it takes a year

Posted by pamela on Nov. 21, 12 | 3 COMMENTS

It takes a year to make a place home. I am not talking about meeting people, putting pictures on walls, or knowing the streets and stores of town. What I am talking about is a sense of belonging.

When I first move to a new place, I work to get to know the place. I start by putting my own fingerprint in my house; I make a kitchen workable, put art on walls, and grow plants of beauty. I want my house to feel like a home and a place of peace. I wander the streets of town by car and on foot; I hunt for my staple foods, the treats, and the restaurants. I want to know where to find things before I actually need them (though not always possible). I hunt for people worth getting to know; I go to coffee shops and dinners and parties whenever I can (though I am an introvert). I want to find people to invest in and hope that they will invest in me. I hunt for a church – not a building, but a group of people. I want a church family and a place to worship. It is an exhausting process but one that is worthwhile because it lays a foundation for building a home. I try and approach it all with a sense of adventure  and discovery; most of the time it works.

That is the foundation upon which a home starts to be built as it is the beginning of knowing a place and the people within it. It is also the beginning of building patterns and making memories. Every time a place is revisited, it becomes more cemented as a place that is known. Each memory made with a person builds a friendship as a common history is created. Every time you leave and return, you discover that there is a different type of contentment in the return because you know more and are known by more. The foundation becomes stronger and a home is built.

This is why I say it takes a year to make a place home: it takes just over a year to repeat a season and to repeat a holiday. Seasons feel different in different locations. Holidays look, feel, and taste different. The first year you are not quite sure how to decorate, who to be with, or how make (or find) those special foods. It is in the repeat that you are able approach the holiday with the assurance of having done it once before. You might not do it the same way (maybe it was a flop the first time or maybe you want to try something different), but you have the choice to do something different. And in that choice of repeating or changing, you have crossed over to knowing. In building on history from the previous year, in creating the holiday foods and decorations, and in gathering with people with whom you have made memories, you belong and a home has been made. It is never a perfect thing, but it is a rich thing.

It takes a year to make a home, and that is why I am so thankful to be celebrating Thanksgiving here in Rwanda. For the second time I am helping dear friends host a crowd. This year I know where to get the ingredients and what substitutions work well. I have already made memories with many of the people coming, so tomorrow we will share a history, not be starting one. Together we will create a memory and a shared history. Together, we will make this place a little bit more home.

a summer of camping

Posted by pamela on Sep. 09, 11 | 0 COMMENTS

This summer has been filled with some fantastic camping. Often it has seemed to be ‘too hot’ in the city to do much of anything, but when trees replace cement buildings, streams replace sidewalks, and lakes replace parking lots and malls, suddenly the heat becomes manageable. Trees and bushes absorb rather than reflect and amplify heat as well as provide protection from the intensity of the sun, and water serves as a constant cooler. And so, I have done my best to be outside, near water, as much as possible.

On these trips I have taken a break from photography. Not because I don’t love photography, but because I needed a break from being behind the lens. I have wanted to see and experience without the lens  of a camera acting as a small barrier between me and life. I wanted to turn off the part of my brain that is constantly framing an image, timing lighting, and working to best capture vivid colors. My hope was that this would provide a breath of fresh air for me, and would facilitate living and playing much. It has been a beautiful time.

Last weekend was the annual “Crane Kid” camping trip, which for the first time ever included both of my parents. I really should rename the trip to “Crane” camping trip seeing as we had three generations represented between my parents, siblings and nephew. It was a perfect cap on the summer: hours playing in a lake, kayaking to islands, board games by flashlight, and a peach crisp over an open fire. What I love most about this time is that it pulls us all out of our respective spaces. Surrounded by nature, there is no hiding behind technology or household duties, and we are simply together. For me, this is the makings of a perfect vacation.

 This is my nephew, Thumper, chilling out in the afternoon heat. He had so much fun explore: rocks, sticks, spiders, and water – who could ask for more? Photo compliments of his mom, Esther.

As this season of camping draws towards a close, I have packed up most of my camping supplies and sent them back with my parents to use while I am in Rwanda. I reserved my small 2-man tent, sleeping pad and sleeping bag for Rwanda in hopes of fun to come. As I leave the rest of my camping gear behind, I am starting to dream of putting together a new “Africa camping box” when I arrive in Rwanda inspired by art as much as utility… check out this post by Artemis Russell on her site, junkaholique, to see some of my inspiration. I promise to take my camera out more when I am there so as to share with you the beauty of the land that will become my home. Although it is a densely populated country, I am confident, hopeful, of finding new spots that can become my own.

