Archive | October, 2011

Day 201: Eleanor

24 Oct

Eleanor is four and one half years old. She is the daughter of my friends Jack and Misty. This past September, Eleanor entered a bilingual preschool. She also takes horseback riding lessons and plays soccer and has two very proud parents.

Eleanor is a very bright, independent child. When I have been around her, I have noticed that she is very respectful and considerate of others, especially for one so young. Once I heard her ask her Dad for a snack and he had some fresh peppers and offered her a slice. At first she scrunched up her nose and Jack said, “You like peppers Ellie” to which she said, “Oh” and took the slice and promptly ate it exclaiming, “I like peppers Dad!”

When I saw that exchange and thought of all the times I tried to tell my kids that they liked one vegetable or another, I was surprised that Jack made it look so easy! He really seems to put all of his effort into this child and, these are his words, “she is best thing to ever happen to me.”

Perhaps I feel a kinship to Eleanor because she has the same name that my mother did. When I saw her Dad today, I asked him what kind of pie Ellie might like, and he repied, “Berry.” That is why this afternoon I brought a Mixed Berry Pie to Eleanor for being exactly who she is and for bringing so much happiness to those around her.

I’ll leave you to ponder a quote or two from a very famous Eleanor.

“I have never felt that anything really mattered but knowing that you stood for the things in which you believed and had done the very best you could.”

“Since you get more joy out of giving joy to others, you should put a good deal of thought into the happiness that you are able to give.”

Eleanor Roosevelt


Day 200: Reed

23 Oct

Reed is a twenty something young man living in Ashland. Though I have known his mother, Martha, for years, for some reason or another, I have never met Reed. Martha recently saw an article about my pie project and sent me an email in which she told me that Reed and I have pie baking in common.

It seems that when Reed was in the 5th grade he participated in the after school ski program and became enthralled with skiing. Martha knew that this hobby would cost money and she talked to Reed about how he might earn that money.

Since Reed liked baking, it seemed natural to create the “Ski Pass Pie Company.” Prior to the ski season, beginning in October, Reed would pre-sell pies to his friends and neighbors and then deliver them hot from the oven to their doorsteps. In this way, he raised the money for his ski pass and the occasional piece of ski equipment.

Reed ran his pie company for five years and then passed it on to his sister. Through that business experience they both learned lifelong skills. Among them: how to work with people, food preparation and cleanup, and sales techniques. And they had fun and learned to ski as well! Martha said that she told the kids that if they can bake a pie, they can probably do anything. Perhaps that’s true.

Over the past few months, I’ve learned a few things about pies. The first is that pie baking is not easy for everyone. It wasn’t always easy for me either, but after hundreds of pies, I got better at it.

The second thing I’ve learned, is that when people get a pie, they (often) become happier. They know that someone has spent some time and effort on their behalf. And unfortunately, we are all so busy that this practice is not as common as it might be.

This afternoon, I brought a Chocolate Cream Pie to Reed’s house, but he was not at home. His younger sister accepted it for him and said that she knew that Reed would be glad to receive it – seems that she knows that giving a pie is a way of showing a person that you care. And that’s what this mission is all about.

Day 199: Jim Amberg of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival

22 Oct

Tonight my daughter and I had tickets to see August: Osage County at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. My daughter, Alexandra, worked as an usher for OSF for a few years and met some really nice people while she was there. This evening we prepared a Mixed Berry Crumb Crust pie for one of those people, Mr. Jim Amberg.

Jim is the Access Coordinator at OSF, and that means his work is to make the experience of attending the theatre open to everyone. Accessibility goes beyond providing ramps and seating for those in wheelchairs. It includes such things as providing sign language interpreters, audio description on demand, or as in the case of tonight’s performance, open captioning. In addition, OSF provides thousands of assistive listening devices for those with moderate hearing loss.

This past summer, Jim and audience services manager, Radawna Wallace, were selected to receive a 2011 John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts Leadership Exchange in Arts and Disability Award for Emerging Leaders. The two were honored for their work adding services to assist audience members with disabilities. The criteria used to select the award recipients is as follows: Recipients are selected for having sustained accessibility efforts over a significant period of time, demonstrating either an individual or institutional commitment to the inclusion of all people with disabilities.

Alexandra always spoke very highly Jim and tonight I was delighted to bring him a pie to recognize his sincere consideration of others and his unfailing devotion to his work.

Day 198: Losing a Pet

21 Oct

Apple Pie with Almonds
Earlier this summer, a friend of mine told me that she and her husband had lost their dog to illness. This pet had been a part of their family for so many years and having him suddenly gone continues to be very difficult for them. One of the The hardest things about living with loss is that life continues all around us, and we are expected to move on as well. Even though our hearts ache, the sun continues to rise each day.

Our family lost our dog, Grover, about a year and a half ago. We’d had him for eleven years and he was very much a part of our family. While I knew that he would leave us oneday, I just never thought about “when” that day would come because I knew it would be hard to say goodbye. But even knowing that, I would never have changed my mind about adopting Grover. He brought so much to our family and we’d have missed all that.

Still, there are moments when I tear up just thinking about him. He was a big gentle dog with brown eyes that had a way of melting my heart. I know that my friend’s dog meant the same, or more, to her. I am reminded of a clip I saw of Jimmy Stewart, the actor. He was on the Johhny Carson show in 1981 and he read a poem about his dog. It’s a beautiful tribute to a dear friend.

Today, I baked a “Kickass Apple Pie” and topped it with sugared almonds to give to my friends to let them know that I share their loss and wish them both well.

