Thursday, August 27, 2009

Dinner! Gusto eccezionale!

Tuesday night we sat down for dinner and Italian night broke out. Earlier in the day I had a hankering for pasta. With vegetables. But I'm not Italian. My wife is not Italian. We have something like 12 kids who are not Italian. Short of calling the Pope to see what the Popester recommended, I was in a quandary. (Editor's note: What does the Pope have to do with finding an Italian dish? Isn't the Pope German? Were you looking for a German dish? Author's reply: The Pope is German? Is that legal?) So I started trolling the net for suitable dishes and this is what I came up with on "Summer Squash Chicken Alfredo." Let me just say it was a selection that was "magnifique." (Editor's note: That's French for magnificent. You meant "magnifico" my love. Author's reply: I knew that. I was just saying that even the French would say this particular Italian dish was magnificent. Editor's exasperated comment: Whatever. My love.)
The thing I really liked about this recipe, besides the yeller squash, zucchini, pasta, alfredo sauce, garlic and chicken breasts, was that it used bacon. I would have to say that if you put bacon in anything, it makes the dish sing. It completes it. The dish has "vitalita" as all my Italian friends would say. (Loosely translated from the Italian, that means the dish has "oomph.") You can't go wrong with bacon. I threw some bacon in a clam chowder a while back and it was off the chart. Bacon on a burger? Need I say more? I make this seafood chowder with bacon in it and if you took out the bacon, it would just be another creamy, seafoody soup. Here's how I know the Summer Squash Chicken Alfredo A La Zesta Porko went over well with the Team Sabo crew: It was so quiet when everybody was chowing down, you could have heard a rigatoni noodle drop.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Big Decisions, Part III

When I shared with Julie what the Lord was leading me to do -- uproot the family and hit the reverse Oregon Trail for nine months to attend Cornerstone School of Ministry -- she didn't think I was whacked. Nor did she faint, understand I was going through a mid-life crisis or suspect I had lost general control of my faculties. She told me that the Lord had been preparing her heart for a change. At the time she thought it had something to do with the ladies Bible study she was leading. After I talked to her, she believed the change had something to do with going to Oregon and she said she would pray about it. Shortly after that, after we had been praying and believing this was of the Lord, we convened a meeting of the Team Sabo Executive Board. I wanted to let our older kids know what was going on so they could pray about it and not just wake up one day and start packing rain gear and moss repellent. It was an interesting meeting, to say the least.

Joining us in the living room/board room were Brenton, Taylor, Ethan and Claire. Brenton was to leave for his final semester at Calvary Chapel Bible College in Murrieta, Calif., in a few days. Taylor was leading a youth Bible study on Friday nights which attracted up to 30 teens who came together to worship the Lord and study the word and Ethan was in a way his right-hand guy. All of the kids were serving in church as well and after 4 1/2 years in Gloucester had put down roots. When I told them we were praying about going to Oregon and why, Claire got teary. Brenton looked pensive -- I didn't know what to thinking because he was so supportive a year ago. But he said he would pray about it and see what the Lord told him. Taylor said that in his daily reading he had just been in Isaiah 6, which talks about how the people of Israel had their eyes on King Uzziah and not the Lord. He felt like it was the Lord speaking to him that the kids in the Bible study needed to grow in their relationship with the Lord and not looking to him. Taking him away would help mature them, he said.

Ethan flat out said he wasn't going. You can always count on Ethan in moments like this to say his peace. Ethan's name in Hebrew means, "strong, firm." The kid lives up to his name, no doubt about it. And just to throw it out there, Matthew means "Gift from God." (Editor's note: Oh brother. Author's reply: Just taking the facts babe.) Ethan said that we couldn't just abandon the youth Bible study while it was flourishing. When I told him to pray about it, again he said he wasn't going. Once again, I said to pray about it. He said I didn't understand him. (Picture me raising one eyebrow, then you have an idea of my reaction to that statement.) He wasn't going to Oregon. "Why don't you go to your room and pray about it," I said. Claire, as I mentioned, was teary. She didn't want to leave her friends. Nor did she want to leave the youth Bible study. I could understand the reaction of Ethan and Claire. They felt their place was here in Gloucester, not 3,000 miles away to a place that, although it was familiar to them, presented the unknown. And what was in it for them? The Lord had blessed them with good friends in Gloucester, a thriving group of young believers and so many other things.

