Monday, December 24, 2012

Christmas Lite

Quiet and simple -- I think I'm going to bring it off this year.  The tree is decorated with my entire remaining collection of ornaments. I gave away everything I didn't put on the tree. All the fussing, shopping prepping, wrapping, and fretting have been scaled back as I grow older and Ben and Logan mature. The magic of e-commerce has hugely simplified shopping. Presents for everyone on my list have been made, bought, mailed or dispatched electronically. I had one heart-stopping event when the quilt I sent niece Hollis went missing for nearly a week. But it seems to have reappeared and should be delivered today. 
Gift wrapping was accomplished in a couple of hours this morning using paper and ribbon left from years previous. I almost made a typo -- "years precious" instead of "years previous." Either word would work just as well. We have some wonderful Christmas memories and I love hearing the kids bring them out and relive them. Precious, indeed.
Gifts for the boys are scant and simple -- they both had wishes for early gifts. Logan got a new suit in November and Ben got a pair of binoculars principally for bug-watching, but he unwrapped them early to watch the Leonid meteor shower.  And we're putting away money for next year's travel plans. We'll see how that plays out. Not to mention the fact that another car will soon be joining the family. So most of our Christmas and birthday gifts will be deferred for a while.
No cooking frenzy for me this year; we'll be having Christmas dinner tomorrow with Steve and Julia. The first time I have not cooked Christmas dinner in nearly half a century. I only regret we will have no turkey leftovers. I think I'll roast a turkey some cold winter's night in January just so I can have some yummy turkey sandwiches and delicious soup.
Snow is forecast for tomorrow, so we'll probably have a white Christmas. Pictures to follow. Rachel and Kevin will be driving down (and back home) tomorrow, but the storm is supposed to be mostly to the south, so the driving conditions should be OK.  
Merry Christmas everyone!



Sunday, December 16, 2012

Wooooapppeee Birthday dear Daddy







My father, Seward James Blair ("Bud"), would be 100 years old today. He's pictured above on or around his first birthday. Helen, his two years older sister (born December 15, 1910), called him Buddie, her attempt to say brother, and the name stuck. He was always known as Bud and that's probably a good thing; Seward isn't particularly euphonious. He was named Seward at the insistence of his grandmother, Amanda Schooley Blair, who was especially fond of her uncle William Henry Seward (Lincoln's secretary of state -- you remember Seward's Folly -- the purchase of Alaska). Bud Blair was born in Goldfield, Nevada, where his parents had settled while his father pursued a banking career in that gold mining boom town.

When the luster of Goldfield began to fade, the family moved north to Tonopah where things were a little livelier. They stayed there until some time in the '20's when they again moved north to Fallon, Nevada. His father remained a banker until the banks closed in the depression at which time the family turned to turkey ranching for a livelihood.



He met and married Ruthanne Hatch while he was an architecture student at UC Berkeley. I am about four years old in the picture above. My father is on the left and his brother, Bill is on the right. My earliest and best memories of my father are from about this time until I was about twelve. He was my hero and I thought he could do anything. He whistled and tap danced everywhere he went and was always busy making things in his workshop. He planted glorious gardens, created wonderful landscapes, built us children great toys, and was always volunteering to help with school activities.
Here is my father shelling dungeness crab for his traditional Christmas crab salad. His method of shelling was to put one chunk in the bowl and one in his mouth. The picture is taken in the "new house." By this time, I was married and had children of my own. My parents had at last moved into the home that my mother dubbed "Seward's Folly."

This was a dream house that became a nightmare. An old tumble down Victorian-era house on an acre of land became our home when I was thirteen years old. The plan was to live temporarily in the old house while a new one was built on the same property. The new house would be spacious to comfortably accommodate five children and our assortment of pets. Sadly, the house was not completed until after all the children had been raised. During all those years, all spare time and money was diverted to the construction of the new house and our family life fell apart.

But the new house did accomodate many family gatherings that are memorable to my children and their cousins. We gathered there for family birthdays several times a year. An indelible part of these celebrations was my father's rendition of the happy birthday song sung with great gusto:
Happy birthday to you,
Happy birthday to you,
WOOOOOOAAAPPPPPPPPY birthday dear Daddy,
Wappy birthday to you

Saturday, December 8, 2012

And the Winner Is . . .

BENJAMIN MAPLES!

Ben posed very willingly for this picture; he even suggested in front of the fireplace would be a good place to pose. Never mind that one of the antlers of the deer on the mantle looks like a spike of unruly hair, it was still a fabulous moment. I think he was nearly as proud of himself as I was. 

He's holding the symbols of his great moments at yesterday's regional math competition in West Plains. His team placed third in the team competition scoring the white ribbon. His solutions in the twelfth grade target event earned him the blue ribbon. This also garnered him a second place overall medal and a place in the state competition to be held in April. Other kids from our school also did very well.

