Even after a rare thunderstorm last night – complete with thunder, lightning, hail and pouring rain – it is much too quiet here this morning.  After a wonderful visit together, it was time to drive Sharon (my niece who is two years younger than I) and Penny (my sister-in-law of 39 years) to the airport in Portland yesterday.  Their flight is on the runway as I type and they are departing for Memphis.  I miss them already…

They arrived on Tuesday, July 10th, in Eugene, Oregon.  It had been Penny’s first time to fly.  Thankfully, both flights were flawless and perfectly smooth the entire way…and she loved flying!   They immediately fell in love with Oregon and the incredible beauty of the Pacific Northwest.  They also couldn’t believe that it stayed “light” until practically past bedtime!  As we drove the one and a half hours to the farm, we talked nonstop as they took in the scenery along the way.  It was almost dark when we arrived home to the farm but they were excited to see everything.

When I awoke the next morning, I found them enjoying coffee and juice in the front porch rockers.  The front porch would be the place to enjoy many times over the next week and a half.  The sun was shining in an almost cloudless sky and the temperature was in the mid-sixties.  They had left 100+ degrees in Memphis and they were thrilled.

Over the  next ten days, we did everything!   On Wednesday, a “rest” day for them, we toured our small town and I showed them everything here (that didn’t take too long).  We went to a local nursery and enjoyed the beautiful  flowers there.  We stopped by Kruse Farms and picked up a freshly baked marionberry pie and vanilla ice cream.   We hiked down to the canyon with the macho logger tree farmer.  They enjoyed shooting the .22 with him at the shooting range.  They loved the farm life here.  Penny took over feeding the chickens and gathering the eggs.  Sharon assumed the duty of feeding the goats.  They loved it!  We spent a lot of time on the front porch enjoying the rocking chairs and our spectacular view – which they loved.

On Thursday, we drove to Grant’s Pass, Oregon, where we took the Hellgate Jetboat excursion to the large log lodge upstream for a barbecue lunch. They loved jetboating…especially on the return trip when the captain hotdogged the boat and we got soaked! We saw elk on the nearby elk preserve…and just wished they were closer. Thankfully, we had a zoom lens for photos.  Friday was another “rest” day with fun on the farm and the three of us in the kitchen.  I could get spoiled to that!

On Saturday, we drove to Florence, Oregon, to see the Pacific Ocean. So different from the Atlantic and the Gulf Coast which they are used to seeing.  We went down 600 feet into the incredible Sea Lions Cave.  On Sunday, we headed up to 5700+ feet to see the amazing Crater Lake.  We found a beautiful nearby waterfalls and took some memorable photos there.



At Sea Lions Cave…

On Monday, we headed back to the coast – this time to one of my favorite coastal towns:  Bandon, Oregon.  We also stopped by the elite Bandon Dunes Golf Resort, where Sharon’s husband wants to eventually play.  We picked up some souveniers for him.  We tasted practically all of the samples at the Cranberry Sweets store and they purchased some to take home.

On Tuesday, Penny and Sharon enjoyed playing horseshoes with Jim.  We spent a lot of time relaxing on the front porch.  Each evening, we enjoyed a movie after dinner.  It was all about the fellowship and time together.  They had fun playing cards on the front porch with the macho logger tree farmer.  No doubt, laughter could be heard all the way down to the valley.  They picked fresh veggies from the garden and we cooked a delicious dinner again.

Thursday came all too soon.  We drove to Portland where their flight was supposed to leave this morning at 7:55 a.m.  (Actually they are flying United so, of course, it is late!)  We took them to Sweet Tomatoes for a soup and salad lunch which we all enjoyed…and then it was time to get them checked into their hotel.

Saying goodbye is never any fun, but it helps that we will be having Thanksgiving in the South this year and I will see them then.  We miss you already, Sharon and Penny!

