Friday, December 28, 2007

...and a Happy New Year!

Christmas has come and gone leaving this heart warm and reflecting. I love Tom and the kids! They are wonderfully creative, gloriously unique. Amazing. Selected moments spent with each one have reminded me all over again just how special they are. The depth of my love for them increases. It's been a good season.

I've reconnected with my brother after months - years - of us being 'too busy' to communicate. He, like us, has had big projects lately. He thinks of me. I think of him. This week we took the time to share once again. As if we'd never been apart we picked up right where we left off. This, too, amazes me and gives me pause as I think of the nature of love. Long-lasting. Sweet. Strong.

Being knocked about by life seems to either grow mellow wisdom in a person, or it leaves them cold and hard. Lately I've been impressed with the many mellow-wise folks I am blessed to know. They inspire me, give me hope that I can age like a fine wine instead of a dried up lemon. The wisdom to listen to others, taking in what they have to communicate, no matter how haltingly the words may come. The wisdom to forgive - really forgive - in realization that we are all messed up, that we'll all say or do the wrong thing now and then. Let it go, move on, truly forgive. A twin to the wisdom of forgiveness is the allowance to change, to give each other space to grapple with life, and then to recognize resultant growth, rather than to mentally keep our fellow sojourners frozen in a time when they were, perhaps, not their best. Everyone deserves fresh consideration now and again.

Another learned wisdom, perhaps the hardest of all, is the wisdom to grow up. Not lose your youthful curiosity or fling your dreams away, no, but to become understanding, compassionate, wise from the experience of living, to reach out rather than defend, to realize consequences rather than smug self-gratification, to nourish the innate ability to be a blessing to the world rather than a curse.

I'm tempted to dismiss the hard, dried-lemon behavior of the one person this holiday season who left me perplexed, to just forget about it. And I will. I won't harbor ill feelings, but in the hope of learning something here I am pondering the reasons why. I can't fathom why a person of several decades would deliberately set about to hurt others, to disrupt Christmas with an attention grabbing, stormy display of immaturity, selfishness, and greed. Happily I am not hurt by it, just mystified, wondering why. The reasons will remain unknown, I have no doubt, but there is wisdom to glean in the missteps of another, if only to pause long enough to feel the weight of them, their unpleasantness, and then to make a personal determination to steer clear of such behavior myself. Let such unkindness not come from me. Heaven forbid! Yet, when I do falter, and I will, may I know immediate regret. Not only does this person show no remorse, but there seems to be a long-term plan in place for the destruction of others. If only this entangled soul was aware of the truth, which is so obvious to everyone else: while we remain unscathed, implosion is claiming this embittered heart. It's sad to watch.

Ah, but this emotionally enmeshed person is but one little blip on a distant shore of the Holiday scene, barely noticeable amidst the hours and days of happiness, togetherness, understanding, and a healthy family environment. No complaints!

We've even had a cleansing snow to blanket the holidays, cozying our winter scene, if only temporarily.

December 28th. Just a few days remain of 2007. It was a very good year. A busy year. A testing year. We began our home addition waaaay back in January when it was merely a bright idea. In February we began drawing up floor plans and securing financing. Many months of blur and here we are, about to insulate and sheet-rock. We should be able to move in before the onset of Spring, Lord willing.

What made 2007 a very good year? We learned that we, as a family of six, can undergo the stress of a long-term building project and come away close, respectful, even joyous. The strain only proves that our ties are strong rather than weak and easily frayed. A valuable insight.

2008 remains ahead, a dark mysterious place, to be lit one step at a time. Questions. Hopes. Dreams. Plans. They could all go out the window at any moment. So many variables, so much potential for celebration, and for sorrow.

Time will tell.

A marker arrives in a few days, a milestone which speaks to those who will listen. It speaks of what has passed. It speaks strength and renewal for what is to come. Chin up. Courage. Anticipation. Let bygones be bygones. Give it your best shot. Great expectations. Steady, slow-burning hope.

Happy New Year. May you be one who ages like fine wine, and may the disturbers of the world wander far far from you and yours!

Winter Skoal!