As in past events, the biggest winner was an autistic freshman boy from Nixa. I think we'll be hearing a lot more about that boy in the months to come.
 
Today the listing on my house expires. I intend to keep it off the market until after I've recuperated from my next knee surgery, but I'm still hoping to sell it before summer. We'll see.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Tah Done!

Setting the table is not a big deal. Cleaning up my sewing mess is! Can't wait to start in on a new mess next week.

The tree is decorated with all the ornaments I own. Everything that didn't end up on the tree was given to local women's shelters.

Fake holly replaces dead mums on the back deck. Takes much less water.

This table runner is made from a yard of material provided by one of my quilt club members. I made it into this table runner and set of coasters and will give it back to her at our Christmas luncheon tomorrow.

This quilt block is part of a round robin quilt project by our group. We each do a block a month for one of the participating members. When we have completed a block for each member, we will each have an assortment of blocks to make into a quilt of our own choosing.

I actually finished all the items on my to do list from the other day, except one -- I didn't do any reading in Consilience. So, I think I'll go do that now.

Friday, November 30, 2012

To Do

  1. Finish decorating the tree and house (and back deck). Boxes and decorations are currently all over the living room. Why do I keep all that stuff year after year and never use it and have to sort through it each Christmas season? The tree is erect, but essentially bare. Of course, the most treasured ornaments are no where to be found. I'll have to make do with what I can find.
  2. Read a bit of "Flight Behavior" by Barbara Kingsolver. I love BK's writing -- any given sentence or paragraph or image she creates enthralls me. So far, the story, meh!
  3. Set the table for Monday's party. Gotta do this early so I can make sure the dishes, glasses, silverware, and linens pass inspection. Because the dining room usually functions as my sewing room, I had to clean up the litter of the last several sew storms.
  4. Fool around with Facebook and the internet. (x 3, like I'm doing right now)
  5. Dust mop and vacuum all floors - the tree isn't even decorated yet, and it's a fake tree, but still I'm sweeping up pine needles all over the house
  6. Nap - already tried once, but failed. I do like to get my nap out of the way early in the day to free up the afternoon!
  7. Clean the back deck. Replant the hanging planters, discarding pathetic mums and planting fake holly. Vacuum up all the chewed up foam that used to be one of the new cushions I made this summer.
  8. Coffee with Sharon who brings bounty from Trader Joe's in St. Louis
  9. Read a bit of "Consilience" by E. O. Wilson -- what an amazing mind (his, not mine).
  10. Figure out what to have for dinner and fix it. I'm getting pretty good at figuring out how to make parallel vegetarian and carnivore meals. Having tofu and a supply of frozen (homemade) veggie burgers on hand really helps. Tonight's meal is likely to feature beans, rice, and cheese with a bunch of veggies thrown in.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Dinner? It's Quilting Time!

 Here's the tenth of twelve table runners. Only two more months and you won't have to see them again. Unless you come to my house, because I do intend to use them throughout the year on my kitchen table. I like the way the padding serves to protect the table top from hot dishes. And in all humility, I think they look nice.
This project has been thirteen months in the making as a block-a-month program from my local quilt shop (who needs bars, when I can get my fix with fabric?). When I first saw it, I knew I had to make it for Hollis, my adorable much-tatooed  Air Force Air Evac medic niece. I customized a few of the blocks to make it more appropriate.


 The Air Force emblem and the Caduceus speak to Hollis' passions as does the block below:
Sorry, this is such a lousy picture. In the quilt as it was designed, this block represented a quilt shop. I adapted it to be a tattoo parlor. The sign over the door says "INK" and the sign over the window says "H.B.'s Tattoo Parlor" The window has a picture of an eagle.

Now I have to clean house. I'm having a bunch of ladies over for lunch (my quilting club, of course) next week and I'm still moving very slowly and carefully, so I have to get started! The Christmas tree is up, that will serve to some degree as a distraction from the state of my house, but I must put away all that quilting gear and sanitize the kitchen and bathrooms!

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Thanksgiving, pre and post



Logan, pre-Thanksgiving with early Christmas present.
Logan needed a new suit. Can you imagine a 15-year-old NEEDING a new suit?  His old suit is both worn out and too small. He wears his suit to all speech and debate events because he feels like he looks really cool and that the judges will be impressed. I'm not sure the judges were impressed, but Ashley was. 