Grover, me and Coco about 10 years ago

To live in hearts we leave behind is not to die.
Thomas Campbell

Day 197: Jerry Pariseau

20 Oct

Earlier this year, my husband and I signed up for dance lessons through the First Presbyterian church.  Our friends, Gene and Marilyn, told us about the classes and how much fun they were, and we thought we’d give it a try.  We had taken a dance class only once before in our many years together and it had been fun, but once it ended our dancing days seemed over.

When it came time for these lessons, we were both looking forward to them.  We met our instructor, Jerry Pariseau, and immediately liked him.  Jerry has a business called “Follow my Lead” and he teaches many classes throughout the week. He is patient, funny, and he makes it easy to learn all the different dance moves. We have really enjoyed our time in this class.

What I find remarkable is when I see the men in our class (my husband included) who can do amazing things in the world of work, suddenly look like deer in the headlights because this “dancing” thing is so foreign to them. Jerry will show them the steps to a dance and their eyes all get big and round. But what is really wonderful is that they are all willing to take these dance lessons so that they can spend time holding their wives and moving around to music. That’s pretty special.

Tonight was the last night of our dance lessons and so I brought Jerry an Apple Blueberry Pie. I wanted to thank him for his lighthearted approach to dance – and for making it so easy for us all to “follow his lead.”

Day 196: Chuck and Mardy

19 Oct

Karen and Mardy

About 25 years ago, when we came to Ashland to attend Southern Oregon State College, my husband convinced me to take up a sport.  For some reason, I thought that racquetball would be a good sport to learn and so I signed up.  At the time, I knew little about the sport except that it was played indoors and looked fun.  Then the reality of the sport set in: you play in a closed room with people that are hitting a ball hard – which means someone can get hurt.

What I remember about my first couple of classes is that I never hit the ball at all.  It seemed to always be zooming by me or at me and I never got around to hitting it.  And then one day I was on the court with a few classmates and finally the ball came my way at a speed that I could manage and I hit it!  It was the first time I had ever hit the ball!  My euphoria was short-lived however because one of my teammates turned around to see where the ball had gone… and WHACK! It hit him in the face and knocked off AND BROKE his glasses.  Can you believe it? Instead of being thrilled that I hit the ball I was instead apologizing profusely to Chuck… who was not too taken with me at that time.

Somehow, even after that auspicious beginning, my husband became good friends with Chuck. Maybe Chuck took pity on him for living with a such dangerous woman; I don’t know for sure.  What I do know is that because of their friendship, I became friends with Chuck’s wife Mardy and we’ve been friends ever since.

Mardy and Chuck were there to help us when we moved up to Portland as they had moved up several years earlier.  We stayed with them for a few days while we searched for an apartment and they helped whenever they could with whatever we needed.  Having friends in town made our move quite a bit less stressful.

Mardy helped me out in other ways as well.  She was the one who made my first business card for me.  I’d been catering for friends for a while and Mardy often worked with me, and she kept telling me I needed a business card but I never got around to making  one.  One day she showed up and handed my a few cards that she’d printed for me with the name “Kaleidoscope Katering”.   It was perfect – and finally customers had a way to get in touch with me…. thanks to Mardy.

One of the things that I admire about Chuck and Mardy is that they seem to make the best of a situation.  They both work hard, are willing to take on challenging tasks, and are incredibly flexible.  Where someone else might be deterred, they seem to find a way to make things work out.  It’s really inspiring.

We moved back to Ashland in 1995 but have maintained our relationship with Chuck and Mardy.  Sometimes they travel down to see us; more often, we travel north and stay with them.  Last evening we arrived in Portland after leaving the coast and spent the evening at their lovely condo.  We decided to go out to eat and found ourselves at The Oregon Culinary Institute where we enjoyed a wonderful four course meal.  After dinner, Mardy and I went to the store to buy a few ingredients for a pie and early this morning I got up to make that pie.

Pie ingredients with Chuck in the background

While the pie baked, Chuck and Emile played a game of chess… while I snapped a few shots of the view from their living room.

Emile and Chuck

The view north

Once the pie was finally done, I left it to cool on their marble countertop.   I hope they know how grateful we are for all they have done for us.  We are very happy to have met them and become friends, and except for that tiny incident with the racquetball, I think Chuck would agree.

Apple Crumb Crust Pie

Day 195: Shirley

18 Oct

We are still on vacation… and left Newport today to head into Portland, OR.   But before we leave Newport, let me tell you that the weather on the coast this weekend was SPECTACULAR!!!  Here is a photo I took of my husband and our friends near the beach this morning:

Yesterday I talked about how Bonnie Good found me a place to bake my pies in Newport, Oregon.  And I don’t know how she found me a place to bake those pies – or what words she used to persuade anyone.    When we talked later in the day, Bonnie told me that she had spoken to Shirley who works at the senior center in Newport and she told her that I needed a place to bake my pies.  And Shirley said I could come on over.  She seemed to “get” this pie project and thought it made perfect sense.  Bonnie thought that was just wonderful… as did I.

So, yesterday, I baked two pies at the senior center.  One of those pies I gave to Bonnie because she was kind enough to find me a place to bake… and she did not have to do that.  But she did.  And that meant so much… that she was willing to help me on my pie journey.

And the second pie… today’s pie, was given to Shirley, the person who manages the senior center kitchen.  Shirley told me that she had some folks in mind for the pie I had made and she knew how much they would appreciate it.

What was so wonderful about these two women was that they were taken with my project and really wanted to help me succeed.  Shirley showed me the kitchen and let me bake my pies… and Bonnie lead me to Shirley.  What luck I had in  finding these two women… without them I would have had trouble completing my mission.

Yesterday afternoon I got a note card from Bonnie.  Inside she had written “It’s not always better to give than receive.  The pie was delicious!”  Thank you Bonnie… and Shirley… for your trust, for your willingness to help another person, for your compassion.   I wish you both the very best.