When hosting get-togethers, keep it SIMPLE

It was a Saturday and I was expecting guests the next afternoon to celebrate my 6-week old baby. I was staring at a tray of cake crumbs stuck together with blobs of icing. They were supposed to be Petit fours. I had followed Martha Stewart’s step-by-step instructions in a book on loan from the library.


But these didn’t look anything like the photos. These weren’t even these. They were a big pile of this.

Mom listened as I poured out my dilemma to her over the phone. I had several other dishes to serve, but this was going to be the showstopper. The ooh and ahh moment of the buffet table.

It was at that moment that my amazing mom calmly told me how to fix it.

She said, “Take a spoon and the dish into Russ and tell him to enjoy it.”

Then she asked, “Do you know the difference between hospitality and entertaining?”

I didn’t yet, but I was about to find out.

I don’t remember her exact words, but I have never forgotten the idea. Entertaining is about making yourself look important, hospitality is about making the other person feel important.

Wouldn’t it be great if I could tell you that from that point on I “got it”?

Alas, that would be as far from the truth. The truth is, I’m still getting it. It is still so easy to get caught up in hosting the perfect get-together. Impeccably cooked food on an elaborate table with all of the right guests. Everything would be served at the perfect temperature with no stress and a perma-grin plastered on my face.

What I can tell you is I have learned (for the most part) to keep it simple. That doesn’t mean I’m never daring. What it means is when I try new things, they don’t take too long and they don’t use a lot of ingredients.

Saturday morning, we invited some friends over for dinner and firepit in the yard that night. When they accepted, I threw a casual tablecloth on the outdoor table and wove a table runner through some paper lanterns. Grabbing some pork chops out of the freezer to thaw, I paired them with a peach/mango/habanero sauce and we were ready to go.

While everyone else sat around the fire, I ran into the kitchen. I quickly whipped up a berry cobbler, stuck it in a cast iron skillet and set it on the fire. It took forever to cook. We all took turns trying to solve the mystery of an outdoor cobbler in between telling each other our stories.

The cobbler never really got done. We finally gave in and dished it up. It was still delicious, albeit imperfect. What was perfect was the fun we had. The memories we made added to this new friendship. It built relationship, which is what having people over should be all about.

As we were putting things away that night, I remarked to my husband, “It’s fun to do just enough for people to feel special but not so stuffy that no one is comfortable.” It was one of those moments that I know would have made Mom smile.

It made me smile, too.


(This was originally posted at The News Review website)


Dear World, From Roseburg

Dear World,

Before yesterday most of you had never heard of the City of Roseburg. Now when you hear that name you will link us to the tragedy that happened on our small community college campus yesterday.

That is not who we are.

We are a logging community tucked into a beautiful valley with some of the most beautiful tree covered hills you’ve ever seen.

The waters of the Umpqua river flow through our town and Umpqua Community College sits above its banks.

The same interstate that brought reporters and government officials is the same road that’s welcomed back our own Charlie Company from more than one tour protecting our nation.

Our children bring their livestock to show at the county fair on the same fairgrounds that welcomed busloads of students to frantic families anxious to see them step off the bus. Local pastors, relief workers and counselors were waiting too.

The Thursday night sky filled with candlelight in the park where music fills the air every summer on a blanket covered hill.

In July our streets fill with classic cars as families line the sidewalks of downtown, waiting for a history to roll by. The same streets rocked by an explosion more than 50 years ago.

On Veterans Day, those same streets welcome war heroes, marching bands and flag waving children, sometimes in pouring rain.

Photographs of the injured being rolled into the hospital doesn’t tell the whole story either.

Most of our babies have been born at Mercy and lives are saved there everyday, not just the tragic ones.

Umpqua Community College is the place where too many will remember for the wrong reasons. You won’t speak of the thousands of graduates who’ve learned to be nurses, dental assistants and anything that would put them back to work in our once thriving timber economy.

