Summer Soiree 2013


Last year, I threw myself a 40th birthday party. I invited good friends, threw together a communal table, strung a few lights and provided dinner for about 20. It was great. But I thought I could do better. I still had a vision in my head and I was determined to see if I could create that vision to my satisfaction.

Since this summer turned out to be the most stellar one in years – decades, even – I decided that an end-of-summer-party was in order. So this year, I called in some reinforcements. I convinced my friend and smoke-master Jamie to take care of the meat. (Boy did he ever deliver!) And I made the rest of the meal a potluck so that I could focus on decor and atmosphere.


My husband and I created a 22 foot long table from saw horses and 4×8 sheets of plywood and benches consisted of 2×12 boards on top of stacked cinder blocks. I covered the table with two 9×12 canvas drop cloths which I will use for upholstery projects. I invested in some pretty green wine glasses and rounded edged off-white dinner plates from the Dollar Store. The blue plates are ones that I usually bust out for parties. They’re not my favorite color, but you work with what you’ve got. Finally, I topped the table with a slab of cedar that we had lying around and scrounged the property for weeds and vines to accompany my sad little hydrangeas. I think they turned out great.


Scott was able to borrow 3 strands of 100′ long patio lights and meticulously hung them in the trees. Patio lights really make it, don’t you think?



My kids were looking forward to this party almost as much as I was. So Owen contributed by making signs. Unfortunately, people were too busy eating, visiting and Instagramming to make use of the photo booth, but later on it housed a few dancers.


At final count, we hosted 33 people – 17 kids and 16 adults. I’m not sure who had more fun. The kids have all known each other, for the most part, since birth and so they are quite used to these kinds of get-togethers. One of the spontaneous outcomes of the night was this awesome pyramid (One Direction may have been playing in the background)


Like most great parties around here, the evening was capped off by an amazing fire in the fire pit complete with reminiscing of parties-gone-by. I am so fortunate to have such a great community of friends who have become family. It’s an honor for me and my husband to be able to create an atmosphere that people can relax and connect in. Our cups are full.




The Contest


We’ve just come off a wild ride. As part of a home makeover contest sponsored by our local power company, PSE, we overhauled 5 rooms on a tight budget. With one team being voted off each week by a panel of judges, we advanced to the final round — the kitchen. And then . . . WE WON! We will be posting our own behind the scenes videos on our new website soon. Until then, you can see all the webisodes at

My Grandpa — The Measure of A Man

I’ve been fortunate that I haven’t experienced the loss of many loved ones in my 40 years. My grandpa who I saw once or twice a year passed away in October of 1993 but really, that’s about it. All of that changed last week. My other grandpa — my mom’s father — fell and broke his neck in two places and passed away 2 days later. I was exceptionally close to my grandpa Jackson. We grew up literally next door to him and my grandma. For nearly 23 years I saw him on a daily basis. And he was my hero in so many ways. I always said that I wanted to marry someone like my grandpa. And you know what? I did.

Handsome Grandpa

I was given the task of writing and delivering his eulogy this past Saturday at his memorial service. It was an honor and a privilege. I managed to deliver it through sniffles, tears and a constricted throat at times. We ended the service with a slideshow that I also put together. You can see it here. But following is the eulogy that begins to capture just how remarkable my handsome Grandpa Rolly really was.

Rolly Jackson — The Measure of A Man

When someone has lived nearly 90 years, it’s almost impossible to summarize that person’s life. Over this past week, as we were remembering old times, family members would offer words to describe how they viewed my grandpa. It didn’t take long for us to see that many of us hold a similar view of Rolly Jackson. The adjectives his family and friends use are consistent and they are powerful. Dedicated, steadfast, humble, responsible, loving, faithful, selfless, welcoming, honorable. These aren’t just the choice descriptors that rise to the surface, these are the very essence of my grandpa.  Looking back, it’s easy to see how and when many of these attributes became a part of him. The a-ha moments multiply and his timeline takes on a sense of destiny — of divine orchestration.

Rolly had a happy childhood and told lots of stories of riding his bike and being carefree with friends in Portland, Oregon. He held a paper route from the time he was about 12 till 16. From this he most likely learned responsibility, consistency and got a feel for what it took to be a self-starter. From 16 to 19 while working at the gas station that also operated as the funeral home in Forks, WA he served people from all walks of life and extended acceptance and grace. He also learned that the mortuary business was not for him. Instead he began to work for a builder which suited him much better.

When his family decided to settle on a piece of land west of Longview, WA when my grandpa was 19, the outline of God’s hand on his life really began to come into focus. The prettiest girl in Abernathy valley, Eva Marks, caught his attention and over the course of about four years he won her heart and married her. You would think that this courtship would’ve taught him patience but I can’t help but think that was a trait that he was born with. In the 40 years that I’ve known him, I can’t think of one thing that he did hastily. He believed that anything worth doing was worth doing well. In fact, my brother, Jeremy, recalls him explaining that “a job is not complete until everything is just right; your finished work is a reflection of you.” This belief not only served my grandpa throughout his life, but continues to guide my brother daily.

