last year and Facebook is very user friendly and absolutely imperative.

Really? What’s the point?

If I make a page using my professional name, then none of the people from my high school(s) would recognize it, and there’s no way to put a second searchable name in there.  So does that mean I need two Facebook pages? Do I want to hear from those people anyway?

So I guess I’m asking…. what’s the point?

I already belong to groups with common interests, like Ravelry for knitting (totally awesome). And I stay on top of news of The Urantia Book through other outlets, although I see that Facebook does have several Urantia book sites.

Mostly, I’m busy with work and school, and don’t have a lot of time to sit online and dawdle. Is that what this site is for? Sucking time?

I can think of better ways to waste time.

So I’m on Facebook, but you’re not likely to see me there very often.

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Filed under connections, Friends, knitting, The Urantia Book, time

A good time was had by all.

One of the golden moments of an author–there are quite a few, actually–is the big hometown booksigning/reading/talk/party that launches a new book.

Last night we had a fairly decent turnout, despite competing with the first Presidential debate, and we all had a good time. I read a story from The Northwoods Chronicles, Alan M. Clark presented me with a matted print of the cover art for the same book, we ate, drank and made merry. Lisa Alber even came down from Portland with her adorable little pooch.

After the party, seven of us came back to our place to watch the debate.  Anticlimactic, to be sure. The crock pot chili that we ate while watching the debate was definitely the highlight of that event.

In addition to everyone who went out of their way to come help me celebrate, I received literally dozens of cards, emails and phone calls from people who couldn’t make it to the party for various reasons. All of which made me feel good. I have lots of friends, lots of fans.

What a great evening. Thanks, everyone.

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Filed under Friends, My New Novel, Promotion, Reading, Writing

Mark your calendar!

The publication party for The Northwoods Chronicles will be September 26, 6pm at Tsunami Books, 2585 Willamette St. Eugene, OR 97401.

There will be food and drink and lots of writers and all manner of book-interested and book-interesting people.

Please come!

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Filed under Friends, My New Novel, Writing

What a difference a site makes

I have a new webpage. The address is the same: www.elizabethengstrom.com, but the page is worlds away from the one that was up yesterday morning.

I wrote my first website in HTML. It was basic indeed. Then I got a copy of Microsoft’s Front Page and did another. Did two others, in fact, one for me and one for my independent press. I got pretty good with Front Page, but it had some weirdnesses that I could never figure out. Didn’t have the patience. And so my web presence had all the content I wanted, but looked kind of schizophrenic, with all the fonts and colors and total lack of design.

And then Pam Herber, long time friend and excruciatingly good writer, started designing web pages, so I commissioned her to redo my sad site. After a couple of weeks of back-and-forth, she pushed the button yesterday and her fresh design went live.

I couldn’t be happier. The site now is streamlined, homogenized, artful and pertinent. Personally, I think she’s brilliant. It might look a little weird if you’ve not updated your browser recently, so you should do that. You should do that anyway.

So thanks, Pam. This fresh web presence makes me feel more professional.

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Another Ghostly Weekend

Twelve of us survived to retell the tales of the 2008 Ghost Story Weekend. The stories were outstanding! Some very creepy tales (out of very nice people!), some hilarious moments, all in good fun, great fellowship, and I think everybody learned something valuable.  I did, and met three delightful new people as well.

Those who are fixing up Siltcoos Station continue to do a stellar job. It’s better and better, every time we’re out there.

And, I must say, the meals are getting better every time, too. This time Val set the Sunday morning breakfast standard with pancakes and eggs to order from the fancy grill she hauled up the train tracks from Nightingale’s Fish Camp (long story). 

And thanks to Dianna Rodgers, I created a crock pot dish that served twelve, including two vegetarians and one person allergic to tomatoes.  Herewith, the recipe:

Dead-Eyed Peas

Into a big crockpot put: 3 Generous cups of blackeyed peas and 9 same-size cups of water

Let cook on high for about three or four hours.

After the peas have cooked for a while, in a frying pan, saute one big onion, one package of sliced mushrooms and about six cloves of garlic. Add to the crockpot along with a four oz jar of pesto and two packages of 6 Morningstar Farms soy sausage patties, cut into small pieces.

Cook on low for another three or four hours.

An hour before serving, throw in a big bunch of chopped spinach. Salt and pepper to taste.

Serve with a dollop or sour cream and available Tabasco. Cornbread with honey on the side wouldn’t hurt.