We’ll still show up at Jacoby Auditorium as it fills with local actors and musicians throughout the year.

In July, the track on campus fills with walkers as we join the Relay for Life.

There is so much more to remember about us than the day this tragedy tore into our lives and changed our community forever.

Today you will hear names and get to know a small bit of who we lost.

We will hear the names and feel the loss.

After the media is gone, we will still be here. We will return to celebrating in our streets, dancing in our parks and holding each other up when they are too weak to stand.

As the story continues to unfold and details emerge and you speak the name of our city please remember this, our city and college is not the name of a tragedy.

We are not here to provide an argument for your agenda or to be on a horrible list somewhere.

We are here because Roseburg is our home and that is the on thing about us that can’t be changed.

This post originally appeared at NRToday.com/moms


That (2nd) Time We Moved a House

Driving up to our home, it’s hard to forget that it hasn’t always been in that spot.

For the first 110 years, the white farmhouse sat on the other side of Roseburg, nestled into the trees along with a smaller home and barn on N.E. Winchester Street.

Local hotel owner D.C. McClallen had the home built for his family in 1895. Although the McClallens weren’t native to the Umpqua Valley, they were well respected in the community. It would seem that the house was built shortly before McClallen and his wife passed away, a couple of years apart.

Soon after, it is believed one of the McClallen grandchildren occupied the house.

Over the years, other well known families have owned the property.

Pete and Nelle Motschenbacher moved to the Winchester Street location in 1941.

Their daughter, Susan, remembers raking leaves in the front yard as the news broke that Pearl Harbor had been bombed.

As a teen, Susan spent summer nights sleeping on the front porch. She recalls cool summers and large parties her mom loved to host in the front yard. Susan’s mother, Nelle, worked for Roseburg Lumber owner Kenneth Ford in those days and her yard parties were well known throughout the Umpqua Valley.

Another popular feature was the fish pond that spread 10 feet across the front lawn.

In 1996, Nelle was unable to continue living in her beautiful family home and passed away shortly after moving out. Susan’s daughter occupied the residence for the next four years until the family decided it was time to sell.

In January of 2003, an article about the house was placed within a display advertisement in The News-Review. It proclaimed, “Wanted: Good home for a historic home.”

With a few bits of history woven throughout the piece, it was asking the public for help in finding someone who would be willing to save this bit of history from being torn down.

The owner at the time, Cascade Community Federal Credit Union, had been advertising the house for months with no real prospects. A friend of ours suggested we take a look to see if there was something we could do with the home. He had plans to mention it to my husband, Russ, but I made it clear he was to keep it to himself.

While Cascade was looking for someone to move the house, our family was settling in to our freshly renovated home on Calkins Street in Roseburg.

For the first 15 years of our marriage, we moved every two years. Purchasing a home that needed loving care, he’d fix it up and we’d move on. It was never planned that way. Each time we’d say, “This is the one we’ll stay in.” Of course, something else would catch his eye and we’d move again.

Weary from renovating and breathing in drywall dust, I was settled into our sweet traditional home. But it wasn’t long until he caught wind of the opportunity to save a piece of history. Almost one full year after the printed plea in The News-Review, Russ made a proposal to Cascade. The offer to move the home and remove the remaining buildings from the property was excepted.

Moving a home isn’t as simple as putting it on a trailer and dropping it on a piece of land. Usually months of work are involved from preparing the land to renovating the home once it’s placed. It’s a huge undertaking, but Russ has never shied away from hard work when beautifying a home was a possibility.

The work began early in March 2004. Preparing the home to move was a full-time endeavor.

It took four months to get ready. The most difficult job was deconstructing the top floor to avoid issues with overhead fiber optic lines on moving day.

We planned to also transfer the beautiful rhododendrons and bulbs that had been part of the house’s landscape for several decades, but the night before Russ arrive with buckets to dig them up, someone had come and helped themselves to the plants.