And here's Ashley, looking SUITably impressed on the day after Thanksgiving. Ashley lives in a town about 25 miles away; she and Logan met at a Speech and Debate tournament a couple of months ago.  Yesterday, the Saturday after Thanksgiving, Logan and I drove to her town and joined her and her grandparents for a midday meal. Then Logan, Ashley, and I went to the movies to see Red Dawn -- they loved it, I thought it was OK. When we returned to her grandparents home, the kids hung out and I joined a pinocle game in progress. I sat in a few hands and played for the first time in probably more than 30 years. I do like the game and intend to teach the boys to play over the Christmas holidays.

While Logan and I pursued social sartorial activities, Ben remained sequestered in his room working on college and scholarship applications. He has been accepted at MSU in Springfield and awarded a governor's ("Bright Flight") scholarship for $5,000 per year. He is also eligible to apply for a President's scholarship for $12,500 per year.  And we're looking for others. Ben stresses so much over the application essays that it makes me crazy. I wish he could lighten up a bit, but he is such a perfectionist!

We celebrated Thanksgiving with all the fixings at Amanda and Ash's home, with Grandpa Steve, Grandma Julia, Krista, Jerry, Nick, and Adam. Alicia was also there with her 17 month old twins and a young man whose name escaped me. The twins seem to be doing well, both are walking and saying words, playing itsy bitsy spider and enjoying all kinds of food. Xavier continues to have trouble putting on weight, but Alicia is a good mother and watches closely. Christmas will be at Steve and Julia's. It is very hard for me to give up the reins, but it is time. I just don't feel up to doing it this year as I struggle with my feeble knee. Maybe I can do it again next year when I have a new knee and a new house.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Limping Along

My knee is still in very bad shape, even after a course of prednisone. I love that drug -- it makes every other joint feel really good, but I fear surgery is the only hope for the knee. I have an appointment for an evaluation with a surgeon on December 19, the earliest appointment I could get. In the meanwhile, I scoot around the house in my desk chair, limp along with a cane or walker, and bide my time.  So, it looks like I'm slowed down for the rest of the year.

As I slow down, the pace of life picks up. Frantic Friday is a case in point. The Ozark football team ended their run toward a state championship by losing the semi-final playoff. It was heartbreaking, but they had maybe the best season Ozark has ever had, at least the best in many years. The game was played in Independence, Missouri, but I didn't attend. Instead, I sat waiting up for the team bus to get home with its load of downhearted, tired, and smelly boys. They got in at 2:30 AM and Logan was in bed by 3. And up again at 5:30 so he could attend a speech and debate tournament. I guess he does well running on empty, because he finalled for the first time in Extemporaneous Speech. I think he's going to really grow into this event. He got home from the speech tournament around 8 PM after a long exhausting day.

Ben got out of bed early Saturday morning, around 1:30 AM, before Logan had arrived home from the football game. He had gone to bed around 7 on Friday evening to rest up before all the excitement of the Leonid meteor showers. I had sprung for an early Christmas present of a pair of binoculars. Equipped with them, a sleeping bag, and flashlight, Ben departed for his overnight backyard adventure. He returned to the warmth of his home (after being locked outside, oops) as Logan got ready to leave early Saturday morning for the speech tournament.  Ben finished up his Saturday events by marching in the Ozark Annual Christmas Parade just as Logan returned from the speech tournament. Busy night, busy day, dizzy grandma.

Sunday was a very welcome day of rest, except for the sewing storm I found myself in the middle of (nothing new about that!). The announcement of an expected baby set my fabric frenzy in motion, and I couldn't stop until I had finished a quilt top for a baby that isn't even expected until May.

And I keep making table runners.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Hanging On, But Not Looking Good

 I watch the Dogwood tree in front of my house very closely. For several years now, I've taken pictures of it on November 8. Here's a link to those previous years, and here's what it looks like now. .
Most of the leaves are still on the tree, many are still green. It leafed out three weeks earlier than any previous year, and it seems to be hanging on to them much longer.

But, something is wrong with it. Leaves are curling and dying and buds are dropping. Maybe it is stressed from the long, dry, and hot season. I hope it will be all right.

I kind of feel the say way. My unoperated knee is causing me serious mobility problems and lots of pain. I fear I will have to have surgery in the very near future. I can't decide if I'd rather avoid it, or get it over with.

We are coming up on a big weekend for Ozark's football team. Saturday they play round 4 of the playoffs. If they prevail, they will play round 5 on November 16. Two round 5 winners play for the championship on November 23 in St. Louis. Saturday's came is at Lee's Summit West. Logan will go to a speech and debate tournament on Friday wearing a suit that is too small and just about worn out. Guess what's on his Christmas wish list!

Ben will attend a GLADE reunion at the Bull Shoals field station on Saturday. And me? Not much, just limping around the house, a bit of sewing, some reading, picking at house work.