Monday, December 24, 2007

Jesus, Lord at Thy Birth

Hail the heav'n-born Prince of Peace!
Hail the Son of Righteousness!
Light and life to all He brings
Ris'n with healing in His wings
Mild He lays His glory by
Born that man no more may die
Born to raise the sons of earth
Born to give them second birth
Hark! The herald angels sing
"Glory to the newborn King!"
It must have been awesomely terrifying for those shepherds, but what a moment, this invasion of God into the mortal realm! A turning point for all of mankind.

May the Truth of Jesus' birth - and purpose - reach out to you in new and deeper ways this Christmas and in the New Year to come.

Merry Christmas to All!

Saturday, December 22, 2007


One of a set of five remaining ornaments, this heavy, gold orb has been passed down through Tom's branch of his family tree for five generations. Tom has respectfully hung it first on each of our Christmas trees for the past 27 years, and removes it first when the tree comes down.

It's a part of our tradition. The presence of this antique ornament serves as a constant reminder of those who have come before, and helps us remember that we carry on a tribe, a klan, a family.

Someday, if the globe survives, it will hang on a tree even while those of us in this household walk the earth no more. Someone may hang it ceremoniously, just as Tom does, and we will join those remembered. Perhaps our lives will have inspired, just as so many before have lifted and encouraged us in the living out of wisdom and love.

Christmas offers many such opportunities to get one's bearing, straighten the ship, find True North.




Thursday, December 20, 2007

A Little Giggle to Brighten the Day

This is so cute! From Rowan and Martin's Laugh-In - a show I was not permitted to watch while growing up in my strict California-Baptist home in the 60's - here's Goldie Hawn explaining the Time Zones. It's short. Go on, indulge!

Bumper Snicker

Tom and I saw this bumper sticker today and got a chuckle out of it:

"Consider this: Amateurs built the ark. Professionals built the Titanic."

Hmmm. I guess it all boils down to who thunk it up in the first place, huh.

Another way to look at: As Tshsmom, her husband L., Tom, and I know, we amateur builders rock! (Though Tom and I haven't mastered cubits, yet.)

Monday, December 17, 2007

Christmas Cheer

“Can you come and clean this house of ours?” croaked her weak voice. “We have guests coming and I’m still too weak to do it.”

“Of course! How does Sunday sound?”

Relief in her voice.

I told her not to worry about lunch, that I would bring the two of them some food, serve it, and clean the kitchen afterwards.

More relief.

Cassie, Caroline, and I spent a good part of Saturday in our kitchen preparing the healthiest food we could think of to serve these dear folks as they continued to battle the Cold of the Year. I made a big pot of homemade chicken soup, fresh from some stock I’d just simmered up from a free-range chicken we’d had on Monday. Added to the stock were nutrient-rich veggies and tender chicken along with fresh herbs and seasonings. Yes! “This smells like the best sort of remedy!” Tom said as he followed his nose to the steamy-windowed kitchen.

Cassie and Caroline began stirring up the dough for french baguettes, the flour puffing around them as they kneaded with vigor.

Added to these intoxicating aromas was the heavenly scent of three loaves of Honey Whole Wheat bread. "Will there be any for me?" begged Tom, again following his nose. "You betcha!"

On Sunday, when we took our carefully chosen and prepared foods to our patients, along with our cleaning supplies, we were greeted with fatigued faces, stoopy shoulders, and gratitude. They looked a bit ragged and sounded worse.

Immediately it was clear to me that their spirits were in need of something new, something different, something stimulating. They were firmly stuck in the sickness rut where mere survival is the effort of every day. From the box of Christmas gifts the girls and I had wrapped the night before, I handed a gift to each ailing person. A little spark ignited in their eyes, yep, I saw it. Everyone has a little kid in them, a kid who responds to gifts, to Christmas, and most especially to love. It was sweet to watch this couple, married for sixty years, as they slowly opened each gift, registering delight and wonder.

Good start!

After cleaning for a couple of hours I stopped to heat the soup and bread and to slice some sweet juicy oranges. The girls set the table. The couple remained melded to their recliners - tired, but warm and relaxed. The sight, sound, and smell of food being prepared and carried to the table seemed to energize them. Heads lifted from pillowed chairs.