In the next few weeks, I do promise two additional posts on camping – but I fear these will be informational more than anything. When searching online for details on these two sites, there was a void of helpful information, so I hope these posts serve well those who come after me. I hope that will be some of you. And, even if you do not go to these spots, I hope you find nature escapes that are welcoming regardless of the weather – places where you can live large with loved ones.

road trips, weddings, and adventures

Posted by pamela on Jul. 28, 11 | 0 COMMENTS

This weekend some dear friends are getting married. A few weeks ago, before they began the pre-wedding travels, we had a grand Mario Bros themed party at a local pub for them. That’s them on the left. The two of us on the right are excited be in their wedding, supporting them as they begin a life together.

So… in a couple of hours, Joel and I begin our journey to Charles City, Virginia where we will celebrate in grand (not Mario-themed) fashion with them this weekend. It will be simply elegant, totally them, and wonderfully perfect.

Because such a road trip should include other adventures, we are then headed to the beach to hike six miles and spend two nights camping next to the ocean. I grew up camping on beaches that were not filled with other people, so this touches my soul in a happy place. I promise to share pictures upon our return.

And no, I have not forgotten about the move to Rwanda. The purchase of the last week was the water filter I will use in my home so that I do not have to buy bottled water or boil it daily (annoying, time consuming, and does not equate to good tasting water). Such a simple, not pretty thing, but oh so thrilling. I will have access to safe water that requires little effort.

I hope you have great plans this weekend.

celebrating with family and friends

Posted by pamela on Mar. 23, 11 | 0 COMMENTS

As I mentioned in my last post, I celebrated my 30th. Not just one night, but, well… the celebrations continued for a couple of weeks. All because I have amazing family and friends who helped me celebrate and are always up for some fun. Here are a couple of highlights.

Four friends + one lake-side cabin = hours of relaxed fun.

We had amazing food – including this apple pie in the deep dish apple pie plate that was made for me. More about it another time. And the games. Oh the games we played.

Boys will be boys. Apparently this rock needed to be pushed, hauled, and otherwise shoved into the lake. It made a big splash. And they gave each other a high five.

Then Joel and I went rappelling off a 120 foot cliff. Stunning and awesome.

Right before we got to the Stone Door to go rappelling, we had care problems. So, while rappelling (and here playing with the ascender), we talked to more than a couple friends to be rescued. A rural Tennessee adventure (really not that different than an African adventure) later we got home that night.

Then I celebrated with my siblings. Happy moments being around the same table and playing together. Next time I will be sure and get our (most awesome) sibling additions into the photo. I am so thankful I love my brothers’ wife and wife-to-be!

We went rock climbing at the nation’s largest climbing gym, Stone Summit, which just happens to be in Atlanta. We adults had fun, but the cutest thing by far was my nephew, Liam (aka Thumper), who did his best to copy us.

And then there were the “Happy Birthday’s” by text, phone, email and card as well as packages in the mail. Thank you everyone for helping me celebrate the beginning of my 30′s!

cave camping

Posted by pamela on Jan. 18, 11 | 2 COMMENTS

Last weekend I spent 21 hours underground because I thought it would be a great adventure and three friends agreed. We loaded our packs, drove out to the cow pasture that is a hill, walked to the top of a hill and then descended into the cave. As soon as we entered the cave, time stood still. Shadows did not grow longer, the night darker, or the morning brighter. It was always fully dark save the light we created.

Above ground there were still melting icicles, but underneath it remained a balmy 50 degrees – warm when moving and cold when sitting on stone surrounded by damp air. We sweated as we climbed over and under fallen rocks (once the cave ceilings), explored tunnels, and wiggled (or rolled) through narrow passage ways. Then we added layers of clothes as we ate good food, drank happy drinks, played card and dice games, and pondered life into a (perfect) small fire. The morning (though not the light) brought the same in reverse – food and then spelunking. All of it filled with the smiles and laughter of shared adventure.

Here is the thing about last  weekend: it was fully our adventure, our fun. The space was dark and the rocks cold. It could have been a frightful space, but instead was a joyous space. We carried crazy amounts of stuff for one night. But, in return, we ate hot meals, drank rum-spiked hot chocolate, had home-made apple pie, plenty of warmth, fire wood, candles, games, and toilet paper. We left nothing behind and brought out some trash left by others. It was awesome, but there is one thing I will do differently next time. Next time I will bring a table cloth.

