Plan #20 – Contemplate where I’m from

I consider myself a Portlander. I moved here 32 years ago and I’ve lived here for all but three of those years. I’ve had an affinity for this city since my dad moved here when I was 12 and we began to spend summers here. See, that’s how Portland sucks you in: you come during the wonderful, beautiful, warm summer months and decide to live here… but then you get to live here through the grey months, too. Luckily for me, I don’t mind the rain. I’ve seen what it’s like to live somewhere that does not have consistent moisture, and it’s not pretty.

My “hometown” is Huntington Beach, California. I was not technically born there, but I was brought from the hospital to a home in HB, so I think that counts. I lived there for twelve of my first 17 years:

  • HB from birth through preschool (at 4 different addresses);
  • moved away for kindergarten through 2nd grade (2 different addresses);
  • HB for 3rd grade (1 different address),
  • moved away for 4th and 5th (2 different addresses),
  • back to HB for 6th through high school graduation (2 different addresses).

Yeah, I’ve been around the block (and I’ve lived on most blocks, too). I also abbreviate Huntington Beach fairly often, a habit I picked up from years of frustration over scantron forms that never have enough boxes or bubbles to fill in a long city name or forms that say “City: _____________” where the lines are far too short to fit anything beyond eight letters. (Hmm… and what other city is eight letters long?! Coincidence?)

It’s blasphemous in many circles to say so, but I don ‘t find much of Huntington Beach very attractive. Yes, the old downtown area is surfer-cool and has tons of charm, but North Huntington Beach, where I lived, was largely a land of housing tracts enclosed by concrete-block walls with a school and park in the center of each one, the houses themselves a series of  cookie-cutter ranch models with a tree planted in the parking strip out front. At every other major intersection or so was a shopping center and/or gas station; the differences were fairly few. Was the market a Vons, Alpha Beta, or Lucky? Was the drugstore Sav-on’s, Thrifty, or an independent? Was the gas station Shell or Texaco or 76?

Believe me, it was not a bad place to grow up. It was flat, so we could ride bikes everywhere; there were plenty of amenities;  the schools were good; and our parish, St. Bonaventure, had an amazing carnival. What more could a kid want? It was just bland, or worse. There was a “moat” (a flood control channel) around my high school, a Naval Weapons Station at the end of my street, a large industrial park just around the corner. But I had good friends and good times and it was all I knew.

Of course, the proximity to the beach elevated its cachet immensely. I mean, this is Surf City we are talking about. Miles of gorgeous shoreline (only some of which is across from extensive oil fields); great surfing; warm, sunny days. I absolutely love the beach and I am sure I always will. It gets into your blood, and a windy stroll on a cold Oregon coast just doesn’t cut it, beautiful as it may be.

Lifeguard Tower 10

I spent hours and hours on the beach, rotating my towel to get a better tan, listening to the radio with friends, body surfing (I was not a surfer, though a few girls surfed), taking romantic walks on the sand with boys or hauling kids we babysat in and out of the water. It was a short bus ride to Bolsa Chica, or a transfer and a longer ride down to the pier. (Either way, you’d get off the bus at a Jack in the Box, strangely.) It was fantastic.

But still.  Still, this town that I spent the first third of my life in never got the grip on my heart that Portland did. I came up here and I knew. This was my city. That other place, the place I grew up, is an interesting place to visit, to drive around and see what’s changed. But I don’t love it. I don’t miss it. I don’t wish I were there.

(Okay, okay. Sometimes I wish I were just a short drive from the beach. That will probably never change.)

Plan #18 – Keep planting seeds


On the 4th Sunday of each month, Quinland and I teach Sunday School to the preschoolers of our parish. We’ve been doing it for about three years and it is a highlight of the month for me.

The kids are amazing. They are between the ages of three and five, and this year they are almost all boys. One is very shy; a couple are very enthusiastic; one is just plain adorable, with his big eyes and his tightly-clutched stuffed animals. We fall in love with them every year and are so bummed when they get promoted to the next class.

The hour goes by incredibly quickly. We say a prayer, sing a song, listen to a very basic version of that Sunday’s Gospel, do an activity together, eat a snack, say another prayer, and go back to the pews to sit with the parents.

I love sharing our faith with these little ones. They are so eager to share what they already know about God, so excited to talk about their lives and their families, and so interested in learning new things. The fact that they are cute as can be (and hysterically funny) only adds to the appeal.

My very favorite thing about teaching this class, though, is getting to teach it with Quinland. I love to listen to Q read the Gospel, watch how the little guys look up to him, see how easily he can run the classroom. The last few months, Quinland has asked to bring friends along to our class. None of them go to church with their families, so it’s cool to give them a peek at what we do. (Our classroom is behind the altar, next to the sacristy, so it really feels like a behind-the-scenes tour.)

Best of all, I love the fact that teaching the preschoolers has boosted Quinland’s enthusiasm for coming to Mass. I think it is common for young people to start to question their beliefs, to work out for themselves how faith fits into their lives. I love seeing that faith transmitted from the Big Kid to the little kids and to see that spark kept alive.

As for me and my house we will serve the Lord.
Joshua 24:15

Pray for peace

I can’t call this a “plan” (as I have all my other posts this month) since I couldn’t have anticipated the news of the horrific terrorist attacks that have taken place recently.

There are so few words to express how I feel today. I pray for peace in Paris and in every country where people are suffering and dying. I am horrified by those whose ideology promotes the taking of innocent lives. People everywhere should have the ability to go about their lives without danger and without fear.

Peace for Paris
This peace symbol, Peace for Paris, was created by Jean Jullien. It has been shared countless times around the world in the last 24 hours and has touched the hearts of so many people .