I'm pretty pleased with the election results at a state and national level. Locally, I wish things could be a little different, but certain factions are deeply entrenched and change is nearly impossible. I find that the most difficult aspect of living in this part of the country. I take comfort in seeking out like-minded friends.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Catching Up

 
September's Table Topper

October

November
Three more to go and this series of table runners for each month will be complete (I started with March earlier this year). I'm pretty confident I'll get through them, but not so sure I'll remember to use them next year. Anyhow, I'll have a nice collection. I'm so wary of cutesy quilty things that I hesitate to make or use anything less than a full bed-sized quilt. But, I'm also getting to a point where it is difficult for me to manage the bulk of a large quilt. So, I see a future of wall hangings, table runners, baby and lap quilts. Be warned.

Football and marching season are extended this year because of an amazing winning season for the Ozark Tigers. Last night's first playoff game was another rout -- 42-7 with Ozark scoring all their goals in the first half. The JV got play time again and Logan was in on defense for the last two plays. The grandma in the stands has learned pretty well how to buffer the cold and scarcely minds sitting in her warm layered cocoon while the game unfolds and the band marches on. The band is performing well this year -- placing higher in competitions than in previous years and bettering their ranking with each performance. It's a really young band -- 50% freshmen -- so they should see lots of success in the coming years. The percussion section (including Ben) scored best overall percussion performance in the last competition -- the first time they have scored a first in Ben's high school band career -- nice way to finish.

The next playoff game is Monday evening. I have a wee bit of ambivalence about all of this -- it's fun to win, but I am ready for the season to end. I'd love to have all of us home at the same time so we can have dinner together in the evening. During the season, Logan has practices after school and doesn't get home till 7 -- Ben has practices in the evening and leaves the house at 6. So, I run a taxi service and a short order restaurant.

Because we weren't home for last night's trick or treaters,  I left a huge bag of candy on the porch with a note to take three pieces each. I estimate there were 500 pieces of candy, so that should have been enough for around 165 kids -- I think we typically get somewhere close to 100. When we got home, the bag was predictably empty, but I'd love to know how long it lasted and how honorable the kids were. I'm thinking about repeating the experiment next year, but staying at home and observing on a game camera.

A stomach flu virus swept through the house and our bodies last week. I am not a good nurse, nor a patient patient. Ben missed a day of school for only the second time in his high school career. Logan was also out one day -- his first high school absence. They were both back in full swing within 24 hours, attending school, practices, and scarfing down what ever they could find to eat because you can bet I wasn't leaving the comfort of my bed (and nearby bathroom) to fix for them. I lingered for three days before I felt human. I'm still dealing with dental woes and have had an eye virus. I'm sick of all this!

While I lay abed last Thursday, Ben was inducted into the National Honor Society, with Grandpa Steve attending the ceremony. I wish I could have been there, I'm so proud of him.


Friday, October 19, 2012

Buying Thyme

I needed some thyme. I had decided to make 40 Cloves of Garlic roasted chicken for dinner and the recipe said to lay fresh thyme over the chicken. Simple enough, the car was in the garage, it was early in the day, I'd just run to the grocery store get some thyme and while I was at it, I would go into Springfield to my favorite store for produce and load up on some fresh veggies.
On the way to the store, I had to stop for a "wide load" exiting the freeway. A huge (maybe 40 foot long and seriously more than one lane wide) beautiful boat was in tow. This was not a "let's go wakeboarding on Table Rock Lake boat." This was a "let's go to the ocean because I've never been to Bora Bora in October" boat. And it had taken the off ramp to Ozark which is 1,000 miles from the ocean.
I had to see where it was going, so I made a U-turn and fell in behind the trailing escort car. The leading pilot car cleared the road and I joined the caravan, meandering over back roads (NN for you locals) and back to the highway some miles later (Highway 60, eastbound). I gave up, its destination would remain a mystery.
But boats! The sight and thought of boats inspired a revery of good times we had on our boat. Outstanding in my memory was an autumn day when we all decided to play hooky from our daily routines. We kept the kids out of school, called in sick to work, and headed for the river. We traveled down the Sacramento River with the boys either on wakeboards or in tubes the whole way. It was a glorious day, just like the recent autumn day when I followed the boat in tow.
Autumn! I drifted back to the present and looked around at the glorious fall color. I wandered and wondered over more back roads taking in the splendor of it all and then headed for home.

And I forgot all about buying thyme.



Saturday, October 13, 2012

Imprisoned or Liberated?

Captor or Emancipator?

It's Saturday. One might be inclined to think of Saturday as a kick-back kind of day; but not for Ben and Logan. Logan is participating in day two of the first Speech and Debate tournament of the season. Yesterday, day one, he had to forgo the varsity football game at Webb City (Ozark lost their first game of the season after a seven game winning streak, probably because JV team member #68 was not on the sidelines to spur them on), to participate until 11:00 PM in the S&D gig. This morning he left the house at 6:25 AM for the second day of the tourney. He is expected home around 8:00 PM. 