I love Jack, my Subaru. He faithful carries adventure necessities.

The adventurers. Please note general cleanliness and pack size for one night.

Men making chairs.

Friends making dinner.

Making the perfect fire. No matches required.

Enjoying the perfect fire. Seemed like there should have been stars above. Instead there were rocks.

Triumphant and dirty.

It is an unwritten rule: backwoods adventures must end with a meal at a diner.

merry christmas

Posted by pamela on Dec. 24, 10 | 0 COMMENTS

Today I am with family and friends so close to my heart, and last week was spent with other loved ones. I dearly wish that I could continue this time spending daily life and taking time to simply be with so many others. But I will not wish for something else in such a way as to let today slip by – today is beautiful. I was looking for a reflection on Christmas, on the glory of Christ become man, on Mary, a young and single mother, on the glory of what we celebrate at Christmas. In the midst of searching, I found this instead. It spoke to my heart, and though not specifically on these themes, seemed appropriate for today. Merry Christmas friends.

i thank You God for most this amazing

i thank You God for most this amazing

day:for the leaping greenly spirits of trees

and a blue true dream of sky;and for everything

which is natural which is infinite which is yes

(i who have died am alive again today,

and this is the sun’s birthday;this is the birth

day of life and of love and wings;and of the gay

great happening illimitably earth)

how should tasting touching hearing seeing

breathing any – lifted from the no

of all nothing – human merely being

doubt unimaginable You?

(now the ears of my ears awake and

now the eyes of my eyes are opened)

~e.e. cummings

i flew (fell) through the sky

Posted by pamela on Nov. 24, 10 | 2 COMMENTS

This past Saturday I celebrated Joel’s birthday by jumping/stepping/being pushed out of an airplane, free falling for nearly 10,000 feet, floating for 4,000 feet, and, finally, sliding to a stop (gracefully) on my backside. All while attached to a tall, handsome man who took care of the details (like making sure the parachute opened) so that I could enjoy every windblown moment without (generally) a care in the world.

I have been a SCUBA diver since I turned 12, and somehow this seemed like the other extreme. And I love birthdays. So,when Joel said, “I want to celebrate my 30th birthday by jumping out of a perfectly good plane,” of course I said, “Let’s go.” Only this time last November, when he actually turned 30, it was pretty darn cold. Both of us love warm/hot climates, and so the adventure was put off. October rolled around, we thought of the adventure again, and sighed up. The hour we were to leave for the airfield we got the call, “The plane has a maintenance problem.” Really? My travel schedule has been hard to work around these days, winter was coming, and I wanted to be a part of this adventure. But, it all worked out. On November 20, a perfect, 70 degree day with blue skies and scattered clouds,10 days shy of his 31st birthday, Joel and I jumped.

I thought the adrenaline would slow time down. Kind of like how time seems to stand still long enough to get out of the way of danger. Only it did not. The free fall was around 60 seconds, parachuting around 5 minutes. Really? I still do not believe it. I thought I would feel like I was dropping on a roller coaster or in an elevator. But no, at over 100 mph, the wind blowing against your body prevents that feeling? Really? Every part of it a fantastic new experience

The panoramic view was unbelievable. Land stretched as far as I could see. Small, light, fluffy clouds danced below, then around, then above me. A pair of eagles below me, then they soared with the wind to a place to which I could not return. It was kind of like a drift dive with a high current – the view was amazing, but once you passed a spot, there was no returning to it. The difference is that with this, the grandness of the land slowly eased away as the end, the landing, came into focus.

Laughter. Smiles. The glow of new adventure. Was it worth it? Definitely? Would I do it agin? Most assuredly, though I would hope for a new piece of land to see from on high. Is it my next hobby? Probably not; I like the ocean too much for that.

Here are a few quotes that Joel so graciously recorded from our adventure. Pictures taken by dear friend Elizabeth – another friend who loves adventure and celebration, and was willing to stay on land to document this grand occasion. (Joel is the orange parachute, I am the blue. First picture is of him, the second him landing, me flying in for the landing.)

“So you are going to channel your inner Peregrine?” -Elizabeth

Originally we’d paid for a 10k ft. tandem skydive.  “For $10 more we’ll take you to 14K and your 30 second free fall will be about a minute free fall.”Did she even have to ask?!