We were coming down to the wire, though. If we were going, we needed to leave in a month and in my mind a decision was no more than a week away. I asked the kid to pray over the next week, continue reading their Bibles daily and let me know their thoughts. Afterward, though, I had this sinking feeling. I thought, "What am I doing to my family?"

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Mount Vernon

Last week my lovely bride of nearly 19 years (Sept. 1! Marital Bliss Anniversary Day!) and I left all the kids in Gloucester and drove to the home of George Washington, aka Mount Vernon. What a fun day. Not once did I hear from any passengers the dread phrases, "Are we there yet?" or "How much longer?" I'll have you know that Julie is in fact a very pleasant driving companion and I would recommend her as a shotgun rider to anyone traveling substantial distances. In this case, with summer traffic and stops at a roadside garden stand for peaches, a 7-Eleven for ice cold liquid refreshment and a potty break and at Target in Fredericksburg, it was a little more than three hours to GW's home. It was worth the drive. As you can see, it's fairly significant estate on the Potomac River just outside Alexandria.
The home has nine bedrooms and what was interesting was that back in the day it was common for travelers just to drop in and ask if they could shack for the night. Apparently they didn't have a Motel 6 or Holiday Inn around, nor a McDonald's or even Subway. So George & Martha would provide some grub and a bedroom for the weary travelers. Sometimes they would extend their stay. At the time of his death, George Washington was the most well-known man in the world and all sorts of folks would just drop in. Sounds crazy, but I guess things aren't so different these days in a sense, with paparazzi informing the voyeurs of the world on the lives and times of the rich and famous.
In the third photo from the top, you can see a portico that connects the house to the kitchen. They had a detached kitchen in event of fire with hopes it wouldn't spread to the house. At his death George Washington had hundreds of slaves who he freed in an unusual move for the times. The grounds of the estate are excellent and though it was hot -- mid 80s with reasonable humidity -- it wasn't unbearable like it can be in mid-August and the paths through the gardens and grounds were a pleasure to walk. I even held Julie's hand. I do believe I snuck in a smooch here and there. Usually when I do that one of the kids says, "Daaaaaad." I think I even asked if she wanted to go back to the car and neck. She just gave me the look. Husbands know what I'm talking about. Anyway, the museum at Mount Vernon was pretty cool. It had tons of historical artifacts, guns, swords, military and Revolutionary War memorabilia and plenty of information on the life and times of our first president. Did you know he didn't sign the Declaration of Independence? It seems he was off fighting the Brits and couldn't jet down to Philly to lend his signature to our country's announcement of independence.
After touring Mount Vernon for about four hours we headed up to Old Town Alexandria, about eight miles away. It's a cool place with colonial-style buildings full of restaurants, boutiques and other shops. We dined at Bertucci's Italian Restaurant and thoroughly enjoyed it. We talked without being interrupted -- except occasionally by the waitress -- and covered a lot of conversational ground. In closing, I highly recommend a trip to Mount Vernon as a getaway for couples. Inspiring, entertaining, enlightening, educational...they all apply. Oh, and fun.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Big Decisions, Part II

In early August last year, I e-mailed Adam Poole, the Calvary Chapel Corvallis pastor in charge of Cornerstone School of Ministry. I asked him if they were still accepting applications. I had done the same thing a year earlier, but was sufficiently vague about it that I'm not sure he knew my exact intentions. This time I followed it up with a phone call to him. I remember it was outside the Barnes & Noble bookstore in Newport News that I called him and I walked around the parking lot and told him what was on my heart: To head to Oregon for a year of Biblical training. He seemed pretty stoked about it -- we are friends and brothers in Christ, our wives our friends and sisters in Christ and Adam and Grace have four little boys and our families are friends -- and we agreed to pray about it. At that point I had about three weeks to make a decision. It all sounded so crazy, though. The logistics of traveling across the country, the financial aspect, the job situation, wondering where we would live...all those things that normal and sane people think about. I was telling Adam I was just having a hard time seeing how it would work out, that it seemed like it would take a miracle. "There's the parting of the Red Sea, the loaves and fishes and getting the Sabos to Oregon," I told him.