My grandma remembers that although Grandpa went to church with her all of the time and was a believer, he didn’t truly dedicate his life to the Lord until 1947 when he was baptized. He then became a youth leader at the Abernathy church. This was the beginning of a dedication to serving God that included (but certainly was not limited to) teaching Sunday School, serving on the board, song-leading, physically constructing the new church building, and picking up neighbors to bring to church. My cousin Corky’s wife Michaela shared with us the day my grandpa died that she credits my grandpa for changing the course of her life. By picking her and her brother and sisters up to bring to church on Wednesday nights, she met and accepted Christ and her life would never be the same.

My grandpa served through church activities and outreach but also in the personal decisions that he and my grandma made throughout their 66+ year marriage. In reading through the memoirs of both my grandparents, I am struck by the simple, quiet promptings that led them to make decisions that would eventually impact hundreds, if not thousands of people. The decision to apply for a foster care license, to adopt the first kids placed in their care, to open a bona-fide girls home — all began with a comment from a state agency worker that my grandpa looked like a guy who would make a great foster parent! Of course those decisions were accompanied by prayer, time in the Word and fasting as well.

And I am struck by the constancy of Abernathy Valley itself throughout my grandpa’s story. Along the banks of Abernathy Creek, my grandpa built their first house and it’s the exact place that their current one sits. The 88 acres of land along the creek that he purchased in 1966 was a move that he wasn’t sure he should make. But that land is what enabled him to be extremely generous over the years. And it allowed him to do what he did best — build. It provided a place for him to not only build the group home but several plots have been home to some of his children, grandchildren and many pastors’ families.

Several years ago, I asked my grandpa how he knew he was supposed to build the group home. His answer was that the Lord told him to. Three times the Lord spoke to him. The first time He said “build”. The next week He said “now”. And the third time “obey”. I’m not surprised that my grandpa and God had these kinds of conversations — simple, quiet, to-the-point. And I’m not surprised that still, today, in builder circles, my grandpa is still talked about. His reputation as a skilled and careful craftsman was matched only by his character.

My grandpa has been described as a true gentleman by many throughout the years and the word honorable comes up quite often. By today’s standards, a man with that kind of integrity alone is rare but those traits combined with his movie star looks is impossible. And that smile. That smile. You’d think that alone would have been enough to reel in my grandma all those years ago, but you’d be wrong. The thing that made my grandma fall in love with him was how well he treated his mother. And the same care and honor he showed to his mother, he extended to his mother-in-law.

Over the years my grandparents cared for many family members — from parents to aunts and uncles to sisters-in-law. They did it because that’s just what you do for family. Each situation and length of care was different but the openness and willingness to serve was unwavering. And it makes perfect sense that the same openness and willingness to care for my grandpa during his final years was never even a question from his own children. You see, the measure of a man of faith is in the legacy he leaves behind. And for many of us, the depth of our grief that he is gone from our lives is matched by the pride we feel for having known him, loved him, been served by him, carried his name or inherited some of his features.

The ripple effect caused by my grandpa’s obedience to build throughout the years is still being felt. In my lifetime that will always be the case because I have been indelibly marked by Rolly Jackson’s influence. But as far as my grandpa is concerned, the good work the Lord began in him has been faithfully completed.

Sandblasting and Serendipity

You know you’re a junker when . . .

1. You don’t mind contorting yourself through layers of fencing to get an iPhone pic of the perfect rusted metal cart you’ve spied.

2. Your pulse quickens when you discover a sandblasting shop literally across the road from the junk shop.

3. You meet Blake and you speak the same language.

Yep, that’s Blake. And yep, he’s in slippers. And yep, that’s a lit cigarette resting on his workbench. I love unexpected encounters like this one. Especially when they come about so serendipitously.

I’m wrapping up a coffee shop project this week and we’re getting the last few details buttoned up. One of the things that got added to the list along the way was a mobile kiosk for the cash register to sit on. We had talked about having a custom wood cart built but nobody was super keen to spec it out. We thought about spending a couple hundred bucks on a new tool chest for a more industrial look, but it never felt quite right. And then, almost in passing, someone mentions “that little metal cart at that one junk store”. Of course my ears perked up at that. Oh, and it was only $15!

So last week we went to look at the $15 cart but the place was closed. No worries, we thought, we have til the end of the next week to get everything in place and ready to open by the weekend. So today, my husband and I hustle over to the junk shop only to find it closed again! They’re only open Thurs – Sun! However, the gate was open and some people were scurrying around.

“If you know what you want, we can sell it to you even though we’re closed!” a young lady called out. “Sweet,” I thought. Fourteen dollars and fifty cents later and that rusty blue cart was ours. We immediately crossed the street with it and met Blake from Blake’s Sandblasting for a quote on getting the rust and paint blasted off. After a few questions, some uuhhhs and aaahhhs, he offered up “Oh, I don’t know . . . forty bucks or so.” “Great,” Scott and I both agreed. Only one question remained. “What’s the turn around time?” I asked. “Oh sometime this week,” answered Blake.