“As the plane began to climb and the two solo jumpers fell out at 4000k, I began to second guess the choice.  Not that there’s a significant impact difference from a fall from 4k or 14k.  But if FEELS higher.” -Joel

“The last time I was in a little plane like this, we buzzed the runway to clear the zebras off.” -Pam

“If I only had a nickel for every time I took off in a plane facing backwards…”  -Joel

“Put your hair in a bun.  Otherwise it’ll whip me in the face the whole way down.”-  Jump Guide to Pam

“Pam, maybe your jump guide will be hot”-  Elizabeth

“I’m going to my happy place”  “Centering my Chi”  “Confessing all sins” -joel

Door! “Scoot to the back of the plane.  Kneel at the door.  Grab your shoulder straps and don’t let go.  Tilt your head to the right so you don’t smack me in the face.  Arch your back and I’ll push us out.” -Jump Guide


Joel – thanks for choosing to celebrate your birthday in a grand way!

a perfect day in middle tennessee

Posted by pamela on Sep. 27, 10 | 1 COMMENT

As captured by my new i-phone 4:

Three friends, one canoe, a river, and a cooler filled with food and drink.

The first orange and brown and purple leaves of the season.

A historic bridge.

Hay bales that wanted some company. New place to do yoga?

I stepped into mud deeper than my legs. Thankful for a Elizabeth and a rescue paddle.

Smiles. Rescued from mud and ready for the journey to continue.

On our way home, we stumbled across Miller’s Grocery… people were waiting outside for a table and live music was filtering out the door. Our 20 minute wait rewarded us with fantastic Southern cooking, killer desserts, great atmosphere, and fun music. Check out their website and if you are nearby, make time to visit!

joyful adventure

Posted by pamela on Sep. 11, 10 | 0 COMMENTS

As we were driving out of a community Thursday morning, Claudette pointed down the road and said, “That’s Uganda.” I knew that we were practically sitting on the border all week and had looked into Uganda from the mountain, but the border crossing was now less than a mile away and I knew that Mike, this being his first trip to Africa, had not yet been to Uganda. So I asked if it was easy to cross and a few more questions. Next thing I know Claudette had talked to Emmanuel, our driver, and we are headed to the border – all of us with big smiles on our faces.

There is just something about spontaneous adventure that is hard to beat. We could have turned around and gone to our next meeting, but we had some time to kill and Uganda was waiting for us. Except I know the visa to Uganda is $50 for Americans, and I did not want to drop $100 to walk on Ugandan soil. But, how can it be adventure if you know how it will work out before it has begun?

When we got out of the car at the Rwandan border (this would be a crossing on foot), I found out that Blandine, who is from this border community had never been to Uganda. Everyone had their papers – three of us passports, one set of national papers, and one set of local papers (that required no visa or stamp to cross). We exited Rwanda and walked to Uganda where I met the immigration officer. I explained what we were doing – that we just wanted to get a soda in Uganda. He waived us on for our little adventure, no visa required. “Please, is there any way to get a stamp in our passports or for you to sign our passports?” I was definitely not above begging. “No – that requires a visa.” (No need to mention the cost for a visa.) So, he waived us in and gave us a small bag of peanuts sitting on his desk – our consolation prize. And so we walked into Uganda with no stamp but eating consolation peanuts. We found the least grungy border hotel, had a warm soda, took some photos, and walked back to Rwanda.

Our time in Rwanda had been great – amazing stories, smiles, laughter, and gorgeous nature. But this adventure was different than everything else. We had conspired together and embarked on a journey that was not planned. No one was in charge and it was all slightly unknown. Both an American and a Rwandan (specifically from that region) visited Uganda for the first time. The smiles and bounces in everyone’s walk were larger than I have seen them any other time. I am so thankful for the good, spontaneous decisions we made that day. Together we journeyed and were filled with joyful adventure.


Posted by pamela on Aug. 04, 10 | 2 COMMENTS

“It is amazing that there are conditions under which a group of people can be happy to sit under a tarp in a rainstorm.” ~Joel

I love camping because it removes all of the devices that are tethered to me and those with me – in my case phone and computer. It removes and lets us focus on each other, nature, and simply being.