At the time I was reading daily in the book of Jeremiah and one morning I came across a verse that really spoke to me. It was Jeremiah 6:16: "Thus says the Lord: `Stand in the ways and see, and ask for the old paths, where the good way is. And walk in it: Then you will find rest for your souls.' " What spoke to me about that section of Scripture was the `old paths,' which I equated to when we had lived in Corvallis and attended Calvary Chapel there. It's a wonderful church and the Lord's hand is truly on Pastor Rob Verdeyen and the people there. It was a morsel for me to chew on. Then a few days later I was reading in Jeremiah 15:19-21: "Therefore thus says the Lord: `If you return, then I will bring you back; You shall stand before Me; If you take out the precious from the vile, you shall be as My mouth. Let them return to you, but you must not return to them. And I will make you to this people a fortified bronze wall; And they will fight against you, but they shall not prevail against you; For I am with you to save you and deliver you, says the Lord. I will deliver you,' says the LORD. I will deliver you from the hand of the wicked, and I will redeem you from the grip of the terrible.' "

That section spoke volumes to me. Although in the context of the Scripture it was written by the "weeping prophet" Jeremiah during a dark time in Judah (the southern kingdom that fell to Babylon in 586 B.C., when Jeremiah was writing), it was an encouragement to go to the school, that the Lord would be with us on our trip and that He would bring us back. We would encounter travails but the Lord would deliver us. After I read that, I went to Julie and told her what was on my heart and what the Lord had shown me in His word. Her reaction surprised me.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Chore Chart

We interrupt the ongoing series on "Big Decisions" to bring you this breaking news bulletin. Taylor is now a fashion consultant. As you can see from the photos of Princess Olivia, she's either getting hitched today or playing in the dressup clothes box. We assume it's the latter. But here's the background to why Olivia is so fashionably attired. When we got home from Oregon in June, Julie took it upon herself to design, coordinate and implement the infamous "Chore Chart" that outlines each child's duties each day. Miraculously, the husband of Julie and father to the extraordinary brood of children, managed to escape being placed on the "Chore Chart." Perhaps there's an age limit involved. Either way, as you can see it's quite extensive. Even detailed. Dishes, mopping, vacuuming, bathroom cleaning (trust us, with little boys in the house who are still working on their aim, that's the one detail that you might not want) and the list seemingly goes on for eternity. But we here at Team Sabo headquarters view the chore chart as a thing of beauty and a way for each member of the family to pitch in and truly make this "Team Sabo."
So today Taylor had "Olivia Duty" beginning at 11 a.m. This involves keeping the wee lass occupied while Julie instructs various Sabo children in homeschool and the father of the house "works" for the newspaper by writing newspaper blog entries, calling sources for interviews, digging up dirt, afflicting the powerful, etc., etc. Today Taylor thought Olivia might like to bide her time by trying on dresses. Specifically wedding style dresses. This type of dressy endeavor works for both girls and boys, as Taylor's youngest brothers can attest. Olivia thoroughly enjoyed the experience, parading around the house while Taylor held up the train of her dress. I must say, the tiara was really working for her. Wouldn't you agree?

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Big Decisions, Part I

One of the cool things I like to do here at Team Sabo headquarters is gaze into the rear view mirror and consider the decisions we've made and how God's hand were in them. On the way to church this morning it struck me that something fairly significant happened a year ago. Yes indeed, it was a year ago tonight that the members of the Team Sabo Executive Board convened in an emergency meeting. Well, maybe it wasn't an emergency. It was a big meeting, though. The kids always know something is up when we gather together in the living for room for a "Very Important Announcement." When we met a year ago, Julie and I were praying through a decision to leave Gloucester temporarily and head to Oregon so I could to attend Cornerstone School of Ministry at Calvary Chapel Corvallis. There's quite a bit of background to the story, so let's review some additional historical facts, situations and events.