Ben left the house this morning at  9:45 AM, taking the car. He's going to a band competition at Reed Springs and is expected home around 12:45 AM. He took the car so I don't have to pick him up all bleary-eyed in the middle of the night. Also means I can have a glass of wine with dinner because I don't have to worry about driving kids around in the evening.

So, there you have it. I'm a free agent until Logan returns at 8:00. But, I don't have a car, so I'm a captive free agent. But, I can have a drink of wine, so I'm a libating captive free agent. 

BTW, the picture is of Ben in his concert dress outfit complete with scraggly beard, hair combed a la Ben, jacket sleeves way too short (one scrunched up even shorter) and mismatched blue suit trousers because the choir was unable to supply tux trousers for such a tall skinny kid. I think he's gorgeous.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Game Time

G
Grandpa Steve and Julia walk with Ben on his "Senior Walk" during the pre-game ceremony at tonight's football game. The announcer kind of stumbled over Ben's announcement: "Benjamin Maples, son of uh, grandson of Melody Moore and Steve Maples." No mention of Julia who was walking with him. I sat in the stands, freezing to death while trying to coax a reluctant camera to perform; I never did get the key moment shot. 

T
The star marimba player awaits the downbeat for the Star Spangled Banner. It was very cool, "the rockets' red glare" was accompanied by fireworks and a second blast occurred at the finale. That's pretty fancy for a small town.

Here's the certificate Ben received. I couldn't be prouder of him, but sometimes his school embarrasses me.  The wording on the certificate makes no sense, Ozark High School This certifies that Benjamin Maples Senior Night Award for the 2011-2012 School Year. Besides making no sense, the year is wrong -- we are in the 2012-2013 school year.

Here's the football Logan presented to my walker. Normally, I sit at the top of the stands in the handicapped area. But tonight, I left my walker in that spot and walked all the way down to the field level so I could take a picture of Ben and the Senior Walk. I had not returned to my walker when Logan came looking for me with this memento. In case you can't read my blurry photo, it says: "Ozark High School Tigers I dedicate this game to you. Dear Grandma, Thank you for all you do. Love, Logan P.S. Make me some cookies when I get home. I'm pretty sure he doesn't have a girlfriend else the football would have gone to her instead of me.

I lasted until the Ozark Tigers scored their first touchdown against Nixa and left when the score was 7-0. I just can't take the cold and 41 degrees is cold when it's damp and windy.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Reunion Part 4

Colleen and Valery made it all happen. Colleen hosted at her home in El Dorado Hills and prepared fabulous food including a yummy ham and a barbecued turkey (I think husband Andy fixed it, whoever did it, it was the yummiest turkey I've ever had). Valery organized, invited the folks, and made more yummy food, including the standard Blair clam dip.
 
 Brother Rick and his bride, Kathy came down from Napa, abandoning their six goats and a goose for the day. They call their place Toad Ranch, but I wonder if it shouldn't be Goat Acres instead.
Antwan, the son of Maria who is the daughter of Mary Ann by her second husband. My brother was Mary Ann's first husband. Our family would be rather small if it weren't for our proclivity for sweeping in shirt-tail relations. I'm so grateful for that and so glad Antwan is a part of our family. And yes, Antwan is tall, and yes, he does play basketball (for Sierra College).

Three of my grandsons, Colleen's youngest three, Robby, Billy, and Danny.



The whole fan-damily (as my father would say). In the back row from the left: Brittany (Billy's girlfriend) Billy, Danny, Michael (son of Lynette, my brother Mickey's daughter) Antwan (son of Maria, the daughter of brother Mickey's ex-wife) Stephen (second son of Lynette). Front row from the left: Andy (Colleen's husband), Colleen, Stephanie (Michael's wife), Lynette holding her grandaughter Haley (Haley is the daughter of Stephen and Ashley in the red blouse. Behind Lynette is her sister Maria (Antwan's mom) next to Maria is Maria and Lynette's mom, Mary Ann (my brother was her first husband). I'm standing next to Ashley, Valery is in front of me holding Stephen and Ashley's son Jacob. Next to me is Joe Steiner, third husband of Mary Ann and a keeper). My sister-in-law Kathy Felch is next to my brother, Rick Blair. In front of them, the threesome holding hands are Kim, the wife of my nephew Jason (he is the son [adopted as a new-born] raised by Rick and his ex-wife). Jason is holding hands with his birth mother Dianne. Kneeling in the front, Robby Barton, Colleen's youngest son, holds his fat pug, Chomper. Next to Robby is a girl who's name I didn't catch. She is the daughter of Mike, a friend of Colleen's husband Andy. Mike took the photograph -- thanks Mike!
Jason and his birth mother Dianne. Jason was adopted at birth by my brother and his wife. Last year Jason began a search for his birth mother and scored when he found Dianne who was fifteen years old when Jason was born. She never had any other children. Finding each other was a fairy tale story beyond imagination. They can't look at each without shedding tears of joy and neither can anyone else. Can you see the resemblance? Particularly in the mouth and dimples. Brother Rick is so supportive of this reunion that it adds yet another dimension of joy.
My niece, Lynette, daughter of my brother (deceased) Mickey, and Mary Ann (now married to Joe Steiner) and her grandson Jacob (my great great nephew -- or is that great grand-nephew?). He was an amazing precocious, charming, and energetic little boy nearly four years old (October 11).







