Thanksgiving 2012

November 28th, 2012
Luella, Verbena, and Dixon.

Luella (Lulu), Verbena, and Dixon.

Last Thanksgiving, our family was expecting two new babies. This Thanksgiving, we’re all grateful to be on the other side of that expectation. The eleven-month old little people added lots of fun to our gathering, and they also created a little cheerful chaos.

No, my chin is not on fire, but I hope this photo makes you laugh!

Dinnertime: Emily, Andy, Bill, Sue (on fire), Austin, Verbena, and Biz.

Dixon and Lulu politely napped during their first turkey dinner. We missed them and would have loved a whole-group photo, but it was awfully nice for their parents to eat a meal uninterrupted.

A drumstick for Bill from the 19-pound bird.

A drumstick for Bill from the 19-pound bird.

Austin and Biz brought a nineteen-pound Heritage turkey to the feast.  It was our first Heritage bird and we enjoyed it.  The taste was a bit gamey, but naturally very flavorful and we liked thinking of our turkey enjoying its own good life before contributing to our good life.  As Em and Andy always say, when you eat an animal that has been treated well, you absorb their good energy.

Another interesting photo. I wonder if Andy ever eats a warm meal?

Interesting photo. Does Andy ever eat a warm meal?

Son-in-law, Andy, is our family photographer and the capturer of most of our memories. Our times together pass quickly. After everyone leaves, Bill and I are able to revisit them through Andy’s photos. I feel like I’m seeing it all for the first time and yet reliving it again as well!

Verbena helping herself.

Verbena was the first to dig in.

Verbena turned three this past September. She is pretty independent and loves the feeling that she is a “big girl” compared to her brother and cousin. Andy captured Verbena’s independence and her taking charge of her own life in this photo.

Good times that we will always be thankful for.

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Lord and Master

August 25th, 2012


We have a demonstration garden in our community which is managed by Master Gardeners. It’s near a library and is connected to a lovely park. I’ve walked through that garden for years, imagining my gardener husband puttering there. This year my vision came true.

Bill started gardening classes in January. Weekly lessons, testing, and lots of volunteer time with Master Gardeners, taught Bill tons. Organic fruits and vegetables from our home garden are beautiful, as is the produce from Bill’s patch at the demonstration garden.

After a volunteer session in the county extension office this week (a rookie gardener and a Master Gardener answer phone-in or walk-in questions), Bill came home and calmly placed his Master Gardener certificate on the table, where I was eating lunch. I couldn’t believe it? The announcement seemed a bit anti-climatic after almost eight months of really hard work.

It’s been a great eight months for Bill. He’s contributed at least six times the 50 volunteer hours he was required to donate, all with a smile on his face. When I joked that he was finally a “Master,” he replied that I could refer to him as “Lord and Master.” Uh, that’s not happening, but it’s good seeing Bill spending time on his passion, after years of working so hard at something he liked less. Eating his fruits and vegetables is awfully nice too. Congratulations, Billy!


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Not a Cloud in the Sky

August 22nd, 2012


Today, the eastern Washington sky is free of clouds, the temps will linger in the mid 80’s, and a hint of a breeze is keeping the air crisp and fresh. I went outside this morning to refinish outdoor furniture and this ideal environment took my breath away! We’ve had weeks of triple digits that wilted me and many plants – today’s weather is a lovely surprise.

So for the first time in over three months, when that hint of a breeze washed over my face, I thought to grab my camera and share this perfect day with you.

To write, one must think. To think, one must be quiet. To be quiet, one must make time for it. And, that might be the reason I’ve neglected posting events and thoughts lately. Our summer, Bill’s first as a full-time retiree, has been busy. It feels so good to be sitting in the corner of my couch working away on my little hobby again.

Now I have to get back to refinishing that furniture.  Maybe this post is really about procrastination???

Gifting you this beautiful day . . .

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April 26th, 2012
Verbena's pedicure kit.