And so. The eighteenth annual Ghost Story Weekend has passed. And I know of twelve people already looking forward to next spring.

(Photo by Shannan Sword)

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Filed under Bean soup, Friends, Ghost Story Weekend, Writing

Everybody’s got to be somewhere

It’s going to be 76 degrees today at home. My garden is full of weeds. I’ve got flats of plants and flowers that need to be potted up or put into the ground. it has been cold and rainy for weeks and both the garden and I are behind on all exterior maintenance. I need to be on my bike, working off the winter potatoes and rice. The dog needs to go to the dog park and run off her excess winter pounds, too.

Instead, I’m out at the coast, at the Ghost Story Weekend. I’ll get home Sunday afternoon, just in time to mow the lawn before the rains start again on Monday. We have guests arriving soon, staying for a week.

Clearly, it was difficult to pull myself away from home yesterday afternoon. These chores in the garden are my joy, not work.

But then I picked up Bill Smee, and we had a stimulating conversation all the way out to Florence, Oregon. Now I’m here with ten other writers, each of us crafting a short story that will scare, horrify, romance, tittilate or amuse each other, and hopefully eventually, the reading public.

I woke up this morning and looked out over the lake, listened to the loons calling each other in the crisp air, watched ducks make their smooth waked landings on the glassy surface. Woodpeckers were having at the tree right in front of my cabin.

Home and garden seems a long way away, because truthfully, there’s no place I’d rather be than hanging with other writers, all of us socially inappropriate for the most part, yet kin when it comes to the strangeness we allow ourselves to put down on paper. 

How lucky am I, to have to choose between two things that I dearly love?

The houseguests will just have to understand.

This weekend, I’m writing.

Right now, I’m at Ghost Story Weekend, and I’m happy to be here.

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Filed under Friends, Gardening, Ghost Story Weekend, Short Stories, Writing

Worthy Causes

Last night, my lovely friend Bonnie treated me to a ticket to “Ten Grands,” a fundraising concert at the Schnitzer in Portland for The Snowman Foundation. The Snowman Foundation provides musical instruments, instruction, etc. to underprivileged kids, and is quite an amazingly worthwhile cause.

But the concert! Oh, my! Ten grand pianos on stage with ten world-class pianists (and a couple of surprises), playing everything from Cole Porter to Rachmaninov. I had no idea what I was missing until I heard “Flight of the Bumblebee” played on ten pianos at once.  (Not everything, obviously, was played by ten pianos at once.)

Anyway, the purpose of this post is not only to let people know that this amazing concert will be in Seattle on May 17, but that we should always be on the lookout for worthy causes.

Al and I have our favorite charities, of course, but it seems to me this morning that we write checks to them almost out of habit. Checks are good to write, but there are other things to be done as well. Donating time, for one. I looked around that event–this was the eighth straight annual sold-out performance–and thought about all the time and energy that went into producing, promoting and staging the concert, most all of it provided at cost or donated, and I was quite moved by the generosity of the people who find it important to promote the arts in Oregon.

We all do what we can, I know that. We’re a very generous people. My reflection today is that writing a check somehow seems to salve the conscience, but doesn’t necessarily get the job done.  And by contributing to the same organization out of habit does a disservice to other worthy organizations. 

Food for thought on a nice Sunday, cloudy but with possibilities.

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Filed under Friends, Possibilities

A New Year

So here it is.  The dawn of a new year. Time for reflection, time for setting goals, time to clean out the file cabinet and set aside the old year.

2007 was a good year.

We got a dog, a Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever. Her name is Jook, and she is a great companion. sleepyjook.jpgI call her my treadmill, and we actually went for a run yesterday. She’s goofy and a lot of fun.

We took some good trips: to visit family in Weeki Wachee and Key West Florida, I went to Tucson for a weekend, and to Lopez Island. Al went fishing in Canada and duck hunting in Montana, and we both spent some time on the Rogue River. We also went to Whidbey Island for a writing conference and to Bainbridge Island for some quality goofing off.

My daughter and her boys moved back to Oregon, much to my delight, and identical twin grandsons were born to my son and his wife.

I got my BA degree and began graduate school.

Work has been good for me, and retirement has been good for Al.

My mom died, of course. That wasn’t a highlight of the year, but it certainly was significant.

On Tuesday I will clean out the filing cabinets, and finish–as much as possible–the financial updatings for the tax year, box it all up and have fresh file folders ready for 2008. This is one of my favorite rituals of the year.