Sunday, September 30, 2012

Reunion, Part 3


The Golden Girls reunion continued with more eating, drinking, gabbing, and sight-seeing.

 On the third evening, we again enjoyed Mel's company along with bar food and a couple of bottles of wine carried back to our rooms. Feeling more comfortable with each other, our conversation drifted to more controversial topics (I mean politics) and although we did not necessarily agree, we navigated those tricky waters with grace and respect.
The Skunk Train travels from Fort Bragg half-way to Willits where passengers disembark for a barbecue lunch in a redwood grove while the train turns around and returns to Fort Bragg (after the passengers have re-embarked, of course). We enjoyed the trip to sunny weather through glorious old-growth redwood forests. The train travels through territory inaccessible by road, so it is serene and isolated. Several cabins are situated along the route, built around 75 years ago on leased land. These cabins cannot be sold, but can be inherited and so they remain family retreats for a select few families. They can be reached only by the Skunk Train, and all supplies must come in by train. They have propane, but no generators. I don't know if they have wells and septic, or if its outhouses and imported water. Seems appealing to me as a perfect writer's retreat.

 We ran into a fellow train traveler later in the day when we walked around MacKerricher State Park and he accommodated us by taking this group photo.
 The last morning we returned to the scene of our first meal at Little River Inn and enjoyed breakfast and our last meal together before departing. We said a reluctant good-bye to Janet and talked about planning the next reunion, closer to Marilyn so that she can comfortably join us.
 We made our way south once again driving through the redwoods and the Anderson Valley, turning further inland to Clear Lake, a lunch stop in Williams and then over to Interstate 5 and the Sacramento airport where Linda and I said good-bye to Merle.
Jack met Linda at the car rental agency and Valery picked me up. We returned to her house and the next phase of my many-fold reunions began.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Reunion, part 2

This second phase of my California reunions reaches back to my high school days. I get to spend four days with three of my high school girl friends. We're staying at the place owned and run by the family of a fellow classmate and his wife. The gorgeous Little River Inn is an historic Inn (built in the 1860's as a dairy farm) overlooking a beautiful cove on the Mendocino coast.

We arrived at Little River Inn and sat on the verandah watching, listening to, smelling the ocean, and feeling its cool salty dampness on our skins. It wasn't cold, just serene and calming after our six hour drive from Sacramento through the Napa and Sonoma Valley vineyards, the Anderson valley, the redwoods, and finally to the coast. We saw the best California had to offer and driving in the company of dear old girl friends made it perfect. Only with all women in the car were we able to turn around and go back to the In N Out Burger I had zipped past. A man would have kept driving to the "next" place. In fact, I zipped past it a second time, but arrived at the right place on the third attempt. And it was worth it! I haven't had an In N Out Burger in years, didn't even know I missed them, but boy, was it good! 

Our host and classmate invited us to be his guests at dinner that evening at the Inn's fabulous restaurant. It's hard to beat the combination of great food and wine while celebrating and reminiscing with dear old friends. Laughing, "do you remembers," confessions of high school hijinks and crushes, and all the "what ever happened to . . . " made the evening pass all too quickly. But by around nine o'clock we were sufficiently sated (and just a bit drunk) to toddle off to our rooms and get ready for the next day.

We eased into our first full day together by starting with room service breakfast on the verandah. We moved through the morning very slowly and then went off to Fort Bragg for a bit of exploring and picking up a few necessaries.

And a perfect day ended with another perfect meal, this time at the home of our host and his wife. He and his wife prepared wild salmon with home or locally grown veggies and served wonderful local wines. He is a trumpet player and friend Janet is a pianist, so they entertained us after dinner with an impromptu concert.

And now, we're ready for yet another day of revelry!

Monday, September 24, 2012

Reunion, Reunion, Reunion

When my 55th (!) high school reunion was in the planning stages a couple of years ago, a few of my classmates and I began exchanging emails. We really wanted to see each other, but didn't care much about all the other folks. So, we decided to stage out own mini-reunion. Much planning and fussing over dates and places ensued until we finally settled on this week at Little River Inn in Mendocino, CA. Today the fun begins!

