Family & Friends

I flew out of Portland last Saturday morning, and after a connection in Denver, arrived safely in Iowa…where my daughter and her two youngest were waiting for me.  My three year old grandson called out, ” that’s MY grandmommy”!  What joyful words.  We’ve had a busy, fun week and I’m amazed at what my daughter accomplishes in any given day.  She has decided to cook with as many organic foods as possible and everything is from scratch…even homemade bread and pasta.  She purchased a heavy-duty professional mixer, pasta maker, heavy-duty juicer and a grain-mill.    She makes her own yogurt and granola and serves it with fresh raspberries (breakfast this morning).  All of this in between homeschooling and transporting the children to library days, swim team, swim practice and church activities.  My daughter commented that she remembered my doing the same thing – except the sports were basketball and track meets.  I think I do remember it come to think of it…

Homemade wheat bread…

We celebrated a fun Valentines Day together.  The morning began with a floral delivery.  The macho logger tree farmer had ordered a large gorgeous bouquet of yellow roses.  They’re still beautiful!  Then while my older grandson was in the two classes he takes at the Christian high school across town, the rest of us drove to a nearby Walmart.  While my daughter shopped, my granddaughters and I headed in a different direction shopping for a fun idea we had.  We picked up gifts for each person.  Nothing terribly expensive or elaborate – just fun.  There was a plate/bowl/cup set for my three year old grandson in the “Cars” theme with Lightning McQueen, a beginner crochet set for my twelve year old granddaughter, a Disney Rapunzel “pillow” for my seven year old granddaughter, an Elmer Fudd logger’s cap in a black & red check for my fourteen year old grandson who loves fun caps, a trilogy of Christian fiction, cute canning labels and a garlic press for my daughter and a fun John Deere set, nuts and candy for my son-in-love.  Oh, and lots of chap stick for me.  Each package was wrapped in Valentines paper and a number placed on the package.  Then a number was placed on each chair – not necessarily the same!  After dessert, we opened the gifts and you had to decide whether or not you had the “right” gift and, if not, negotiate to get the right one.  Everyone had fun and were happy with their Valentines gifts.  My daughter also surprised everyone with a Valentines gift – I loved my gift from her:  the movie, “Come Dance at My Wedding”!  A fun Valentines Day all the way around…

Happy Valentines Day from the macho logger tree farmer…

 

I arrived in Dallas a week ago tomorrow and promptly fell in love all over again. Maggie is amazing. She’s now four and a half months and weighs about 14 pounds. Those big blue eyes sparkle when she smiles and she smiles a lot. She has even laughed for me – when I bark. I have perfected barking like a puppy and she thinks it’s funny. Of course, she doesn’t exactly know who I am yet…but she knows I’m someone special.

We’ve had a great, busy week. Some fun shopping days, lots of good visiting time, and some touring (although I honestly told my son and daughter-in-love that the Eiffel Tower could be down the block and I really wouldn’t care. I’m doing exactly what I want to do – spending time with Maggie).

Today was an incredible 77 degrees and we spent a fun day at the Dallas Arboretum.  Beautiful!  Reminded me a lot of the Butchart Gardens in Victoria, B.C.  Definitely a must see when you visit Dallas!

The slideshow below includes some of the photos I’ve taken of Maggie this week and also some pics from the Arboretum today.  My son took several of Maggie and me together, but they are on his camera for the moment.  Several of the photos of Maggie remind me so much of her Dad when he was this age.

Tonight, I’m “babysitting” my precious granddaughter while her parents enjoy a date night out.  This is the first time they’ve been away from her since she was born.  They are wonderful parents and I am so proud of them!  I loved all the instructions and reminders and definitely took them to heart.  Although, I did remind them that I do have a “little experience”…just to set their mind at ease.  😉

 

I was there when you arrived HOME from Ethiopia after a long two day journey with your Mom and Dad.  You must have been tired, but you didn’t cry.  You carefully looked us all over – your  new family – from the safety of Mommy’s arms.  Those dark eyes danced and then you smiled, revealing dimples that stole my heart.  Two years later and I am indeed your Grandmommy!  Happy Birthday, my sweet boy!

For my grandson’s third birthday, I chose the Hallmark Curious George recordable book and the Curious George plush character that talks when you press the toe (loudly).  I also recorded the story in my voice.  My daughter says he plays the storybook all the time.  I watched on iPad FaceTime as he opened them and played the book.  For just a moment, there was a look of confusion as to how I could accomplish being in two places at once, but then he picked the book up and hugged it to his chest.   I will be there for a visit in a few short weeks and I can’t wait!