Last weekend we were in the Smoky Mountains at Cosby Campground – a great site that I would highly recommend. We hiked, splashed in a stream, played cards huddled under a tarp, slept in tents, made good food over fires (including homemade tortillas and brownies), played with my nephew (who responds more to his nickname, Thumper, than his name), and talked. And I showered under the stars by the stream. Perfect.

new board games

Posted by pamela on Jul. 16, 10 | 1 COMMENT

I love to play games. And when I was on vacation last week my eyes were opened up to the glory of a whole new realm of games. In the midst of spending time by and in the the lake, reading good books, and having great conversations, Renee, Kylie and I played games. We played them after breakfast, over lunch, and with drinks in the evening. It was awesome to be introduced to new games and I am looking forward to adding some  to my collection in the coming months. Since I own Rummikub & Carcassone, I think my next purchase will be Small World or Voltage for the next family rendezvous. Though I am not going to spend the time or space to review each of them, I am linking each to their profile page on Board Game Geek so that you can read more and hopefully be inspired to play a new game. Most of these are the cost of 2-3 DVDs or dinner at a restaurant for 1-2 people… think of how much more fun and interaction with friends you would get out of owning these games.

thinking friends

Posted by pamela on Jan. 18, 10 | 0 COMMENTS

Today I am struck by how my community of friends are people who think. But, even more than that, they live out their thinking. In the last 24 hours I have had conversation about a great movie I saw with two friends, read an email exchange between two other friends, responded to a friend trying to figure out her way in life, and am in the midst of an essay on life that another friend wrote. The facilitator of each conversation is different – a movie, a tv series, one’s future, and life in a region destroyed by strife. Yet, regardless of the facilitator, the conversations are filled with depth – tribal attitudes and cross-cultural adaptation, freedom of life in God and not should’ing on oneself, what brings a friend joy and fulfillment, and whether or not God is good and worthy of being trusted.

I do not have much patience for sitting around and talking philosophy. I do not like abstract thoughts that do not return to reality. Idealism is beautiful until destroyed by reality. What I love about these conversations is that my friends are thinking and are sharing their struggles with others, we are all growing, and life is being lived in amongst these conversations. These things are not being wrestled with as abstract thoughts, but as a real part of who we are as we face life. This is beautiful and I consider myself blessed to have such thinking friends.

a winter wedding retreat

Posted by pamela on Jan. 09, 10 | 1 COMMENT

The weekend before Christmas I had the honor of participating in a Winter Wedding Retreat – a small, intimate, multi-day wedding celebration. Every time I have sat down to write this, I have ended up at a loss of words. Not because there is little to say, but precisely the opposite – there is so much to say, and so little of it can be said in words, but only captured in the wholeness of the weekend. I hope that this shares some of that beauty.

26 of us – family and friends – gathered at Renee’s family home and two nearby cottages on the shores of Lake Michigan Friday through Sunday. We each came with our own story and our own connection to Renee and Kylie. Everyone had someone new to meet, and yet each was an integral part of their community, and as a whole we represented a much larger community gathering around them to celebrate and support their marriage. At the weekend’s close, we could honestly call each other friends.

As for me, I met Renee ten and a half years ago as a freshman in university. We were instant kindred spirits and have since then spent years living and laughing together. We have weathered tempests of storms and soaked in the calmest of waters together. I love  Renee and Kylie’s story – what it is and what it will be – but that is for them to tell. What I can tell you is that they were made for each other and that I am blessed to be a part of their community.

I flew in a day and a half early to help with wedding prep – buying food and wine, making welcome baskets for the cabins, fixing a few beads on the wedding dress, soaking in the hot tub, and talking with Renee late into the night. Then the we did the airport runs. So much contentment in welcoming loved ones. Then the celebration began.

Pizza and pasta dinner surrounded by graffitied brick walls. Touching stories, laughter, and tears shared as a group. Morning devotions and prayer led by Grandma and Grandpa, who have been married for 55 years. The picture perfect dusting of snow. The men bonded over laser tag and lunch out. The women stayed in for relaxation for a simple spa time, mimosas, and lunch. The living space was rearranged three times in a night – for a wedding ceremony at sunset, a Thai dinner, and a dance floor. The bride was stunning and the groom handsome. They committed themselves to each other in marriage. There were tears shed and there were smiles filled with joy.  And on Sunday we gathered once more for a large brunch – one last meal over which to linger before goodbyes. It was a blessed time.

I have heard people say of weddings, “That was a good party.” And this was a good party – but not in an out until 3 am kind of way. It was good because we all left wishing we could stay longer and yet our hearts were content. It was good because we truly celebrated Renee and Kylie’s marriage – not just the act of the wedding, but their marriage. It was good because we celebrated as community. It was so good.

My camera was put away during the actual wedding and evening celebrations, so I have no glamorous photos of the couple in their wedding best. But Saturday morning I headed outside with the two of them to get some pictures with the freshly fallen, perfect dusting of snow. I hope you can see their joy.