On Sunday, June 6, 2004, the day of the house move, Susan (Motschenbacher) Gerretsen gathered across the street with longtime friends and neighbors to bid farewell to her childhood home. I recently spoke to her on the phone and she remembers being grateful that this piece of history would be safe.

Anyone who has moved will tell you it is always stressful. Moving an entire house takes it to a whole new level.

With tarps on the roof and boards over windows, Russ and our daughter Rachel walked behind the sad looking structure during its move. We often tell people that it looked like Dorothy’s house from the Wizard of Oz after it was dropped on the wicked witch.

For several months, Russ spent 10- to 18-hour days building up the foundation and restoring the old home. It was ready to be occupied by February 2005. Landscaping and finishing touches would come later.

For the past 10 years we’ve nestled in to our piece of Roseburg history. With joy we huddle together with family and friends, adding to the legacy of the home Mr. McClallen lovingly built for his descendants.

The address may have changed but its purpose hasn’t.

It’s still a place to fill with laughter as we build on the loving legacy of other generations.


This story originally appeared in the News Review.


Grilled Spicy Thai Chicken Wings

Oh how I love the simplicity of summer. The long days, lazier mornings and easy meals lace together into memories we carry into the colder, barren days of the year.

Last year I bought my husband a nice grill for his birthday. It might be akin to him buying me a classic car but you can’t deny the importance of good equipment, right?

Although he does a good amount of the grilling I’ve been glad to have a place to cook outside on the scorcher days we’ve had lately. It’s also been fun adding new recipes to my arsenal because as much as I like burgers, there is so much more when it comes to great grilling.


Eating should take in all of the senses beyond the taste. The smell of spices, how it looks on the plate to the dripping sauce or sticky fingers. Food that makes your fingers sticky is my favorite.


Around here we like our spice too. My favorite restaurant makes deliciously hot wings that are served with a bowl of hot water for your fingers. The gooey factor is off the chart not to mention you can order them as hot as you can stand.


I sometimes feel the urge to be MacGyver in the kitchen. Thankfully I’ve never blown anything up. I do pick through the refrigerator and cupboards to do whatever it takes to feed a craving. Match that with some newly acquired grilling skills and we have an appetizer or light main dish that heats up your lips but not the kitchen!

Grilled Spicy Thai Chicken Wings

16 chicken wings, tips removed

avocado oil

course sea salt

fresh ground black pepper

¼ cup Ginger People Sweet Ginger Chili Sauce

2 tablespoons coconut aminos or soy sauce

1 tablespoon Sriracha (can add a bit more for more spice)

2 teaspoons sesame oil

1 teaspoon grated ginger


Heat grill to a medium heat. Brush wings with avocado oil. Season with coarse sea salt and fresh ground pepper. Grill wings over direct medium heat, turning once or twice until skin starts to become crispy, about 10 – 15 minutes.

Mix remaining ingredients

Brush sauce over wings, turning and glazing every 3 or so minutes until wings are done, about 10 minutes.

Serve warm with a side of fresh greens. Don’t forget the wet hand towels!

In a hurry? Flash frozen chicken does not have to be thawed before going straight to the grill!


This  article previoulsy ran on The News Review and on NRtoday.com


Changing the Culture that Protects Violaters

NOTE: I wrote this piece for Douglas County Moms two and a half years ago. I didn’t plan to be this raw but I poured out myself and survived. If it helps one other person survive I have done what I needed to do. This is my #MeToo