After a few slow bites I noticed their spoons moving quicker. Repeatedly knives in steady hands scraped at butter to smear on bread. These two ailing people quit talking altogether, lost in the food, lost in the instinct to eat and be well.

“I think they like it, Mama. They’re quiet,” Cassie said. We all laughed. I thought of Oliver Twist asking, “Please sir, I want some more.” Oliver didn’t receive his ‘more’ but these two did. They actually closed their eyes in bliss as they bit into each orange wedge as though tasting the sweet citrus for the first time, savoring its deliciousness, even though they’ve been eating oranges for 80 years.

Pink returned to their faces right away and energy to limbs. They began to talk, to laugh, to make jokes, to thank us, to tell stories as we worked around them. Jolliness took over the household.

After our lunch dishes were washed and the leftover food clearly marked and stored for subsequent meals, Cassie, Caroline, and I grabbed dust rags and Pledge. We began the cleaning of table tops, book shelves, chairs, and nic-nacs. Everyone crowded around me as I cleaned the china cabinet, for the grandpa and grandma were recounting histories of the treasured items. Up and out of their chairs, bending to reach a little crystal pitcher here, a teapot there, these two were markedly different from the wispy, pale folks who greeted us in the morning. Revitalized, even their voices were stronger.


Cassie drove us home through rain and bits of snow in substantial traffic. As the wipers thunked and air leaks shrilly whistled, my mind whirled as I contemplated the difference that the gifts of love, labor, and food had made to my loved ones. “I feel like a princess, as though my house is cleaning itself right before my eyes!” said the appreciative granny, relieved of her burden. “Thank you for that delicious food! I can’t wait for supper tonight!” said the grandpa who had been frequenting the supermarket deli for sticky, preserved food during the previous three weeks of illness. I didn’t know.

Rather than dreading upcoming visitors, Granny and Gramps now eagerly look forward to sharing their home and holiday.

Cassie and Caroline learned first hand the gifts of gentle care and service to those in need.

I am relieved that these precious people are safe and cared for right now.

Christmas has come early for the four of us.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Release the Hounds

Four week break from school.

No driving the girls to classes and tutors.

Christmas shopping, baking, and gift wrapping completed.

Decorations up - so pretty!

Time. Regimen free.

An offering of contemplation.

Moments to fill with my best friend and our kids.

Sam - Joe's Christmas gift four years ago. A Christmas dog. Playful.

Today is the first day of the rest of my....Christmas Holiday.

Don't spend it all in one place.

Spirits higher this morning.

Sleep helps.



This body needs to get into motion - this Me body.


Friday, December 14, 2007

Advent Calendar Tells No Lies

The children's eyes are shining - the doors are opening - Christmas is coming!

Working Together for Good

Somewhere along the way I lost myself.

Where am I?

Who am I?

Maybe I’m not lost, maybe I’ve been growing all this time but am hidden.

Hidden behind the role.

Hidden behind the urgent.

Hidden behind the armor which protects me.

Powerful wings lifted me from the nest; the nest moved leaving no forwarding address.

Powerful heart created this, a new nest, and it is enough.

Or is it? Is rootlessness healthy? Can it be overcome - completely?

Am I my past or am I my present? A combination, you say. True.

While I create in my new nest what was missing in the old, I create pain for myself even while others are content, happy.

And thus I hide. Hide my pain. Hide my longing. Hide my tears.

For pain, longing, and tears are not wanted. I do not want them.

But they are real.

From this rent heart springs determination




Who am I?

Where am I hidden?

I am me, just as always, growing, changing

I am hidden in the measureless love of God

Nurtured by true family

And, yes, it is enough.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Mind Wash


Stuff of life

Problems, stress

Building project - ten months and counting

Red tape

Ailing parents

Dead car

Doggie surgery

Last week of school

Unexpected expenses




Joy of discovery

Solutions, growth

Building project - easy progression

Intelligence cuts red tape

Recuperating parents

Expert Tom repaired car

Surgery prognosis: excellent

Fall term = much learning

Unexpected income.