It was pouring rain as we left the farm last Thursday morning for a seven hour drive north. We were looking forward to our visit with Jim’s daughter and her family who live an hour north of Seattle. About twenty minutes south of Seattle, it stopped raining and the sun came out…and stayed out for the rest of the weekend.  On Friday morning, we left their house early for the drive to Anacortes, Washington, where we caught the ferry for our three hour trip to Victoria, British Columbia.

I couldn’t help being a little reflective as the ferry got underway…my last ferry trip to Victoria was in 1965. I was a nineteen year old college student, traveling with a group of other “summer missionary” college students. That story is here.

Jim and I were in Victoria last July for a brief few hours hours during a stop on our Alaskan cruise, but a few hours just weren’t enough.  I was glad we were going to have two whole DAYS this time.  We walked all about Victoria…up and down the historic streets enjoying the shops along the way, along the water’s edge where the sailboats were lined up and into the Empress Hotel.  I remembered having “tea and crumpets” there with a group of college students when I was nineteen.  The Empress Hotel is in the background of the Wikipedia photo below.

On Sunday, we spent the day at Butchart Gardens – a historic, incredible place to be sure.  I took all the photos in the slideshow below on Sunday.  To be honest, I don’t think photos do this beautiful place justice.  You’ll just have to go visit.  I do the best I can with the built-in macro lens on my Sony DSC-H5 but I would love to have a separate powerful macro lens!

The weather in Victoria was beautiful – 72 degrees and sunny with a light breeze.  We enjoyed our time with almost three year old Mason and his Mom and Dad.  I love watching grandfather and grandson acting like two kids together.  It was a fun weekend and one I will remember for another long time…

My daughter had driven all the way from Iowa to Dallas with FOUR children on Monday, April 23.  While she was looking forward to visiting while I was there, she had one primary goal in mind – meeting her baby brother’s baby for the first time.  I wanted to be ready with camera in hand to capture this first meeting.  I knew she would fall in love and she did.  I think it was mutual.  We all had a wonderful four days visit and then began the long drive back to Iowa.  She said meeting her beautiful baby niece was so worth the long, long drive…


In a “perfect world”, each of my three grown children and their families would live no more than two hours from me.  We would live in a beautiful area – close to the mountains and the beach and the rest of our extended family.    There would be plenty of time and opportunity for frequent family reunions.  But as my younger son reminds me, I evidently gave each of them “roots and wings” and the two-hour radius is not to be.  They’ve created happy, wonderful lives for themselves and I am glad of that.  However, that means that I must FLY often because I miss my children and my grandchildren!

I flew into the Dallas-Fort Worth airport on Saturday, April 21st.  My younger son greeted me with a hug and a smile.  We then drove to their home where my almost eight month old granddaughter was taking her afternoon nap.  I was preparing myself that she would have grown and changed since I had seen her over two months ago, and she most definitely has.  When she awoke, she greeted me with a big smile and, I think, remembered me.  She is amazing…and beautiful.  Of course.   😉

My daughter and her four children arrived on Monday morning after a very long drive from Iowa.  It would be a week filled with fun activities and enjoying FIVE of my grandchildren in one place!  There would be plenty of time for holding Maggie and playing on the floor with her…watching her crawl and pull up to a standing position.  We also made time for shopping.  I loved this adorable dress we found at The Children’s Place.  It reminded me so much of a “vintage” baby and Maggie looks beautiful in it!


I have flown dozens and dozens of times – and enjoyed it – until last year when I flew out of a bad storm in Memphis and into a worse one in Dallas.  The DFW airport was closed for a couple of hours and the plane I was on took a roundabout, time-consuming way there.  Needless to say, I missed my connecting flight, but managed to get the last flight to Portland out of Dallas to arrive at 2 a.m. Portland time.  I was in the very last seat next to the window (with some large, mechanical apparatus inches from the window) and the ceiling sloping at an angle inches from my head.  A long line of passengers continued to file into the plane.  At that point, a very large couple sat down beside me.  Suddenly, I felt totally hemmed in and very claustrophobic.  I told the flight attendant that I had to move up or get off the plane…thankfully, I moved up.  There have been a few other claustrophobic flight episodes since then.