The last time I saw my beautiful granddaughter Maggie was October 15, 2011.  Since then, Maggie and her Mom  and Dad have moved from their beloved Chicago to Dallas, Texas.  They are settling in nicely and Maggie is growing so quickly.  I see photographs, of course, but you can’t cuddle and talk to a photo very well.  I love the occasional i-Pad talks, but I still can’t reach through the screen and hold her!

I’m flying Saturday morning to Dallas for a wonderful ten days.  Her Mom and Dad have asked me what I would like to see or do in Dallas.  Truthfully, the only “sight” I care about in Dallas is Maggie!  I want to hold her and play with her and read to her.  I want to take her for long strolls around their historical neighborhood.  I want to hear her laughter.  I’ve happily volunteered to “babysit” so Mom and Dad can actually have a date night out.  This sweet visit enables me to begin a relationship that will last a lifetime…which means flying as often as possible to see her so she doesn’t forget me in between visits!

Maggie in her stroller… 

This little pottery bluebird makes me happy.  He sits in a safe place on the buffet and I see him everyday.  He reminds me of a happy memory.

It was August 2009 and I had flown home to the South for a three week visit.  This was a year before my sister Gerry was diagnosed with ALS.  She was still up and about even though her osteoporosis presented challenges.  She still happily presided over her kitchen where she created magic.

One day during my visit, Gerry, my niece Cindy, and I drove over to Merigold, Mississippi.  If you’re reading this post from the South, then you already know where we were headed:  McCarty’s Pottery.  Although, McCarty’s is world famous now.  We had a delicious lunch at their tea room and then browsed the gallery of wonderful pottery.  I would like to have purchased several items but knew I would have to take them back on the plane with me.  My sister bought two adorable little bluebirds – one for Cindy and one for me.  It is one of my treasures.

I decided he looked a little lonely one day and I ordered this handcarved little bluejay by Jim Shore to keep him company.  They make a fine pair.  I fancy the little bluebird is happy too.

For more about McCarty’s Pottery in the Delta of Mississippi, just google it!

We were enjoying a classic Christmas movie in front of the fireplace when there was a knock at the front door.  We live in the country on the side of a small mountain in the Callahans with no close neighbors, so we wondered who was out on such a cold, dark night.  We turned the front porch light on to find the FedEx delivery man with a package in his hands.  It was addressed to me.  I thanked him and he left us to drive on up to our neighbors house with a delivery for them.

The package was from Country Curtains (one of my favorite places) and I couldn’t wait to open it.  It was a gift from my precious sister Eunice.  I carefully unpacked it and found the adorable rosebud vases that I had loved so at her house.  Five little glass cylinders on a black wire pedestal.  Hers had been filled with the beautiful red “double knockout roses” from her garden.  I couldn’t wait to see them filled with roses here…but, obviously, I would have to wait.

The next day, the macho logger tree farmer walked in with beautiful pink rosebuds from a local florist…a nice surprise.  I had washed and dried the glass cylinders and they were ready.  I placed them in the kitchen window where I could see them all the time with an “angel” on either side of them.

Thank you, my dear Sis!  I will enjoy them and think of you…

 

Above:  When I was home in the South in October, I fell in love with my sister Eunice’s beautiful roses and adorable rosebud vases.  She has an amazing “green thumb” and a gorgeous “double knockout rose bush” which was loaded with these exquisite red roses. 

Photo below:  my niece Sharon and my sister Eunice.  Sadly, there are just the two of us sisters now as our sister Gerry is spending her first Christmas in Heaven with our parents and our sister Dot.  Oh, how we miss them all.

The sound of “church bells” float down the goats’ pasture and across the valley below – from my front porch!  One of my Christmas presents this year were two sets of beautiful Corinthian Bells windchimes.  One of them is tuned in the key of “C”.  The other one is tuned in the key of “E”.  Together, they sound like churchbells.  They are larger than most windchimes, so it takes a little more wind to move them.  As I sit at my computer, there is a symphony playing just outside on the front porch…and I love it!  Check out the video below to actually listen…

Another special Christmas gift enables me to visit with my children and grandchildren long distance…an i-Pad equipped with FACETIME!  I listened to my beautiful 3 month old granddaughter “talk” and I loved it.  I talked back to her and she smiled at me.  Amazing!  (I’m flying there in January so I can actually hold her while she talks to me!)  I’ve listened to a piano recital as my grandchildren in Iowa each play for me.  I loved it!  Four of them crowd around the screen and we visit.  Granted, I can’t reach out and hug…it will take a plane and a full day trip for that (I’m flying there in February!).  I talked to my sister of almost 40 years the other day in my pajamas (granted she’s 2 hours ahead of me plus I was a little lazy that day!).