Verbena's pedicure kit.

Our two-year-old granddaughter, Verbena, has already been exposed to the world of pedicures. Her mommy and daddy get haircuts at a salon that offers the service, and when Bean goes with them, the lovely Vietnamese ladies whisk her away, sit her on the edge of a chair, and decorate those baby toes. Bean sits patiently, watches intently, and stays in-place through the entire process, including the time it takes for her toes to dry – a miracle!

Because of Verbena’s fascination with pedicures, her mommy made her a pretend nail kit for her Easter basket. Mommy bought eye-catching colors of real nail polish, then she cleaned the brush applicators with polish remover and emptied the liquid polish out of the bottles. The bottles still look like they are filled, because the polish coats the inside of the bottle as it empties and dries. Mommy found a cute tote bag and filled it with the pretend polish, plus some fun accessories.

Verbena brought her new nail kit to church on Easter morning. About midway through the service, she pulled out one of her bottles, opened it, and started to “pretend” paint her fingernails. A woman sitting behind us freaked out and quickly tapped mommy on the shoulder to call attention to what was happening. Mommy assured the nice lady that all was well, and we had a good laugh.

I wondered if Bean would tire of the nail kit because her fingers and toes don’t change color when she uses it, but she hasn’t. She loves playing “grown-up” in all kinds of ways. I loved playing grown-up when I was a child too. My younger brother was the father of my baby dolls, my friends and I played “house,” and I had Barbie marathons with a favorite cousin (just like Bean’s mommy did with one of her friends). It was extremely fun to pretend – a perfect world where every baby was easily soothed, every cake rose, and every Barbie got a date with the handsomest guy, who also happened to be very good and kind.

I don’t know what effect “pretending” has on our development, but the fact that I can remember doing it, must make it important. Perhaps I was acting out inner hopes and wishes for my future? Considering that possibility, I’ll be watching my grandchildren’s play much more closely.

I wish every child many, many care-free days of pretending, because it just doesn’t work when you are an adult.

I think I need a pedicure :)

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April 21st, 2012


On Easter morning, we usually open Easter baskets, have breakfast, zip to church, dash home for a special dinner, do a photo shoot, hunt for eggs, and then our kids pack and get started on their three+ hour rides to Seattle and Portland. Even writing about that schedule makes me out of breath. I was very grateful for suggestions from my girls to change things a bit this year. Duh?

We moved the egg hunt and special dinner to Saturday. Not a big change, but it was great to relax and visit over ham and cheesy potatoes on Saturday evening, enjoying family. Also, I got to be a part of the egg hunt because I wasn’t in the kitchen scrambling to put a meal together. Sunday breakfast was simply frittata and fruit, then we tried a new church which was low key and less crowded. Perhaps feeding off of our calmness, Verbena was a toddler angel through the whole mass, and Dixon napped. Bean joined the church’s egg hunt, and happily shared her candy with a wheelchair-bound young girl. A quick lunch on leftovers (need to work on making that more special) and the kids were on their way home.

I get caught up in doing things the way we have always done them. We have more people in our family now, of varied ages, we don’t all live in the same house/town anymore – things have changed and I have to change. I’m ready for it, especially if it gives me more fun times with those I love. Learning how to be a grandma is tough stuff!

Dixon's first Easter egg hunt.

Dixon's first Easter egg hunt.

Verbena's a pro at egg hunting now!

Verbena - our egg-hunting pro!

Easter morning.

Yum - chocolate for breakfast!

Our family gathering this Easter. Emily, Andy, and Lulu couldn't make it, but they'll have a smoother holiday when they join us next year.

Our family gathering this Easter. (Emily, Andy, and Lulu couldn't make it, but they'll have a smoother holiday when they join us next year.)

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Running on Empty

March 8th, 2012
Loved this project I saw on HGTVs Norvagst Family show.

Loved this on HGTV's Home by Novogratz.