To clear my overstuffed head and heart I shall venture outdoors empty-handed, to simply feel the weather.

Breathe a prayer of gratitude, linger.



Settling down.

Searching quietly.

In serenity is strength.

Unreal Estate

Yesterday was a successful day. Two long-looming problems were solved to everyone's satisfaction and relief. By me.

Yet, the hen-pecking nature of life won't let me relish the contentment for one full night. Nope. New problems nag and niggle at me. It's too early and too late to be awake thinking about the red tape of existence in a 'free society.'

I have indignation constipation.

For the sake of anyone reading this I won't go into detail because who wants to read frustration at Christmas. Geez Louise, I don't even want to know about it let alone write or read it.

Suffice to say I'm reminded of the Matrix, a film I should watch several more times. There's a scene (and I'm sorry Matrix fans that I will probably butcher it in my sorry recollecting) where a guy (see? I don't even remember his name...) orders a steak in a restaurant. He says he knows it isn't real, that it's an illusion, but he enjoys the pleasure of it anyway. He doesn't care that it's unreal.

I don't enjoy living in the city, in the 'civility' of society. It feels like prison. While running errands on Sunday, Tom and I were discussing how the city seems benevolent and yet when the hologram shivers a little you see the stern reality behind the facade. It's benevolent as long as you follow the rules. One hairy toe over the line - aka questioning authority, independent thinking, or managing your own affairs - and you pay.

"Your helpful original ideas are not wanted. Get in line, Sheep." That's how it feels.

We own our home and property, right? Hmm. What does that even mean? (Oh no, I'm getting into it. You'd better go somewhere else. Listen to John Denver sing about Christmas in the post before this one...scroll down... warning, warning Will Robinson!!) I'll keep it short. Our neighbor and we agree that we want to adjust the property line four feet to right a mistake that was made by a surveyor and the city decades ago which leaves an unsatisfactory, to the both of us, situation. We are in complete, friendly agreement. Four feet. No utilities will be effected. No landscaping, just four feet of lawn. He wants to do it. So do we. Future home owners will be better off if we do. Win-win, right? No, the city wants us to pay nearly three thousand dollars to acquire documents for them to peruse in order to decide whether or not to give us permission. Permission! To alter four feet of personal property which will actually bring the two properties up to the city's code, a choice we are making on our own. The city planner even told Tom, as she researched the properties with him sitting right there, that it all looks kosher to her, but we have to follow procedure anyway, and pay the permit fees. $650 for permission alone - to buy and sell four feet of personal property. If on the off chance some city yahoo denies the permit, we are out thousands of dollars. For nothing.

Is it just me? Is this perfectly okay? Am I merely turning into a curmudgeon?

Mind you, the three thousand dollars doesn't include the price of the land.

Red. Tape.

Indignation constipation.

I just want to go to sleep.

I'm going back to bed.

Maybe I'll solve a few problems tomorrow and find a more regular mind.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Quiet Place to Rest

This is John Denver singing Noel: Christmas Eve, 1913 by Robert Bridges, while a slideshow of traditional prints illustrates Christmases past. This song has been repeating through my mind with each winter day that glows and darkens as I anticipate the quiet dawning of Christmas Morning and all that its celebration means to me.

I hope it gives you a quiet place to rest for a few moments, too.

Noel: Christmas Eve, 1913

A frosty Christmas eve when the stars were shining,
I traveled forth alone where westward falls the hill.
And from many, many a village in the darkness of the valley,
Distant music reached me, peals of bells a-ringing.

Then sped my thoughts to olden times, to that first of Christmas's
When shepherds who were watching heard music in the fields.
And they sat there and they marveled and they knew they could not tell
Whether it were angels or the bright stars a-singing.

