A Birthday and a White Christmas

Today is December 29th. Two days to 2018 and our temperature is 51 degrees. We had a white Christmas for the first time in about 30-40 years but the warm weather and ensuing rain made short work of that. Still, it was pretty nice.

The dogs weren’t huge fans, especially Ozzie, the little guy. After the snow, we had freezing rain which allowed him to walk on top of the precipitation had he chosen to do so. We’re talking about a little dog that has a hard time walking around the house unless there is a throw rug for him to use. Figure the odds that he’ll walk on a sheet of ice voluntarily. Consequently, there is no photo.

Before Christmas I attended an art class with our daughter, Jennifer, who is the crafty one in the family. This was the first time I’ve done something like this so it was an experience to remember. First off, I was the only male participant and I had to ask permission to participate. I didn’t really, but thought it would be prudent to do so. Thankfully, I knew a few of the ladies so it wasn’t difficult. One of the knowns to me was Kristen, Daniel’s sister. Daniel, for those who don’t know, is my son’s brother-in-law.

Kristen’s Mom and Grandma were also there, I believe, but didn’t get their photo.

As you can see, we all did an acrylic painting of a bear of some kind that wears clothing. Mine wasn’t too bad if you didn’t get too close to it. The farther away the better.

Jennifer did a much better job.

Pretty much all of the class.

The class was conducted in the Running Dog Brewery which is located next to the old Fat Boy’s Pizza in downtown St. Helens, and about 3-4 doors up from Jillian’s, the 2nd hand clothing store that was used as the Seattle store where Bella went shopping for a prom dress in the vampire movie Twilight. Considering that the beer flowed continuously throughout the painting experience, you’d think it would have been pretty noisy and the paintings might have been a bit interesting. It was true for both of those presumptions but I wasn’t allowed to capture any proof. I was going to do it anyway, but they outnumbered me about 20-1 so didn’t see the benefit of risking precious body parts to a potentially vicious mob of enraged women.

Actually, I really don’t think anyone would have minded but I just figured not doing so was a better choice. Everyone was having a great time, even me.

Our church choir practiced many times to prepare for our traditional Christmas Eve 11:00 pm service, and the last one was on December 20th, Diane’s birthday. Jennifer arranged for a fancy cake and we had a party at the church.

Since Diane and I are advanced in age, we had Christmas dinner a day early at our house so we wouldn’t have a need to be in traffic with all those other folks. Jeff and the Littles, Gilligan, Baylee, and Jerrie, were in attendance, as well as the entire Walters clan, except for Cedric. There was a short period of time where it appeared that Daniel and Jeran might go get Cedric but the weather had already turned bad and the roads were terrible. So, they returned to base.

Cedric will be home on leave today (the 29th) and we’ll be celebrating Christmas again with him, tomorrow, at the Walters’ home.

Almost lastly, here’s my new favorite coffee cup that Lydia got me …

She knows me so well.

Finally, if anyone is in the market for a nice vehicle, this one is for sale. We’ve had our fun, but can’t tow it behind the RV except on a trailer. It’s replacement will probably be a 2015 Chevy Malibu.

Happy New Year to everyone. Make it a safe one.

Christmas Day 2016

The day is almost done which means it’s only 364 more shopping days until next Christmas. So, you better get out there and rake in all those after Christmas bargains so you’ll be ready. Don’t, however, hide them in places like we do that turn out to be the best place ever to hide things because they seem to just disappear.

Last night our church conducted its traditional 11 pm Christmas Eve service for the first time in many years. Our previous Pastor moved the service to 9 pm the last few years because he had a long commute. It was good to get back to tradition and many folks participated. It was a good evening, led by our Council President, Angela. She was nervous, but did a great job, and the order of service that she and Nancy authored was excellent. Very meaningful, filled with songs. It was all about the Christmas story. Very nice.

Staying up so late is something we’re not used to and getting things ready for the family crowd today didn’t leave much room to sleep in for long. I did, anyway, because the dogs still got me up at 6-ish. Diane got up pretty early, too, but she left me sleeping in my normal morning napping spot on the couch while she went down to her girl room and wrapped presents. Lots, and lots of presents. I was oblivious.

All of our children and grand children were here as well as Jennie & Dan’s ‘adopted’ exchange student, Ahmed who is from Pakistan. This was the first time he’s ever participated in a family Christmas gathering so it was quite an experience for him. Lots of happy noise, good food, and a very slow process of opening presents. This year we alternated from the youngest, Jerrie Anne, to the oldest, Diane’s Mom, Jean. Then came Baylee, Me, Gilligan, Diane, Ahmed, Jeff, Jeran, Heather, Lydia, Daniel, Cedric, and Jennifer, in that order until everyone had opened all their presents. It’s a slow process but it’s one of our traditions that allows everyone to experience the joy of watching each person open their gifts instead of having paper flying everywhere like it’s a free for all. That’s just not fun for us.