Well, that's not entirely true, the fun truly began last Friday when I arrived in Sacramento and was picked up at the airport by sister Valery. The good times have rolled non-stop ever since!

Planning to leave gets simpler with each excursion as Ben and Logan grow up. They take responsibility for pet and plant care, their own meals, transportation, and laundry. Grandpa Steve and Julia look in on them, spend the night and provide back up transportation. I'm working myself out of a job!

I had feared travel would be arduous -- I haven't been on a plane in about three years. But in fact, in spite of a two hour delay, and a seat across the aisle from a baby-in-arms on a sold-out plane in Dallas, all went very well.

 A beautiful new terminal, a tram to the boarding gates, and a hotel that had disappeared led me to wonder if I had landed in the right city. Sacramento has really grown up. My wonderful sister circled the parking lot while we talked on the phone and figured out where to connect. From there it was straight to Trader Joe's and then I knew I was back in the land of milk and honey. A stop at Raley's confirmed it. Oh, how I miss California grocery stores!

And I miss my California grandsons (and their mom). I was so happy to see Colleen and my newly-tall sweet and funny grandson Robby. I hated to see a very long day end and I can't wait to see them again next Saturday.

Saturday afternoon was filled with friends from the San Jose days dating back to the pre-school years of my kids.  Nancy, Allen, and Elaine drove up from the bay area to visit while Nancy's son Seth and his boy, Jake came over from their home in Valley Ford. The afternoon zipped by as we reminisced,  talked about the current state of our lives, and discussed the state of the state, nation, and world. How nice to be surrounded by democrats!



Sunday morning, I reunited with Mary Maaga, the former pastor of the church we attended in California. She helped pull us through some tough times and then suffered the tragic loss of her husband to a fast-moving cancer. It was great to hear her preach again (she is the world's best preacher, bar none), to be treated to lunch, to pick up several copies of her book: The Alabaster Orphan, and to spend a couple of glorious hours sharing our stories. I love that woman! And I forgot to get a picture of us together, dang!

Mary delivered me to Lisa Cardwell's house in El Dorado Hills. Lisa and I spent some time catching up and of course, I was amazed at her teen-aged kids, by how grown-up and gracious they have become. Cameron is around 6 feet tall now and Alexandra is taller than her mom. Both are great musicians; Cameron provided some mellow background music and Alexandra performed some of her soul-felt music. I was impressed by the talent of both and touched that they would perform for us.

Valery, Lisa, and I visited Robin's grave in Coloma, where I picked up some old time-worn mementos that had been left at her grave. As is my tradition, I washed off her gravestone with champagne, and drank the last sip from the bottle. Little pink flags had been placed at many of the graves, including Robin's, but I have no idea what they signify. Lichen is beginning to fill in the lettering and make it look softer, I rather like the look.

Lisa is so good at playing the hostess and feeding her guests and last night was no exception. Along with dinner she and I drank the wine I had purchased six years ago to share with her when she visited Missouri with son Cameron. Unfortunately, she never made it to Ozark because a severe winter storm diverted them to Chicago and it never cleared in time for her to come to our house. So, she and Cameron spent the weekend on airplanes and in a Chicago airport hotel. The bottle of wine (Beringer's 2001 Private Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon) waited in my wine cabinet until I finally brought it with me this trip.

I expect high school friends Jack, Linda, and Merle to arrive here at Valery's around noon today and then we three women will take off for Little River Inn to meet up with a fourth friend, Janet. More about all that later.


Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Where Were You?

The destruction of the World Trade Towers on September 11, 2001 has faded to one of those "Where were you when. . ." memories. In my lifetime, other globe-shattering events occurred December 7, 1941, November 22, 1963, and on a personal level, April 11, 2001. Here's my 9/11 story.

On 9/11/01, I had a phone call from my son telling me to turn on the TV news. Just as I tuned in, the second tower was hit and shortly after, both towers crumpled. It was 7:00 in the morning in California and I was scheduled to attend a local hearing for a permit to build an addition to my home.  I placed a phone call and learned the hearing was proceeding in spite of the events of the day. In spite of the fact that schools, businesses, and public transportation were shut down, this committee was dedicated to preserving the standards of the community. So I went and presented my plans. Unfortunately, when I presented the drawings, they also revealed that I had installed a second driveway allowing access to my backyard to park my boat. Not to be swayed from their commitment to protect the community from any ugliness, they scheduled a visit to my property for that afternoon. While the rest of the world remained glued to television sets in disbelief and shock, this fearless quartet determined that my driveway was indeed a gross violation of the neighborhood standards and  parking my boat in my backyard would cause property values to plummet.  They ruled that my addition would not be approved until the driveway was removed. Yes, they were right, the driveway was a violation and I accept that. However, the addition was an entirely separate matter and they had no business holding that approval hostage to the removal of the driveway. I  could have argued, but I was too beat down and worn out by all the really important events of 2001. It seemed surreal to me that we could be talking about such petty shit when apparently the country was under attack. I still can't believe it. That episode typifies the small-mindedness of the community I chose to leave in 2005.