We had attended Calvary Chapel Corvallis from October 1999 to February 2004, at which point we relocated 3,000 miles east to Gloucester, Va. The School of Ministry was up and running the whole time we were in Corvallis and I had many friends go through the program. It was something I had wanted to do, but for various reasons never took that leap of faith. File it away under the label, "It Wasn't the Lord's Timing." It was something I wanted to do, but never was real serious about it until two years ago. We were on vacation and staying with relatives in Brentwood, Tenn., when we went to church with them. It was during worship that I felt unmistakably that the Lord told me I was going to be a teacher of the Word. I didn't know in what capacity; I mean, for all I knew it was for the 3rd through 5th graders at church, which I was already doing but could probably do better with a better grip on Scripture. I thought it was crazy at first, but as I let the idea marinate I figured I better get prepared because the Lord doesn't just throw stuff out there just for something to do. A couple of weeks later I was at a men's retreat when I told Brenton about it and said I felt like the Lord was leading me to go to the School of Ministry. He was stoked, but it was all just so crazy. Quit my job, move my family across the country, go to the school ... all that in and of itself was enough to get me committed to an institution for the mentally unstable, unhinged and flat out crazy. But then what? Just come back and go back to normal? Could that really happen? So I didn't pursue it.

I really didn't think about it for another year until I was visiting with a friend over the Fourth of July weekend last summer. We were shooting the breeze one day while driving around town when inevitably -- as it does at our advanced age -- the conversation turned toward retirement and college educations for kids and things of that nature. I didn't have much in the way of a retirement fund and certainly no college funds for any of our kids. It always kind of bothered me, as if I wasn't doing a good of taking care of my family, or me for that matter. Which is just the enemy saying a bunch of malarkey. But I did have some money socked away for retirement and as I was talking with my buddy the Lord totally put Matthew 19:16-22 and the story of the rich young ruler on my heart. The essence of the story is that this wealthy young stud was a good, moral guy, but then Jesus got to the heart of the matter. He has a way of doing that, you know? As Jesus says in verse 21: "If you want to be perfect, go sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me." The rich young man, as it says in the next verse, "went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions." In other words, following Jesus came at too high of a price for him. As I was talking to my friend about jobs and finances and the like, the thought hit me: What's my price tag to follow Christ? My meager retirement? My house? My job? What was off-limits?

I wrestled with that question for several weeks before I got an answer. Stay tuned for the next installment of this friendly neighborhood blog when we pick up the story.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Oregon Daze

I spent three days in Oregon last weekend and am just now recovering. Was it a dream? I think not! I have photos! And a few foggy remembories! Perhaps some of you old codgers out there remember the movie "Stand By Me." It's a 1986 coming-of-age film that was shot in the town of Brownsville, which I passed through around 8 o'clock Monday morning. Brownsville is historic by Oregon standards, settled in the mid-1800s by hearty souls who thought the chest-high grass around the Calapooia River would be good forage for their cattle. Brownsville is where the pool table flat fields of grass seed meet the knobby hills that are the goose pimples of Oregon's Cascade Range. It's also home to the Moyer House, which again at circa 1881 is almost pre-historic by Oregon standards.
My trip to Oregon was fruitful in more ways than one, though it was a bit harried by meetings and being tied up in Eugene all day on Monday. On Saturday I managed to stop in at a roadside stand outside of Portland for Red Haven peaches that were delightful. And as you can see above, I skedaddled from Eugene to Portland Monday evening to catch my flight home, but not before stopping at the Burgerville at 26th and Powell in the Rose City for an Oregon blackberry shake and Tillamook pepperjack cheeseburger with bacon. That meal alone was worth the trip. Oddly enough, that same Burgerville made the news two days later when it refused service to a mom on a bike rolling through the drive-thru. The outrage in Portland -- a biking mecca -- was palpable. You never know what people will get worked up about. On a side note, my buddy Sol Neelman is a professional photographer and shot the Burgerville photo with my little point and shoot camera.
My trip was all too brief. Next time I hope to spend more than a few harried days running around the state. But I definitely had an Oregon moment Monday morning about 7 a.m., when I strolled out of a friend's house in Lebanon to walk around the block. I nearly got frostbite. Wow, it was cold! It was like 50 degrees! Oh yeah, I thought, it's cool here in the mornings in summer. I managed to take a couple laps around the block without getting eaten alive by a polar bear or having to call 911 because I was on the verge of hypothermia. This morning I just got back from a run and it was a relatively cool 72 degrees, but the humidity was about 1,000 percent. Needless to say, I didn't have to worry avbout any polar bears.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Letter To Ethan