The macho logger tree farmer sat at his desk yesterday afternoon and hammered out his handwritten Christmas letter in less than an hour.  It was one-page, pleasant and to the point.  I edited a couple of grammatical issues and typed it for him.  He addressed the envelopes to his family and put them in the mail this morning.  Amazing.

There’s a blank computer screen in front of me with “Christmas 2011” at the top.  I stare at it but the words don’t come.  The last multiple-page-with-photos Christmas letter I sent was dated 2003.  Eight years?  Life presented too many twists and turns during that span of time.  Each year that rolled faithfully around, I committed to write “the Christmas letter”.  To be honest, I’ve received emails asking me if I’ve removed the sender from my letter list?  No, I wouldn’t do that.  I just didn’t write one.  So now, the stark white screen stares back at me and I am resolute.

So, I think about this past year and take some mental notes…

2011 brought great joy.  My youngest child and his precious wife had their first-born…a beautiful baby girl named Maggie.  I loved her before I met her.  The second I held her and her big blue eyes met mine, there was a bond formed that will last a lifetime…hers and mine.  We will play hide-and-seek and bake cookies when she is old enough.  I will read her lots of stories and sew cute little dresses.  For now, I will hold her, love her and talk baby talk every chance I get…

 

2011 brought deep sadness and grief.  My sister Gerry lost her courageous battle with Lou Gehrig’s disease (ALS) and went home to be with the Lord on October 13, 2011.  I rejoice that she is in Heaven and I will see her again.  I know, in time, the tears will stop…just not yet.  I miss her more than words can say.

2011 provided the opportunity to check one of my heart’s desires off the proverbial “bucket list”: Alaskan Cruise.  Cruising through the Inside Passage, the scenery took my breath away on more than one occasion.  As the ship meandered closely to a cove of ancient glaciers, I was thrilled by the sight of the blue ice and knew that, literally, I was seeing the tips of the iceberg.  When we traveled by vintage train up to the Yukon in a parlor car with a pot-bellied stove, I was seeing history and incredible beauty.  I treasured the views for I knew I might not see them again.

 2011  I became a “goat herder” and the proud owner of six adorable full-blood Boer goats.  I’ve also had to fight the same predators in these Callahan Mountains that the pioneer women fought.  A cougar killed three of my goats – half of my herd.  The macho logger tree farmer came to the rescue and built a cougar-proof enclosure and “sleeping shed” for the goats at night.  Hopefully, we can now rebuild our herd.

 2011  We added to the farm:  a 6 acre pasture, an orchard, a greenhouse, a barn, a fenced in raised-bed garden and a secure nighttime area for the goats with a new sleeping shed for them!

 2011  We’ve enjoyed traveling this year (some together and a few by myself) – three times to Seattle for visits with Jim’s daughter and her family, once to Iowa to visit my daughter and her family, once to Kentucky to visit my older son and his family, once to Chicago to meet my precious Maggie and visit my son and his wife and twice to the South.  Sadly, the last trip South was for my dear sister Gerry’s homegoing service.  I will be forever thankful for the visit I had with my sister Gerry in June…making memories.  In September, we met my daughter and her family at Yosemite National Park where we rented a house in the park and had a wonderful time together.  During the first long weekend of November, we flew to Boston for a visit with Jim’s younger daughter and her husband.  We toured the historical downtown and I saw Boston for the first time.  This sounds like a lot of traveling, but the truth is:  the months between seeing my grandchildren pile up much too quickly and it is much too long between visits.  I miss my children and grandchildren so much!

Hmmm….now, all is have to do is transfer these ideas to the blank white screen, insert a few more family photos, print them off, address all the envelopes, stamp them and mail them!  Thanks for listening.  Maybe I can write this Christmas letter after all…

The painting above by portrait artist, Gaye Frances Willard, is one of my favorites. Every knee shall indeed bow to the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, Jesus Christ! May you have a blessed Christmas!

Treasured card created by one of my granddaughters when she was about four or five.  They were living in the Andes Mountains of Peru at the time where my son was a missionary doctor and the girls were learning to think in Spanish!

My younger son called me on “Tango” over the weekend (it’s like Skype) so that I could “see and hear” my beautiful two and a half month old granddaughter.  Maggie makes my heart sing!  Maggie is healthy and happy.  Maggie is beautiful!  Thankfully, her Dad has a wonderful promotion that allows her Mom to be a “stay-at-home-mom” with Maggie.  True, it meant leaving their beloved Chicago for Dallas, but they are blooming there.  We are so blessed and I am thankful.

If you were around me very long and asked me about my family, first I would happily fill you in on all the details about them.  I’m blessed with three amazing children – two sons and one daughter and nine incredible grandchildren.  THEN, I would probably whine a bit…well, okay, I might even tear up and whine a lot…when I told you that they’re scattered – many miles from me and from each other.  (My younger son keeps reminding me that I gave them “roots and wings”).  With my children scattered and family in the South, it means that I fly frequently; but with many months between visits, it isn’t enough.  Not nearly enough.  But I am thankful.  I am so thankful for healthy, happy children and grandchildren…every single one of them.  I am thankful for all of my family and friends in the South. 