But to me heard afar it was starry music,
The singing of the angels, the comfort of our Lord.
Words of old that come a-traveling by the riches of the times,
And I softly listened, as I stood upon the hill.
And I softly listened, as I stood upon the hill.

~~~by Robert Bridges, 1936

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Peace and Safety in Daddy's Arms

Guilt over my Grinchly rant, (see previous post) and the posting of gross photos used to illustrate my point, set me off on a hunt for a pleasant photo in my personal library. Sweeping southwest landscapes and majestic glacial vistas caught my eye. Then this picture came up. Taken three years ago this week, this family photo shows Caroline sleeping on Tom's chest while he wears a shirt she'd selected and given him on Father's Day of the same year which reads, "World's Greatest Dad".

Sweet, isn't it.


Wednesday, December 05, 2007

PSA: Ah-Choo!

"Over the river and through the woods, to Grandmother's house we go..."

Grandparents adore their grandchildren. Grandchildren adore their grandparents.

But when little children become sick with bubbly noses, weepy eyes, and germy hands, parents need to sacrifice on behalf of love. Sick kids need to be kept warm - or cool - and nurtured with all that a parent has to offer. Forget about taking ill kids to your loved ones' home for holiday meals, to school, or to church and Sunday School. Forget about the Nativity program, and forget about having people over for a Christmas party. Especially the elderly whose bodies have a harder time beating winter's nasties.

Stay home. Care for your child. Care for yourself. Care for others by keeping them out of your home until the health of your entire family is restored.

Cancel with your apologies. Those spared will bless you while they maintain health and vigor throughout the holiday season.

And the rest of us will thank you for keeping your sickness and that of your little children out of public places.

A dearly loved woman is languishing at home, sick in bed for the second week, missing her favorite time of year. As her house becomes dustier, her pantry emptier, her laundry piling higher, she remains weak and discouraged for she'd rather be writing her Christmas cards, wrapping gifts, and helping her husband decorate their beautiful home. This grandma and grandpa have had Christmas diminished due to the thoughtless parents of underdressed, coughing, runny-nosed kids who gleefully lap-climbed and kissed their beloved granny. What would happen if she gently pushed them down? To force her to choose between accepting the love of her family or hurting their feelings is unkind at best. She is paying the price for her timid kindness now, while the kids have gone on to infect who knows how many others.

While I do what I can to help and cheer her, I hope this lovely woman regains her health and strength before the Season of Perpetual Hope passes her by.

(This Public Service Announcement was brought to you by one ticked-off woman.)

((Nooooo, these are not my kids pictured. I know how to use tissues and a washcloth.))

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

A New Day - Storm Clean-Up

The storms have come and gone leaving messes all around. In Oregon, the coast had the worst of it, with wind gusts above 120 m.p.h. Can you imagine? Trees were toppling all over. Now flooding is occurring along with landslides and power outages. A couple of people perished, which is so sad, especially at this time of year.

In western Washington massive flooding is still causing havoc, lives have been lost, travel rerouted or halted altogether. The good folks up there are being rescued and aided. It's all over the news. Our hearts and prayers go out to them all.

Thankfully we here on the Old Homestead - as Joe likes to call our place - suffered only a few broken branches and mucky lawns from all the rain. Everything else made it just fine. A little raking, replacing a bucket here, a chair there, and our clean-up was complete. Our fair city is back to normal.

As these photos show, today we had rain and sun, sometimes at the same time which is so beautiful. I love the way the sun catches each raindrop making the droplets resemble glistening diamonds falling all around. So pretty! Tall, lush evergreens were bedecked in millions of these jewels. It was far more festive than all the Christmas lights and decorations springing up in yards. But our rain sparkles are temporary, which is good news for flooded areas.

Beauty and mayhem co-existing.

Tom, Cassie, Caroline, and I ran several errands today, without our sweaters or coats! I don't know the official temper-ature, but it was pushing 70 degrees, I'm certain. "We were so freezing cold just a few days ago!" Caroline said. "So strange!"

We are supposed to clear up, dry out, and chill down again by week's end.

Thanks to all of you who expressed concern for us. We sure appreciate it!

May you be warm and safe where ever you are!

Sunday, December 02, 2007

December Storm

It was a dark and stormy morning...

Yeah, and it still is. Stuff is blowing everywhere, the electricity comes and goes, the rain continues to pelt the windows.