I've been thinking often of our little baby who's with the Lord. It's made me think of when Julie got pregnant with Ethan. Taylor was just five months old when Julie managed to seduce me and a little miracle happened. That was the start of where we are now with a dozen kids because we were going to stop after two kids. Seriously. We thought it was all so perfect having two little boys three years apart -- Brenton and Taylor -- who would be best friends and we could still have a life ... boy howdy do things change. It reminded me of an article I wrote that appeared in the Central Oregonian on July 30, 1993. I was editor of the twice-weekly Central Oregonian newspaper in the cowboy town of Prineville when I penned the editorial called "Letter to Ethan" that appeared 23 days after Ethan was born. He was our second baby, after Taylor, who we had at home with the help of midwives. Bear with me because this is going to be a long blog entry. But I hope you're blessed by it.

The call came at 3:30 p.m. I had been expecting it all day, but the voice on the other end of the phone seemed so calm.
It was my wife, Julie, and she was telling me her contractions were four to five minutes apart.
"Oh," I said so casually. "So do you want me to come home?"
There you were, Ethan, making movements to enter this world. Finally, I might add. Nothing personal, but you had made Julie's life so uncomfortable.
With you came sleepless nights, trips to the bathroom five minutes apart and restlessness on your part at the end of another weary day, just as Julie was drifting off to sleep.
I tried to reason with you, asking if maybe you could move off your mother's bladder, or if maybe you would be so polite as to settle down and catch a few z's while Mama was trying to sleep.
We learned early you had a mind of your own. My requests often went unheeded. No matter, though. Through it all I was always so excited to finally meet you.
Were you a boy or a girl? Would I be in my boss's office asking for a raise because my wife had just cleaned out the little girls section of the local department store?
Or would I be wrestling with you on the floor of our house when I got home from work, trying my best to fend off the hard-charging advances of you and your two big brothers, Brenton and Taylor?
I arrived home at 3:45. What a zoo. You were working fast, anxious to get out and see the real world -- all that you had heard but never seen.
Brenton, age 4, was in tears. He wanted me to take away your mother's labor pains. What could I do? There was no stopping you now.
And Taylor, a 1-year-old teething little beaver, had lost his pacifier and was exercising his new teeth on many of the wood products in our house. That little chainsaw in diapers should be sponsored by Homelite.
Order was somewhat restored with the arrival of a neighbor to watch your brothers, but Julie was in such pain and things were happening so fast I was afraid you would just pop right out.
And I wouldn't even have time to boil the water and tear the sheets.
As you know by now, we decided to have you at home. But sheesh, I'm no midwife. Though you were trying your darnedest to make me one.
Our midwife was scheduled to arrive at 4:45, about the same time Grandma Sabo showed up to take Brenton and Taylor off our hands. In between then, people were calling and wanting to talk to Julie and blah, blah, blah.
"Look," I wanted to tell them, "if I don't get my catcher's mitt on in a hurry, no one is going to be there to field our pending arrival."
By 5:15 the smoke cleared and I was given enough things to do to keep out of the way. But, boy, you were coming.
In another half-hour I knew we were close. Julie was working so hard and you were right there.
Ten minutes later, at 5:55 p.m. on July 7, 1993, Ethan James Sabo arrived. I won't fool you. The first thing I checked was the plumbing. Yep, all boy.
You were all purple and wrinkled and your skin was white and peeling in spots. Yet you were so perfect. All that work, all that pain. And here you were, in my arms.
I've held you so often since you were born. I know the feel of your little back, the shape of your head on the palm of my hand. I know how you smell and the taste of your skin on my lips.
Many times in your life you will be hurt, or discouraged. You will cry or be angry.
And always, Ethan, just as I am now on this night, long after the city has gone to sleep and the only light in our living room is the faint glow of the moon, I will be here to hold you.
I promise.