Seriously? Done deal. We followed Blake through his blasting room (wish I snapped a pic of that) into his small little workshop that smelled exactly like the one in my grandpa’s old barn. It was a combination of diesel, grease and age. It was strangely comforting. He wrote down my name and phone number and that was as formal as we got with this transaction.

Interior design is a funny thing. You can go from slick showrooms and foreign lingo to mud puddled scrap yards in the same day. But as a bona fide junker, I do prefer the latter! So even though I love all of the elements I chose for this cafe, I have a feeling that the little sandblasted cart will hold a special place in my heart. It will remind me of the characters you meet along the way in the world of second hand junk and the serendipity that allows details to come together so effortlessly.

Where have you found serendipity?

Customer Service — Necessary or Nice?


In the past couple of weeks, I’ve been reminded of the importance of good customer service. I’ve seen instances of really good and really bad. For extra emphasis, they happened to come back to back!

My 96 year old grandma is downsizing again and my mom and I were charged with finding her a twin size box spring and mattress. Our plan was to find a decently firm mattress without breaking the bank. So we started at a large mattress outlet store where they only sell … wait for it … mattresses! We walked in and a middle aged sales lady looked at us and said (with a startled, deer in the headlights sort of look), ” Can . . . I . . . help . . .” I was so curious as to where she was going with her query, I just locked eyes with her and waited for her to finish! ” . . . steer you in a direction?” The last part came with an intonation that hinted at exasperation. We JUST walked in the door and already I felt like I was wasting her time!

After a brief explanation of what we were looking for and why, she sped us over to a corner and showed us a mattress set that was easily $200 more than we were hoping to spend. Fortunately the set was near the exit which made our getaway that much easier and speedy. My mom and I looked at each other once outside and both remarked at how terrible that saleslady was. She probably didn’t say more than a few sentences but overall the experience left a really bad taste in our mouths.

Literally across the large parking lot from this big mattress outlet store was another mattress outlet. This one was smaller and no frills. The second we walked in the door the man behind the counter stood up and walked toward us. With his hand outstretched, he said, “Hi I’m Doug! What can I help you with today?” After listening to our short list of needs and the reason behind them, he pointed out three options at three different price points. About fifteen minutes later, Doug personally loaded the mid priced mattress set into my van and we left spending about $100 more than we wanted to but feeling GREAT about the whole experience.

I could go on to dissect and compare both of these experiences but, honestly, haven’t we all had them? It’s easy to spot good customer service and even if their bottom line is to sell you something, delivery and technique determine whether you will be returning and whether you will encourage your circle of influence to shop there as well.

As a business owner, it’s a good reminder to go above and beyond for my customers and clients because I also know how good it feels as a customer to be treated well. If I want my business to succeed, great customer service is necessary. But this week I learned something else. I learned how reciprocally good it feels to just be – nice. Not that I’m not usually nice, but I think one of the things that has been lost in our culture lately is the old fashioned act of connecting with other human beings. It’s not often we meet someone new, however briefly, and have a meaningful interaction. But how refreshing it is when we do!

Yesterday, I had a service man come out from a water company. Since we live in the country and have a well, we also have a filtration system that needs parts and filters replaced annually. I happened to be home when the guy showed up so I greeted him and showed him where the filtration system was and left him to do his work. I was a little surprised when I first saw him that he was easily 60+ years old, scraggly grown out hair, baggy, stained uniform. But he had kind, Santa Claus-like eyes and a relaxed way about him.

After his job was done and his tools were loaded in his truck I noticed from the window that he was looking at some of my husband’s art and sculptures that are peppered around the entrance to our house. He would carefully and attentively look, touch, admire all the quirky little things that make our house ours. Something about his appreciation drew me to the door once again and we began to visit. He told me about his friend who does similar things with rocks and metal. He told me that one of his favorite things about his job is seeing what people do with their landscaping. He told me about a place where you can find really great fossils and it happened to be where my boys went a few weeks ago and brought back some really great fossils!

Our conversation turned to my husband’s hover stones which are rocks that have been drilled and metal rods inserted so that, amidst shrubbery, the stones seem to float. I asked him if he’d like to take one home and he said he’d be delighted. From about a dozen he thoughtfully chose one and went on his way. I was happy to give him one and he seemed happy to receive something unsolicited.

I’ve been trying to figure out why that brief interaction between me and the Santa-like repairman left me feeling so good and light. And I don’t know if I’ll ever really know, except it’s yet another example of good customer service. Although I think it fits more along the lines of good people skills. And I think it’s an example of what can happen when you take the time to get to know someone you wouldn’t normally interact with. I could’ve ignored what I saw through the window and he would’ve gotten into his truck with little more than a nod from me. I could’ve listened more to the little voice inside my head that cautioned –“I’m home alone. What if he tries to attack me?” But this day that voice was small and unconvincing. So I followed my instinct to engage with this older gentleman and I was blessed.

I hope you will look for similar opportunities this week and that they brighten your life. Here’s to being nice. It’s underrated but ultimately, it’s necessary in business and in life.