I’m sick.  My eyes are leaking. My nose looks like a cherry tomato, and fluctuates from being completely stuffed to a running water faucet. I’ve gone through at least four boxes of tissues. I have a slight temp, and I haven’t slept but a few hours a night in five days – I’m tired, just too uncomfortable to sleep. Feels like a bad cold, but these are just symptoms of a much bigger problem. I’m running on empty, and I knew it even before my cold forced me to acknowledge it. I’ve not had much down time since mid-October.

I’ve been out of town or entertaining at home for 14 of the last 20 weekends, with a total of 46 actual days away and 18 days hosting. I’ve traveled about 16,370 miles (includes roundtrip flight from Portland to Boston). With time preparing for those trips and holiday prep, it’s been a busy four months. I wouldn’t trade any of the travel or time spent with family, but my current condition is keeping me from a reunion with my husband’s family, and I’m a bit weepy.

To take my mind off of my problems, I’m going for a new world record –  the largest number of home-improvement shows watched in one twenty-four hour period.  Thank God for the DVR, it speeds up the process and I can fast forward through commercials.

No worries, I’ll be on the mend soon, and probably back on the road too.

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Grandma Heaven

February 26th, 2012

“Grandma Heaven” is when all your grandchildren are in one place and you are with them. For me, that happened for the first time the weekend before Valentine’s Day.  Two-year old Verbena, her brother, seven-week-old Dixon, and five-week old Lulu rendezvoused at Nana and Papa’s. Burp rags, diapers, and Elmo cups were everywhere, as were mommies, daddies, and babies nursing under tents. Very grateful for the gathering.

The mommies dressed up their babies and chose Nana and Papa’s bed for a photo session. Everyone agreed to abort the picture project if the subjects became unhappy, however, when one baby and then another began screaming, it was rather hilarious. If these pictures had audio, you would not only hear babies crying, but adults laughing too.

Lulu and Dixon singing??

Lulu and Dixon singing??

Verbena joins them, and Lulu gets it together to act like her older cousin.

Verbena joins in and Lulu notices.



The "mommies" jump in at the end.

Mommies and their babies.

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Aunt Henrietta

February 13th, 2012
Henrietta (This picture captures my memory of her perfectly.)

Aunt Henrietta (This picture captures my memory of her perfectly.)

Within an hour of Lulu’s birth, on the other side of the country, my dear Aunt Henrietta passed. My mother said that Henrietta waited until she heard that Lulu had arrived and then she let herself go. Henia (affectionate Polish version of her name) had been diagnosed with metastasized breast cancer about a year earlier.

At 87, except for dental visits, I don’t think Henia ever went to a doctor. She never married. For 40 years, my aunt was employed as a seamstress for a clothing manufacturer. She retired from that job to take care of her ailing mother, and when her mother died, she worked for several years helping developmentally challenged individuals. She never managed a checkbook – preferred paying in cash (a practice that made me cringe when I would take her shopping in her later years; she looked so vulnerable). With her modest salary, she always paid her own way, saved some, and even lent money to my parents to buy our house. At her death, she had more than enough to cover arrangements for her funeral.

Henrietta was the third of six daughters in my mother’s family. All six daughters had some special artistic talent. For Henia, it was all things needle and thread. She sewed Vogue patterns perfectly. It was skirts and blouses during the week, but on Sundays and special occasions, her fine and often hand-made clothing came out. I remember feeling so proud of how lovely she looked at church. She also sewed for my sister and I – a big help to our family.  I’m grateful to own many of her heirloom tatted handkerchieves. I took for granted her ability to mend a rip, tear, or pull until invisible.

Her parents, my grandparents, were Polish immigrants who spoke little English. Their social and faith life intertwined in a Polish church community, where they could pray in their own language and find comfort in their familiar culture. That church remained Henrietta’s second home. She sang in the choir for 60 years, attended mass daily when she could, and never missed a Sunday for most of her life. An example of complete humility, my Aunt Henrietta would be shocked to know how much she touched and affected the lives of those around her.  We are so fortunate that God gave her to our family.