Each morning,  I pour myself a cup of coffee and take in the view of the foothills of the Cascades across the valley while I enjoy it.  Every single morning is new and different.  Some mornings, there is a bank of fog so deep that I can barely see the first line of Doug fir on this 58-acre conifer tree farm.  Then, the fog settles in between the hills in the valley below and it looks like a big lake.  Some mornings, the sun is shining so brightly that it seems I can see forever.  I am thankful for the farm and my polar opposite, my macho logger tree farmer husband.  I am thankful for the livestock that goes along with having this farm:  two kittens, eleven chickens and three sweet Boer goats. 

 

To be honest, this Thanksgiving is a difficult one.  This has been a season of great loss and sadness.  I am working at being thankful.  I want to be thankful that my Father God, in His infinite wisdom and mercy, protected my sister by taking her home to Heaven when He did.  As a nurse, I’ve seen what the end stages of ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease) looks like.  I thank God she didn’t have to go through that.  I’m trying hard to imagine life on this earth without her in it.  It isn’t easy.  The tears come and then I remember – I will see her again.  Four sisters…two now in Heaven…but we will all see each other again.  I am thankfulI am thankful for our parents and the sweet, rich heritage they gave my sisters and me.


These are two of my favorite photos of my sister.  In the photo above, we were boating on Grenada Lake.  I must have said “hey, Sis!”.  She glanced around and I snapped the photo with my little Kodak Instamatic.  It was August 1961.  She was 31 and I was almost 16.  She was beautiful even when she was boating!  The photo below was taken in the late eighties at Mama’s 4th of July birthday party at my sister Dot’s house.  Gerry was about 58 in this photo.

I wish each and every one of you a Happy Thanksgiving  filled with the joy of making memories!

Flying from one coast to the other isn’t easy these days – especially with a total of three long flights each way, but a three-day weekend in Boston with Jim’s daughter and her husband was worth the endeavor.  They have recently purchased a Cape Cod home in a small town close to Boston and I loved it.  The neighborhood with all the Colonial and Cape Cod style homes on the tree-lined streets was definitely picturesque.  They live within walking distance of the quaint downtown with all the neat little shops.  During the drive around their village, I spied a quilt shop I would love to have spent a few hours in…but then I would have had to carry all my purchases on the flight back. 
On Friday after our arrival late Thursday evening, we drove to downtown Boston.  The weather was beautiful…sunny but very chilly with a brisk wind making me glad I had brought along my jacket.  I wished I had remembered a warm hat as well!  We did a walking tour of some of the historical sights and then had a delicious sandwich at a little sandwich shop along the route.  We also tried a cannoli at the evidently famous  Mike’s Pastry Shop in “Little Italy”.  I had a hazelnut mascarpone cannoli…sweet with only a subtle taste of hazelnut.  Definitely large enough for two to share next time.Unfortunately, I remembered my camera halfway to Boston, so the pics of Boston are courtesy of Wikipedia!
 
After lunch, we continued our tour of downtown Boston.  So much to see…so little time.  We were walking along part of  Boston’s Freedom Trail and were able to get a glimpse of the significant history of Boston.  I think my favorite place of all was the Old North Church.   It would probably take two weeks, at least, to see all that Boston has to offer, but it was nice to have had a glimpse anyway.
On Sunday, we drove to Springfield, Massachusetts, to the Basketball Hall of Fame.  Right down the macho logger tree farmer’s alley!  Although I am definitely not athletic or a basketball  aficionado, it was interesting learning about the actual history of basketball and reading about the different players who have been “enshrined” in the Basketball Hall of Fame.  There is also a photo in the slideshow below of me standing next to a photo of the shortest player in basketball history (though not “enshrined”).  Tyrone “Mugsy” Bogues was the shortest NBA  player in history, at just 5′ 3″ tall.  I also saw what may be the largest shoe I’ve ever seen:  a size 22 basketball shoe!  There’s a photo of the old-fashioned canvas shoe in the slide show as well.  I think my favorite part of the museum was seeing the vintage basketball uniforms…right out of a classic movie!

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My Southern Heart...the Stories blog is about my life growing up in the South in the fifties and sixties. It was an amazing time...a time of falling in love, getting married, having a family. A time of history in the making, political unrest, rock and roll. Come along on my life's journey. It's a chronological story, so be sure to start at the beginning. It will make a whole lot more sense that way. Check out: My Southern Heart...the Stories