Ironically, I had visited the World Trade Towers twice on 9/11 in earlier years. Once with my son, Kevin, and a second time with my grandson Bill. In May of 2006, I visited the site which at that time was still a hole in the ground. It evoked power and grief just as I had experienced visiting Omaha Beach in Normandy. The feeling of despair, lost hope for humanity, and just how, how can people do these atrocious things?

And yet, we do recover. The light does return and good outweighs evil. And my capacity for joy is restored.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Religion and Politics (Political Rant 2)

The parallels between religion and politics are just plain spooky. These come to mind, but there must be many more:
  • Both require a leap of faith.  We can't really know the candidates, we just somehow believe in them.
  • Both make ardent believers into proselytizers. If it's deep in your heart, you have to talk about it and try to make others into believers.
  • It's really hard to win converts. Don't confuse me with logic, my mind is made up.
  • Believers tend to listen to only to what they want to hear and shut out logic and divergent views. 
  • Both involve adulation.
  • Both spawn crazy acts and sometimes violence under the guise of righteousness.
  • Both compel many of the faithful to shout from the rooftops.
  • Few want to hear about any of it.
  • Few do anything about it.
  • Believers are convinced their path is the way to true enlightenment.
  • Outsiders are considered to be "the great unwashed"
  • Activity around these beliefs is focused on certain times of the week or year. The rest of the time people tend to forget their differences.
  • Both tend to relegate women to lesser roles.
  • Both believe the greatest rewards lie in the future.
  • Both stir up passion in their followers.
  • Both involve some kind of salvation . My candidate will deliver us from all the evils of the opposition.
I can see the list is endless, but even though I analyze my passion, and acknowledge divergent views may be valid, I find it so hard to understand why others can't see the issues and the path to salvation as clearly as I can!




Monday, September 3, 2012

Labor Day Labors

Twelve down, six to go. Even though there are 60 new freshmen band members this year, only 18 uniforms needed altering (36 last year). I'm so grateful for that! They will be worn for the first time on September 14, just a week before I leave for California.

If you look closely at the picture, on the left side you can see Logan shampooing the hallway carpet as his Labor Day effort. He has to get it done before he goes to football practice. The Ozark teams are off to a good start. The varsity has won both games they've played; the JV won their first game and will play their second tomorrow.

Ben is out back trimming the lawn supposedly, but looking for bugs most likely. Be sure to check out his newly launched blog: Eccentric Entomophile.


Sunday, August 26, 2012

Kickoff Time

The band played the Star Spangled Banner while the football players and the audience stood and saluted the flag. It's Ben's last band season and Logan's first season to suit up and stand on the sidelines as a member of the Junior Varsity. When it hit me that both boys were out there doing something they love, something they have worked hard for, I could not hold back the tears. It was just too much, the beautiful weather, the music, the flag, the uniforms, the joy, and all the work and love that had brought us to that moment swept over me and I lost it. I fought to muffle sobs, wipe my face, and tried to explain to myself why I was crying. I still can't explain it, nor can I recall that moment without crying all over again --  just as I'm doing right now as I try to write about it.

This is the first year with the new band director and the show looks good with recognizable music from Pachelbel's Canon, the Beatles, and Green Day. The band is not yet in uniform, but I like the way they look in their black tee shirts and khaki shorts. Uniform fittings are next week and I'll be busy altering pants for a couple of weeks. The band is young this year -- about half freshmen -- so there will be lots of work to do.

The football team had a great day playing against Saint Joe Belton. The Ozark team won the toss and ran the opening kickoff  back 88 yards for a touchdown. When the other team got the ball, they immediately fumbled and Ozark recovered, scoring another touchdown. Four minutes into the game they scored for the third time. And so it went. The final score was 69-13 and everyone on the sidelines got a chance to play. Logan was thrilled when he got in on the last play of the game. So was I! The weather remained pleasant until after the game and then the skies opened and watered our parched landscape.

Ben spent the evening watching a centipede eat a fly. I joined him long enough to snap this picture and observe just how fast those little buggers can move! I didn't like that part.

Today we celebrated Grandpa Steve's birthday with a midday dinner prepared by Julia and some killer chili made by Ash. John showed us his photos from his recent mission trip to India where they installed water filters in people's homes. He got a great perspective on village life in that part of the world.