On family days like this Diane always wears herself out with cooking and making sure everyone is properly fed, just like a super star mom should. This year she made her world-famous Black Bean Vegetable Soup for everyone, and her most excellent Clam Chowder (for Lydia). I cut up all the vegetables for the soups and for the vegetable tray. Sounds simple, but I managed to slice a bit from the side of a finger while cutting up tomatoes. I finally had to quit and put on a rubber glove when I started getting blood all over the carrots. Thankfully the carrots cleaned up OK and I don’t think I’m still contagious so everyone should be OK.

Diane’s Mom always comments on what a lot of work it is for Diane to host events like this forgetting, I think, that I actually participate in lots of the work. My part is to do exactly what I’m told to do and to not volunteer to step in to take over a task that Diane is already working on. I used to get in trouble for that all the time. It took me about 47 years to figure out that she was actually serious about asking for my help when she needed it. So now I just sit around doing other stuff, ready to jump up and help whenever she calls me. I have to admit that I’m still not very good about doing things that are scheduled a day or two out. I’m much better at helping when it’s needed right now.

I always to it cheerfully, too, because I’m the best husband in the entire world.

What else could I be for the best wife in the entire world?

Now the day is done and I must call it quits. Both Diane and I hope everyone had a terrific Christmas and that when the celebrating was done you made it safely home.

Joy and Peace to you all.

Black Friday, a Vet Visit, and Christmas Decorations

Thanksgiving is over, we survived Black Friday, so now we can focus on Christmas.

Speaking of Black Friday … did you see the news about the Nike store in Seattle that was trashed by a herd of BF shoppers? Kinda reaffirms your belief that there’s still good in the world, doesn’t it? Well, maybe not on the day after Thanksgiving. Personally, I’m not a shopper in the first place, but if I was Black Friday would be the last day I’d choose to shop. People just go nuts to get things they probably don’t need. I’m one of those people who just take my chances and shop online. So far, so good. No problems.

This morning I took Ziva and Breezie to visit Doc Snyder at the vet. Breezie hasn’t been in a long time and wound up needing 3 shots. She was not happy, but she did good. No one came away bloody from that evolution. Ziva got one shot and had a pedicure. She also has a lump on her right arm which may or may not be of concern. We need to watch it to see if it grows. I have the same kind of lumps in my arms so I’m not worried.

This is Doc Snyder and her assistant counseling Ziva about the shot she got and the tests they are conducting.

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Diane spent some more time at the courthouse this morning working on some vote recounts that needed attention. She had to be there at 10:00 am and I had to have the animals at the vet by 10:30 so I dropped off Diane and came back for Ziva and Breezie. Breezie managed to get outside before I left with Diane so there was a distinct possibility that she wouldn’t be available for the trip. I made a decision that if she didn’t show up by the time I returned to get them I would charge her a late fee for missing her appointment. The standard charge now days seems to be $35 but I really wanted her to feel the need to be on time so upped it to $45. Lucky her, she was in the house when I got home so avoided that problem. I suspect I would have had to file a small claims suit against her which she still wouldn’t pay, but it would screw up her credit.

Hope everyone has happy plans for Christmas. We’ve begun the process of getting out tree in and some of our traditional ornaments installed. The first thing up was this guy …

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He didn’t come with a name but we got him from Costco so I’m calling him Costco Man for now. Yes, he’s a snowman, but that’s not a name. It’s a gender assignment attached to winter weather.

We did this, too …

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Ziva’s just checking to see who’s been in the yard.

Then we got busy getting the tree ready for the house. This involved removing a very large plant from a very large pot so we could transfer the tree from its pot to the nicer pot that’s more suitable for indoor use. We’ve had the tree for about a week and it’s been sitting in the yard soaking up as much rain as it could. Consequently, it weighed a ton which was almost too much for me to lift from one pot to the other. But, I did it. Then we took it inside using a hand truck. Getting it off the hand truck proved to be problematic and resulted in me making a huge mess when it tipped over. Dirt everywhere. But, it cleaned up nicely and resulted in this once Diane got all the lights and ornaments attached. After the New Year the tree will be replanted in the lower yard where it can just grow as long as it wants to.