And speaking of the new year, we’ve got some good things slated. A trip to Hawaii, first, to get out of the Oregon rain and into the warmth and sunshine. I’ll go back to Tucson for a weekend to visit my friend Maggie. Al and I are going to explore Alaska in September, and of course he has his usual jaunts to Canada and Wisconsin to hunt muskies and to Montana to hunt ducks. I expect our health to stay good and our gratitude for so many things–but especially that–to grow every day.

And now, to the real question: Resolutions.

I hate resolutions. I could aspire to a lot of things that I’m not and have never been. All I can do is my best every day, and so that is my resolution. To be me, every day.

And that’ll be good enough.

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Filed under family, Friends, years

Foot Firmly in Mouth. Again.

I did it again. I opened my big mouth and voiced a strong opinion about something that was none of my business to a person who shouldn’t have had to listen to it.

I do this regularly, and then it wakes me up in the night and I have to call and apologize for letting my mouth run away with me. Good grief. Shouldn’t I have learned a little restraint by now?

I can see my motives. I can see that I care about the person I was talking with, not wanting her to be hurt or used or taken advantage of. To bring a different perspective of the situation to her attention is one thing. That’s what friends do. To mouth off my strongly-held opinions quite insistently about what she should do about it is another thing. That’s rude.

And besides, that presupposes that I know what is best for her. It is saying that I know what God’s will is for her life, in a manner of speaking, when in fact, I have no idea. I only occasionally know what’s best for me.

The older I get, the more intricate are the little threads that tie us together in friendships. The older I get, the less black and white I see, and life’s issues are many more shades of gray. The older I get, the more delicate are the nuances of motivation, of honesty–of truth.

I called my friend this morning to apologize for my lack of control, and she didn’t even know what I was talking about at first. My personalized rant went in one ear and out the other, which is the way friends ought to be with one another. Sometimes unwanted advice is good, sometimes it’s not. Take what you need and leave the rest on the table with the empty coffee cups.

But it was not in keeping with my spiritual principles, so I had to clean it up. I have to do that a lot. The only thing I can say in my defense is that I’m working on it.

Am I hard on myself? Yeah, probably, but it’s the only way I know how to be if I’m to make any progress at all.

Remember that commercial? “Life is messy. Clean it up.”

Words to live by.

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Filed under Friends, relationships

Is Evil a Treatable Disease?

Yesterday, I took a friend to her cancer treatment. I sat in the waiting room, reading, while she endured a painful and humiliating event. When she emerged, she was tearful and trembling.

As I waited, I read an ancillary textbook for my next class. In the book was an excerpt from M. Scott Peck’s book, People of the Lie. In it, he postulates that evil is a disease, much like alcoholism. People who engage in both evil and alcoholism are participants, he says. Whether they are willing participants or not is the point of the matter.

As an alcoholic who has been clean and sober for many years, I can say that my participation in drinking was the result of a physical craving that was so severe that I would do anything, anything, to satisfy that craving, at the expense of all that was dear. Was I a willing participant? Yes, in a manner of speaking. We all have a need to feel like we’re the good guys, doing the good thing, even when we’re committing heinous acts. I, having no control over my drinking, embraced it as the cool thing to do. Until the time came when I could no longer do so, and shame took over. The only thing that keeps my alcoholism at bay today is a program of spiritual living.

But evil… now that’s a completely different thing. Isn’t it?

The Urantia Book defines evil as “a partial realization of, or maladjustment to, universe realities.” It goes on to say: “And of all forms of evil, none are more destructive of personality status than betrayal of trust and disloyalty to one’s confiding friends.” It is a “deficiency of wisdom.”

And so it would seem that evil is within our control, until we turn that corner and discover that we cannot stop. There was a moment at which I could not stop drinking. Does there come a moment when we cannot curtail our destructive (evil) actions?

Is evil addictive?

And if it is, will a program of spiritual living cure it, or halt its progression? Keep it in remission?

But what about my friend who emerged from the treatment room in the cancer center, shaken and traumatized by the error visited upon her body?

Evil may be an action; it may or may not be a willful action. But the darkness that we call cancer is certainly born of evil–a maladjustment to universe realities.

The treatment isn’t pretty, no matter what the circumstances. Today, cancer is a treatable disease, and my friend will endure whatever discomfort it takes to eradicate the darkness from her body, along with millions of others, recovering from cancer, recovering from alcoholism.

I hope that some day, other manifestations of evil will be similarly treated and eradicated.

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Filed under Cancer, Evil, Friends