I was flying on the morning of April 7th from Portland to Louisville to visit my firstborn and his family.  The only feasible way for me to travel 2,000+ miles.  I was trying not to focus on having a panic episode or any degree of claustrophobia.  I’ve discovered that I do best when I am closer to the front of the plane (though I certainly cannot afford first class), next to the window and in a row of TWO seats rather than three!  And, yes, sometimes there is an extra charge for those seats (don’t tell my husband) but it beats a claustrophobic episode!

Before I boarded the plane, I prayed for someone special to sit beside me on the four hour flight to Dallas, my connecting city.  Someone who would entertain me and keep me from thinking about the fact I couldn’t get off the plane!  God answered that prayer with a special young man.  He’s from Spain and a senior in college there.  He had been visiting his girlfriend in Portland.  He introduced himself first and proceeded to totally entertain me.  He told me all about his life in Spain and his family there.  He works as a ski instructor to help with his college expenses.  I have THREE goats.  His family has 2,000 goats!  They make delicious cheese with the milk from the goats.  He pulled out his phone and showed me pictures of his family and his girlfriend.  We played the game Angry Birds together.  Such a very nice young man and an answer to prayer.  Before I knew it, we were descending into the Dallas airport.  He extended his hand to shake mine and THANKED ME for the visit!  My Heavenly Father doesn’t do anything halfway.  I thanked this sweet young man for making this flight an enjoyable one…

….and I thanked my Heavenly Father for answered prayer.

Our original destination...
I’ve always wanted to see San Francisco…from Fisherman’s Wharf to the Golden Gate Bridge to Chinatown.  And San Francisco was the original plan.  We started out last Thursday morning driving one hour to the Pacific Coast where we picked up highway 101 which hugs the coastline through Oregon and Northern California.  Unfortunately, the weather was clearly not cooperating.  We drove through cold, hard-blowing, horizontal sheets of rain.  The wind wasn’t just blowing hard – it was absolutely gusting.  Occasionally, there were yellow warning signs along the coastline clearly spelling out the danger:  Wind Gusts!  They were right about that!

In one small Oregon coastline town, we stopped (in the pouring rain) at an antique store that we have never actually found open before.  It was open on that rainy Thursday morning.  I found a “4-in-1” Lodge cast iron dutch oven.  I’m not usually a negotiator but I thought the price he had on it was a little high, so I made him an offer and he took it.  It’s in perfect condition and I’m looking forward to cooking with it.  That skillet would end up my souvenier of this trip.

We got back in the car and proceeded on through the rain and wind.  There were times the view of the rocky Pacific coast was totally obscured.  One of the most memorable aspects of the drive from Oregon into California is driving along the magnificent “Redwood Highway”.  The winding road is cut through a dark forest of amazing giants and is called the “Avenue of the Giants”.  We stopped at the “tourist attraction”  Trees of Mystery.  My grandchildren would have liked Paul Bunyon and the Blue Ox!

Not long after arriving in California, we came upon an elk preserve and I finally got to see ELK up close and personal!  Several whole herds of elk.  Unfortunately, it was still raining at this point so my photos are not that great but I loved seeing them.