The evening of January 5th, my sister, Alyce, and I were texting back and forth. Alyce was reporting on Henrietta’s leaving, and I was sharing updates on Lulu’s coming. I still don’t quite understand why both events happened simultaneously, but in a way, the duplicity brought my east coast family to Lulu’s birth and me to Henrietta’s deathbed. Thanks to my sister, I knew when family arrived at my aunt’s bedside, and how each was handling the event – a great comfort and relief. I texted progress of my daughter’s last stage of labor, and received encouragement and joy back from those gathered (who would not have been together otherwise). We think that my aunt heard family talking about Lulu’s arrival, and then she drifted away. Alyce, a hospice nurse, says hearing is the last to go.

You would have loved my Aunt Henrietta. Her gift was to do exactly what she needed to do to take care of herself and those around her everyday until she couldn’t anymore. That example is our inheritance. I pray that I am like her.

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January 29th, 2012
Lulu and some of her faces.

Lulu and some of her faces.

Our newest granddaughter, Luella Jane, arrived at 7:14 PM on January 5th, six days later than her December 30th due date. Lulu was a solid 8.1 pounds (exactly what her mom weighed at birth) and 21 inches long. Papa and I heard her first cry and her parents’ overwhelming joy at finally seeing the daughter they had been waiting for. Mommy and daddy chose the beautiful names, Luella Jane, because beautiful women in daddy’s family also had those names. However, until she can decide for herself what she wants to be called, they are calling her Lulu.

Lulu is the perfect nickname for her. At three weeks, her expressions already seem filled with mischief. Lulu faces are captured primarily by her daddy, a photographer, and even though she can’t see very clearly at this age, she appears to know that the big dark blob and it’s occasional “flash” mean at least one of her parents are near and she’s okay with it.

Holding new life is holding a miracle, and I’ve been privileged to hold two miracles since the end of December. While in my arms, I explored every crease, curve, and crevice of their faces, and I watched their every move and reaction. What was I looking for? I was searching for a glimpse of the people they will become, hints of their future selves, whom I am eager to know. However, just like everyone else, I’ll have to wait for that.

All three grandchildren will come to Nana and Papa’s the middle of February – a friend of mine refers to this phenomenon as “grandma heaven.” I love the phrase! It will be our first time hosting three grandchildren and their mommies and daddies. I’ll let you know how it goes.

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Goodbye “Annie”

January 2nd, 2012


My spitfire of a hospice patient, Annie, passed this morning.  I can’t believe that I will never again sit in a comfy recliner across from her (in her comfy recliner) discussing life. Ninety-four and mentally sharp to the end, Annie is now free from the physical limitations that couldn’t keep pace with her mind. As of 9:15 AM this morning, Annie is no longer worrying about who will care for her, whether her money will hold out, or who will get her stuff when she is gone.  Annie passed in her own home –  her greatest wish.

Annie questioned the events of her life until the end. She died wondering why people had abandoned her, used her, or abused her.  More than her-fair-share of tragedy conditioned Annie to live for the moment and distrust the motives of those around her. Perhaps that is why Annie threw herself a beautiful and festive farewell party in September (with a lot of help from her friends). She said that she didn’t want to miss the celebration of her life . . . or probably trust anyone else with the details.  It was a gala affair!

Annie had a spirit that could not be squelched.  Despite her weakening body, Annie still tried to enjoy life through a lunch out, a shopping trip, or even a visit to the dentist – ANYTHING that would get her out of her apartment. A month ago, she pushed her caregiver to take her shopping for a new winter coat! Two weeks ago, I took her to a Christmas party.  A fighter and always optimistic, Annie never gave up on living a life.

Thank you for being my friend, Annie. I hope that heaven has blue crab and great margaritas! I will miss you.

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