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After it was all done we had a snack and Diane loaded the dishwasher. Whenever the dishwasher is opened, Ziva shows up so she can prewash the plates, something that she was trained for as a small dog. Personally, I think all dogs inherently know that plates need to be prewashed so it’s not a large training curve. It’s kind of instinctive, actually. They just know what to do. Additionally, when the dishes are clean, and the door is open, she checks all the plates to make sure they’re clean. She’s very helpful.

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Now it’s time to fold things up for the afternoon and make preparations for popcorn and probably a movie of some sort. It’s that time of year.

Stay safe.

Golf & Christmas Cheer (already)

We got our Christmas tree today. I know, I know. Thanksgiving isn’t until tomorrow and we already have our tree. Should be against the law, right? Well, maybe it is, somewhere, but we’re counting on authorities to treat this like a misdemeanor that doesn’t warrant their attention right now.

The tree followed us home from Means Nursery in Scappoose and currently resides in the front yard next to the water hose. Diane insisted that I put it there for a few days so she could hose it down and make sure any critters living on it have an opportunity to escape before she makes me haul it into the house. Doing the hauling isn’t going to be a minor task, either. The tree is growing in a large pot and must weigh close to a million pounds. Getting out of the truck bed was a challenge and I used our hand truck to get it into the yard. Diane also bought a smaller live tree to use for our church’s giving tree. It will also be planted in our yard next year.

Yea! More trees to mow around. That’s OK, though, because it will give my shoulder s good workout.

Once the trees were selected we went into the very warm hut containing Poinsettia. Lots, and lots of them. Since they were all so pretty, Diane bought two of them. Jewel had already been to Means earlier so knew where all the good stuff is. She got a table centerpiece for home.

Today has been a sloppy mess, almost as bad as Monday when JP and I went golfing. No Doug this time because he was out in the woods hoping to shoot something to put in his freezer. It was just me and JP the entire time we were on the course. Kinda like having our very own golf course. Even though it was pretty mucky in spots it made getting around in the golf cart challenging and fun. Didn’t get stuck, but not for lack of trying. What’s fun is when we get going down a hill at a slant then lock up the brakes. Now that’s fun.

The golf was fun, too, like normal. The photos don’t give you a true sense of how messy it was out there because the sun came out and made everything look pretty nice.

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This one is just to prove to everyone that JP can actually hit his ball with an iron. He dreads using an iron, but he did pretty good this day.

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Then there’s almost proof that I can drive a golf cart. That’s really me in the driver’s seat.

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Here’s Diane choosing her red poinsettia. Lots of choices.

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This is an Amaryllis that Jewel bought Diane about a week ago when it was just a baby. It grew up quickly and now looks like this.

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This is what Diane fed me for lunch today. It was really good. I ate four small dill pickles with it, and I mashed up an avocado to spread on the bun. That turned out to be a mistakes because it just created a mess that ran out making it necessary for us to lick our fingers. When I was done I put my hand on my plate and picked up all the potato chip crumbs that were left. You’ll just have to take my word on that because I couldn’t take a photo and Diane wouldn’t take one. She thinks stuff like that is gross. It is, I guess, but it’s fun, too.

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Now it’s getting pretty close to popcorn time so I better stop and get busy poppin. This has turned out to be out go-to evening snack and we all agree that, even though the bag says it’s movie theater popcorn, I always put butter on it anyway because it makes it way better.

Christmas Eve

It’s Christmas Eve and it’s going to be a very non-traditional one for me. Remember that kid-germ virus it was probably the virus that’s going around, a common diagnosis when there really isn’t one. So, to avoid sharing it with all the old folks at church during our annual Christmas Eve Service, I’m staying home. Not that I’m a super singer, but my absence is going to change the dynamics of our choir because I’m the only bass singer who showed up at practice. The only other guy in the choir is a tenor, so he’s going to be all alone this evening and I regret that. But, I’ve decided that at the stroke of 9 pm I will rise from my sick chair and belt out the bass part of Hosianna, the song that we always open with at this service. And, yes, we sound just like choir in the link but we sing it a cappella. We always think it sounds great but that opinion is a bit shaded with self administered communion for spiced wine prior to the service. Not a lot, but just enough.

So, as I sit here, waiting for 9 pm, I wish you all a Merry Christmas and pray that all is well with you wherever you may be. May God bless and keep you in his ever loving care.

Santa Claus

Never in my life have I posed as Santa Claus, but I woke up this morning and decided that playing The Big Guy for a bunch of rowdy kindergarten kids might be a lot of fun. In anticipation of this uncommon desire, I rented a Santa suit yesterday for the astounding amount of $40. That’s only good for one day. They don’t rent beards or fancy hair so I had to purchase that. I suppose that’s a really good idea since I probably wouldn’t like to wear a mustache and beard onto which someones DNA resides as the result of a dripping nose, or smoker’s cough. That wouldn’t be good. No sir. It was Diane who made me aware of that danger and the logic behind purchasing, instead of renting a beard.