Andy Warhol is credited with the quote, “In the future everyone will be world-famous for 15 minutes.”  I wonder if being infamous adds to one’s allotted time.
Jim Bob and Michelle passed their 15-minutes years ago but they crossed over from fame to infamy yesterday.
When the news hit that their oldest son Josh Duggar engaged in predatory behavior with his sisters, reactions ranged from disgust at his behavior, anger at his parents for what appears to be a cover up, to elation for those who have been rooting for this family to fail.
I’m not in any of those camps. The camp in which I reside isn’t focused on this family as much as it is the culture in which they’ve openly engaged. The practice of their faith has deeper roots in a misguided movement I’m all too familiar with and as things have unfolded I’m not surprised at how this latest controversy was handled.
I was 11 years old when our family was introduced to Bill Gothard and his Institute in Basic Youth Conflicts (later changed to Basic Life Principles). We attended conferences full of marriage and parenting advice doled out by a man who’s never been married and isn’t a parent. To parents at a loss to raise a healthy christian family the teachings laced with Scripture were convincing. In this culture bible verses were spoon fed to us rather than encouraging us to truly know the Father heart of God. The principles held enough truth to make sense but in practice the root of these thoughts weren’t healthy.
As it turns out, Gothard stepped down last year over allegations of sexual misconduct that dates back to the days I sat in a large arena, taking in the the words and illustrations of a man whose life off the stage was shrouded in secrecy.
Behind the secrets were victims who were threatened to remain  silent. The gatekeepers became more concerned with the reputation of the “ministry” than the victims. With the amount of information available I have yet to find an avenue taken to insure healing and justice for the victims.
As I unpack the layers of the Duggar controversy I’m left with the available information – which by it’s nature is hard to trust –  as I filter it through my own story. I can deal with what I know but taking it at face value is the biggest challenge.
I don’t just have big feelings here, I have big questions.
How much do we blame on the Duggars and how much do we put on the culture they chose to be a part of? A culture full of teachings that taught us to ignore our own instincts and trust the voice we saw as authority. Who are we really protecting when we choose to say silent in the name of protecting the victim?
My story happened when I was in my early 20s. One night I arrived early to a church wide volleyball league. As I sat in my car, the director of the association’s recreation program approached. He was familiar to me and because our church was big on hugging I wasn’t on guard as he reached in my window.  What I thought was going to be a hug turned out to be a violation. A friend arrived shortly after, I was disgusted and distraught. I couldn’t stay for the game,  I drove home and told a family member.  A few days later we told my father who immediately made an appointment with the head of our local association. 
Retelling the story was humiliating enough but the response from the director took it to a different level.
He began by telling us that he believed me but if we took it public it would be my reputation that was compromised.
My integrity would be on trial.
He spoke as if it was me we were protecting.
He talked us out of taking action to protect the association and to insure that the reputation of our denomination was safe.
Like the above cases, the victims are silenced, told to move on, encouraged to remain silent. We are expected to heal on our own. A few years later I found resources to get past the assault and allow the process to shape me. I’ve not just survived, I’m thriving. Sadly, that’s not the case for everyone.

Bill Gothard’s influence no doubt has it’s place in this story. The “principles” woven into the fabric of every family who followed his teaching are coming into the light in the saddest of ways. Every family has issues, I get that, but the road out isn’t found by circling the wagons. Shame grows in the shadow of secrets and healing can’t take place by hiding in the dark. Only when we allow the light of truth in can we expose the shameful things.

I can’t speak to the level of repentance Josh Duggar has taken part in, I can’t judge his remorse. I don’t know if or how his sisters have healed. We really don’t know everything there is to know about the steps taken by Jim Bob and Michelle. We never will know the whole story, I’m not sure we should.
What I can speak to is the need for a drastic culture shift. When position overshadows the needs of those we are meant to serve, we all lose. When we protect those in the place of influence we perpetuate the abuse. We allow the abused to believe lies about themselves.

This isn’t limited to religious institutions or people who claim to be speaking God’s Word.

This is about any structure that ranks the needs of those with power over the powerless. Protecting those in power to protect the power structure will only bring weakness over all.

This story will fade into obscurity as these things usually do. We will forget this tale but I hope we’ll remember the lessons. I pray that we’ll learn not to cover up any more but to unveil the path to healing.

Those girls will not forget it and for their sake I hope they’ve found real help to heal. There are real young woman in this story who need more than anything to feel safe and valuable and unashamed. More than anything, they are the ones we should never forget.


This article originally posted at Nrtoday.com.