Around the Table in Colorado

We’ve spent the last three weeks in Colorado including Denver, Winter Park, Colorado Springs and Fort Collins. We had a handful of legit folkie shows and the rest of our time was spent around the table.

Our first stop was in snowy Denver with the Stephan family. We were referred to them by a dear friend in Green Bay, WI. We parked street side in the new Stapleton Estates. Easy going, the Stephan’s made us feel right at home. We rested after a long trek across the plains states, enjoyed encouraging conversation and on our final night I had the opportunity to make a dinner for us all in their kitchen. Stocked with full amenities, all the bells and whistles, I was like a kid in a candy shop. Don’t get me wrong, I love cooking in my bus kitchen, but this was a delight. We had organic Shepard’s pie, leafy greens and flourless chocolate cake for dessert, all from my ‘The Apron Strings‘ Cookbook.

   

The Stephan’s also connected us with a local charity, The Urban Farm and we were able to connect for a benefit show. That lead to us meeting a first grade teacher at Fletcher Primary, who invited us to come and share our Australian Folklore workshop with eighty 1st graders. They loved Craig’s mustache, and sang ‘Waltzing Matilda’ with all their might.

Next we stored our rig with our dear friends at Radiant Church and drove our mini-van up to Winter Park/Fraser to serve at Timberline School. The drive is terrifying coming up that pass but once we were there the beautiful sunshine and snowy mountain tops erased all the fear.  Our friends, Dan and Sarah Thomas are the directors at Timberline and we have always wanted to offer some sort of service to their efforts. So when we were planning our fall tour, we blocked out a week to pour in. We shared in song with the students, we joined them for most of the morning and lunch meals, we helped with child care, building projects and enjoyed making a meal or two for the Thomas’s. And, just a small family affair, we celebrated Graciana’s sixteenth birthday with a home-made pizza party. We had a french themed party for her in September with all of our friends in Chicago, but it’s special to celebrate on the day as well.

Back to Denver for a gig at Swallow Hill and short but sweet say with some of our old friends; Randy, Beki and Diego. Through out our travels we have met amazing kinfolk but there is something about a visit with an old friend. There is an ease to laugh, cry and share deep moments. This was just what we needed. We meet Beki and Randy at Lifest in 2007 and have performed with them and enjoyed community with them. Plus we were able to share a meal in celebration for Craig’s birthday, which falls right after Graciana’s.

On to Colorado Springs to spend a few days with the Penley family. We met them through the Thomas’s and have connected with them over the years. The Penley’s are generous and kind kinfolk. Younger than us but wise beyond their years. Their house was full to the brim with family and the laughter of children. With three children and fostering one, Christy is a super mom in the best sense. She is strong, organized and gentle all at the same time. And, Paul, he’s about the smartest person we’ve ever meet. We enjoyed conversations over delightful meals, a bon fire, quiet time of reading, baking with the kids and shared in song at their church, 1st Presbyterian. While there, Graciana connected with a new friend, discovering a similar taste in books, music and in the journey of being homeschooled.

 

We also had an opportunity to do a little sight-seeing, visiting the Olympic Training Center. Highlight was seeing the wide open arm span of Michael Phelps. That boy is big!

  

And our final Colorado stop was in Fort Collins with the Borden family. Dear friends from Chicago, Diane was my boss at Grrr Records and, the most encouraging person you’ll ever meet. We dove right in at the Borden house, cleaning and getting the garage space ready for about 28 folk to enjoy a Thanksgiving fest. It was a joy to sort through and organize (I’ll admit, I love organizing, I have been known to spend a good amount of time at the thrift store organizing the dresses by size, then color. Ha!) It was also a great visit for our kids, as the Borden clan is five strong. They watched movies, played a building video game called mine craft, helped prepare Thanksgiving decorations, put on plays with dress ups, and made funny movies on their I-Pad. We connect with kinfolk and got our worship on at ECC. Craig got his craftsman fix in by laying down a deck for the Borden’s. And, on our last night I made Asparagus/Mushroom/Leek with a wine cream sauce and Crepes for dinner.