After a long day of driving through rain and wind gusts, we decided we were tired and stopped for the night at Eureka, California.The next morning, we headed down the coast to Bodega Bay, California…the location for the Alfred Hitchcock film, “The Birds”.  It was still raining at this point and, again, we fought wind gusts and deep banks of fog.  We had to get off of highway 101 and onto highway 1 which would take us into Bodega Bay.  We took the Guerneville exit which took us into breathtaking Sonoma County wine country through a serpentine road.  This would have made a great movie!  There were no signs until we finally saw one that said Bodega Bay…23 more miles of winding road!  We spent the night at the Bodega Harbor Inn, an old motor court from the fifties which  has been revamped.  It’s actually where Jacque Cousteau stays when he visits Bodega Bay.  It’s reasonable and felt a bit historical.  Before we settled in and darkness fell, I wanted to see the old school house, so we drove the four miles into Bodega where the school house and the old church are.  It’s a quaint little community with photos from the movie “The Birds” in the stores.  The school house is now privately owned and has been totally restored.  The next morning, we had breakfast at The Tides restaurant (remember The Tides in the movie?).  The original restaurant burned down and was rebuilt.  The dock is still there and the view of the boat ride that “Melanie” (Tippi Hedren) took across the bay.  The Brenner farmhouse burned down a couple of years after the film was made.  Altogether, it was a neat visit to Bodega Bay!

The Bodega Bay harbor dock.

 Remember the Bodega Bay Schoolhouse from the movie? 

The Bodega Bay Schoolhouse…now a private home.


A few of “the birds” in Bodega Bay…



A couple of photographs from the movie “The Birds” on the wall at The Tides Restaurant…


The  next morning, the sun was trying to come out through dark clouds, but we had made the decision that we were tired and were ready to head back home.  We also decided that when the time came for us to travel to San Francisco, we would FLY!

We traveled back through beautiful Napa Valley and, once again, saw one amazing vineyard after the other.  It was our anniversary and St. Patrick’s Day, and we were seeing beautiful countryside.  We drove through Old Sacramento and decided that Sacramento would be a future fun Amtrak trip.  We spent the last night of our trip in Redding, California.  The next morning we headed home over five snowy mountain passes…with  my favorite being  Mt. Shasta.

We arrived safely home and, thankfully, found ten hens and three Boer goats waiting for us…unharmed by the local cougar wildlife.  I rang their little cowbell and the goats came running from the lower pasture…as if to say “what took you so long?”

All through the night, the wind howled across this mountainside and the cathedral chimes on the front porch danced wildly in tune.  Snow again this morning.  It is beautiful but I know it won’t last long.  I will enjoy the brief visit.

I’ve spent the last two weeks fighting a cough and trying to regain my mojo.  A prescription of Azithromycin seems to be helping and I’m getting some energy back.

That’s a good thing since we’ll be traveling to San Francisco later this week to celebrate our anniversary.  We will drive a little over an hour to the Pacific Coast and pick up Highway 101 – the Pacific Coast Highway (PCH).  Not long ago, we drove all the way down to Gold Beach, Oregon, and enjoyed breathtaking scenery along the way…as the PCH wound along, hugging the coast of the beautiful, rocky Pacific.

On the way, we will visit the Redwoods near Brookings, Oregon, and Bodega Bay, California.  Did Bodega Bay sound familiar?  It should.  If you’re an Alfred Hitchcock fan (I am), that’s where “The Birds” was filmed.  I’m looking forward to seeing the schoolhouse and a few other sites there.

Then it’s on to San Francisco.  There we’ll tour Chinatown, ride a trolley car (I’ve always wanted to do that), visit Fisherman’s Wharf where Jim will enjoy Clam Chowder, check out the antiques along the way…and whatever else sounds interesting.

Any suggestions for what to see and do in San Francisco?

On Saturday, I fly to Iowa for a wonderful two and a half weeks with my daughter and her family, so we took advantage of this last Sunday for a while – a beautiful and surprisingly warm day –  to drive over to the coast (a little over an hour).  We then drove down the Pacific Coast Highway until we were about 30 minutes from the California border.  Had we planned ahead, we might have made it an overnight trip and ventured on down to see the redwoods.  Maybe next time.  Usually, it is chilly and gusty on the Pacific beach…not today.  I had a light jacket on but didn’t real need it.  Amazing for February!

This scene is in Port Orford, Oregon…one of our stops along the way.

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… 

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!




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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