Friday, August 7, 2009


This is one of those things I'm not really sure how to say. Earlier this week we found out that the wee baby in Julie was not alive. We went to the doctor Wednesday afternoon after it was confirmed that there was no sign of a growing baby. The doctor can't explain what went wrong or what happened and we just trust in the Lord's plan and His will. We told the four older kids last night after they got back from camp -- they had a great time at camp and were really blessed by the Lord -- and we're telling the other kids today. Julie is fine physically and up and around and things. I think we're both just sad. We're confident the Lord will bring us another baby. Now just wasn't the time.

I have to make a quick trip out to Oregon this weekend to take care of some personal business. I'm on a really tight schedule -- fly Saturday in to Portland, meet a friend for lunch, meet another friend for dinner on Saturday in Corvallis, on Sunday I have to be in Portland for a meeting in the afternoon and I have to be in Eugene Monday morning at 9 o'clock for I don't know how long before flying home Monday night -- so I apologize in advance if I don't get to see many of my Oregon friends and family. I wish I had more time obviously, but it just didn't work out that way for a variety of reasons. God bless.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

An Afternoon's Work

Yesterday was one of those days as a reporter. Early in the afternoon I was in court for a sentencing for a young man who was driving drunk and speeding down a narrow winding road, careened off the road into a tree and killed two of the passengers in his car. The photos above are from a little memorial at the site of the crash, which is about a mile from our house. It was horrible being in court. Lots of tears from family members and friends and in the end the judge sentenced the fellow to 20 years in prison. It was just brutal in there. Reporters are supposed to be detached observers -- just the facts, you know -- but it's not so easy sitting there. Maybe I'll write more about what went on in the courtroom, how the guy getting sentenced was sitting at the defendants' table next to his lawyer and at one point dropped his head on his left arm -- he lost half of his right arm in the accident -- and started sobbing. Or how the grandmother of one of the victims looked at him and said, "We don't hate you Jamie." Or how the mother of one of the victims said they had to move because they lived across the street from the driver, who she would see walking "carefree" down the street in the months before his sentencing.

You can read the story here:,0,2985895.story

I get home to write the story and find an e-mail in my inbox about a 20-year-old knucklehead who jumped off the 90-foot-high Coleman Bridge -- and lived to tell about it. I didn't have much time to write the story, but I wrote it first because I was dreading writing about the drunk driver. Some things you just marvel at. This bridge jumper's survival is one of those.

Here's the story:,0,2425929.story

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Mr. Fix It

By now, after you've perused these photos, you're probably wondering how many Sabos it takes to remove a busted up master bedroom window and then install a new one. The answer would be five -- Matt, Julie, Brenton, Taylor and Ethan -- plus our excellent neighborhood neighbor Mr. Alan Wisely. This is what happens when you combine a journalist with little training in the fine arts of shattered master bedroom removal and installation of replacement window, with three teenage boys rousted from sleep at mid morning and a six-foot tall bedroom window. But miracles happen every day and the fact that this window was installed and the back of the house looks normal with siding and all and no one was cut, maimed, injured or otherwise decapitated is testament to a loving, merciful God.
We've already had one big storm pass through and no leaks have been noticed so that's a tremendous blessing. What was funny was the reaction of a friend at church when I informed him that the entire job was finished in the matter of a few hours. I think he was shocked that I pulled that off. Needless to say, I had a lot of help. I'm happy to report that this moment of Team Sabo Home Improvement Triumph is revealing in this regard: I am somewhat useful around here, even for more than writing an occasional newspaper story and knocking up my wife. (Editor's note: Was that necessary? Author's reply: Okay, you're right. I also cook dinner frequently. And have changed thousands of diapers.)
Praise the Lord that the window was financed through a generous contribution from our home insurance policy. Hopefully the generosity of our fabulous house insurance company (Traveler's! They're the best! Their coverage is number 1! Their claims adjusters are number 1! Their -- Editor's note: Ahem. Excuse me. Is this a shameless plug to try and get them to advertise on your blog? Author's reply: Is it that obvious?) cover the damaged gutters as well and we're calling on an estimate. I have to give a shout out to Ethan, who was a big help at the tail end of the project when I was putting the siding back on and he dutifully perspired through that part of the project with me. Of course, at the same time Taylor was gunking up his fingers by caulking, so he deserves ample kudos as well. Where was Brenton you ask? Getting his hair cut. And we applaud that move on his part.