 

We are thankful for our time in Colorado, for the community and encouragement that keeps us on our way and for the many meals shared with kinfolk, new and old.

Engaging Poverty

There is a bit of a culture shock that happens when we get into a big city. Mostly because of the poverty that is overtly apparent. We see it in smaller towns but it’s much more hidden. It stirs such a deep emotion in me, deep to the core. A feeling of helplessness and contempt. The system is broken. I am broken.

I recall back to our time in Minneapolis in Sept. We decided to offer a week of service at the CCDA conference on Reconciliation. We had no work that week and were broke so we decided to busk (play music on the street corner with our case open for tips) We have never really busked as a family, so it was a bit of an uncomfortable experience, however we all buckled down to make some money for dinner. We picked the spot right in front of the Target because it was shaded and had a few spots for folks to sit. We started playing and crowd seemed to really get into it. A few coins started to trickle in but after about ten minutes we realized that we had set up our profiteering efforts smack dab in the middle of the homeless. We felt sort of ridiculous knowing our intention wasn’t necessarily to help anyone but ourselves.  However, we decided not to move because we were exhausted from the uncertainty of it all and though we’d just finish up with thirty more minutes of songs. Then a middle-aged black man approached me, he smelled of alcohol and was wearing a leather jacket. He handed me a piece of paper, on it a poem about salvation through Christ. He said he wrote it. I asked him to read it. He did in sort of rap style. I knew, as he was reading it, that he wanted something in return. I waited and sure enough about ten minutes later he came and asked me for the money in our case. I hesitated but then bent down to grab out a few of the dollars. He smiled and walked away. A few minutes later he waltzed across the street holding up a pack of cigarettes, waving them in the air and smiling at me. Such an awkward interaction.  Connection failed.

Recently in Denver, I was shopping for groceries. I had our last $20, but we’re always at our last $20 (it’s like manna, just enough for each day) none the less, it was all I had and I wanted to use it to get ingredients to make a Chocolate Raspberry Cheesecake for Craig’s birthday. I was at the back of the store and a woman in her late 50’s about 5’7, long dark brown hair in a low pony tail, maybe Native American or Hispanic, jeans shirt and pants approached me and asked if I had $2.00. It was a flash of a moment and I instinctively responded, “no.” She turned and briskly walked away. I immediately felt like a jerk, I totally just lied to her. I turned to follow after her but she was gone. Connection failed.

I’m still processing these moments, but the hypocrisy is apparent. I’ve grown up with an understanding that caring the poor is of the upmost importance and I have a heart to serve. However, the challenge comes when I am just going about my daily business and a ‘pop up’ moment, like the examples above happen. I hope that next time I would engage more and really understand the questions. Both experiences were brief and I wonder if I had taken the time to really communicate with these people if we both would have been able to see clearer, to see the tie that binds us together. So, until next time, I wait… understanding my own depravity, thankful for the grace given me and hoping that in times where I’m engaged by poverty it opens more opportunities for connection success.

Back In The Saddle Again

We landed in Denver, CO after thirty hours of travel. It had been seven weeks since we last lived in our bus (Celu’haven) and we were anxious to see her. Thanks to the folks at Radiance Church, our bus had been parked in the back lot, safe and sound.

Our minds were filled with all of the amazing adventures from the past two month in Australia but quickly had to move into survival mode as the reality of living in a half build bus was more than apparent. We had no food in the fridge and struggled to find comfort in the 90 degree heat with no plumbing or air conditioning. Thank God my sister only lived 1 1/2 hours away in Estes Park. We drove up to her home and enjoyed a shower and her speciality, Enchilada’s Verde. Yum! The next few days were spent working on the oil leak in the engine, gathering supplies and reconnecting with folks in the US. Our daughter especially enjoyed getting her phone back on-line. (Although, I will say, the seven weeks phone free down under was a nice respite.)

We got our driving legs back on and began to forge our way towards the midwest. A few hours later we hit another oasis in North Platte, NE. Our global/local neighbors, Job and Gail Vigil, owners of Da Buzz Coffeehouse, had this precious text welcoming us. When we arrived there was a hot meal and another shower waiting for us.