My Santa day began early this morning. I had to be up, scrubbed, and dressed for a 0815 encounter with 25 wide awake 5-year-olds. I needed coffee, but didn’t get a whole cup before having to leave. Diane was my helper, making sure my uniform was on straight, things like that. My main concern was the fear of my pants falling off. Even though I had a fluffy pillow installed, it was a danger, one I couldn’t see going well at an elementary school. “Santa’s Pants Fall Off In Mrs. Miller’s Class!” It would make a great headline, but would probably end my Santa career on the spot. So, I was careful. The morning went well, and I had a lot of fun interacting with all the children. One of them was our Great Granddaughter Danyell. I don’t think she had any idea who I was even though I quizzed her about her sister Juliette, and Aunts Gilligan and Baylee.

I didn’t get to visit Gilligan’s classroom because she’s in First Grade, but we arrived just when Jeff was delivering her so I got a hug. There was no fooling her. She just ran to me and said, “Oh Grandpa!”, gave me a big hug and ran for the front door. Very Gilligan like.

Back at the house I removed the uniform because my next engagement wasn’t until 1230. I had time to rest and dry out a little. That suit is really hot. I vowed to not wear so many clothes under it the next time.

Jennifer showed up at 1200 because she was my afternoon guide. We arrived in plenty of time for our 1230 visit and it went very well. One victory stands out for me in one little girl who was fearful of coming near me to get her candy cane. Her name was Samantha. We didn’t push it, and just let her be. When the class was assembled on the floor in front of the stool I was sitting on, she was in the front row a little to my left. Mrs. Miller had them sing Rudolph The Red Nose Reindeer for me. I glanced at Samantha once in a while and finally caught her eye. Then I slid a candy cane over to her and she reached out to get it. That was great. Then, after the song was done, and all the kids went back to their tables, she came back for a hug. That was better than great.

The afternoon engagements weren’t as dramatic as Samantha, but still fun. I got mobbed by the entire class who all tried to hug me at once before I left. They slammed me into the blackboard and, had it been the morning group, I surely would have lost my pants. Thankfully, for the afternoon trip, I wore suspenders. The danger was gone.

It was a good day …

Santa Lucia & Snacks

Today after church service our new friends Angela & Randy treated us to the Swedish version of the Santa Lucia tradition. It was a very stunning event that none of those at church had ever experienced. Let me revise that to say that no one I spoke with had ever experienced. The tradition is steeped in history, beginning in the 300’s, and has understandably changed over the intervening 1600+ years. Being a Lutheran tradition, in our instance, it naturally involves food, tea, and coffee. So, the beginning of this tradition at Bethany Lutheran Church, in Warren, Oregon, was conducted during our normal after service coffee hour.

Cameron, the granddaughter of one of my high school classmates whom you do not know, represented Santa Lucia and served coffee, tea, and pastries to the masses who remained for our after service tradition. The real day for this is traditionally December 13, which was yesterday, as everyone knows. But, it was well received even though it was a day late.

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Angel transported her irreplaceable English bone china to the church for use during the ceremony and it was accompanied by a lot of older folks holding their breath while young people carried their drinks and pastries to their tables. Late in the evening, when Mom, Diane’s, was on the way to her car for her trip home, reported that she was very nervous when she saw me helping put the cleaned and dried china back into the boxes they came in. She was especially fearful when she saw me washing a priceless platter. Apparently I have a reputation for dropping and spilling things. IMG_0126

Here’s a little closer look at Angela, Santa Lucia, and her first customer, Declan. IMG_0127After all the china was safely returned to Angela & Randy’s vehicle, and everyone was leaving the building, we spied two bareback riders sauntering down the road by the church. In the field across the road another horse was making her presence known because she knew the riders and their aged steeds. They all live together over there. That would be Ethan and Jessie.

In the typical country fashion, we from the church wandered out into the middle of the road so we could talk with our newest friends, Ethan and Jessie. Every once in a while someone would shout out “CAR” and we would back away into the parking lot to allow the vehicle to pass then we’d wander back into the road so we didn’t have to talk so loud. It was a very nice visit.

Then we came home, ate stew, and watched 3 Christmas movies before Jean, Diane’s Mom, yelled “Uncle” and demanded to be returned to the quiet of her own home.

That’s about it for today. It was a good one. The sun shined all day, and it was beautiful. We all feel incredibly blessed.