Monday, December 28, 2009

Bonne Annee!

To my dear family and friends, I wish you a very happy and healthy new year!

Saturday, December 26, 2009

It's a Wonderful Life!

Christmas Eve we attended the Candlelight Program at church. The service consisted of several congregational carols, musical performances, and an inspiring talk by the pastor. Then a flame was passed from one candle to the next, up one row and down another, until the church was lit with the beauty of all holding their candles high as we sang Silent Night and Joy To The World. It was beautiful!

This morning I am the first one up in my household. Some quiet time to reflect on our Christmas. Gifts to open from my daughters and far-away sisters. Smiles and sounds of delight with the unwrapping of each present. Cooking and setting the table and the flavors blending as we loaded our plates. Phone calls to family in other states. A new puzzle spread out on the card table while we reminisced. Warm apple pie with vanilla ice cream in the evening while we played games. It was a sweet Christmas.

Five days left of 2009. I looked at my new year's resolutions from last year -- I hit several, some were missed. Maybe the important ones were accomplished, though. The one relating to having more patience, for example. And while we strive to improve ourselves, our lives, our health, our homes, I need to remember to be thankful for what I have that is right in my life now. We've been blessed. It is a wonderful life.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

A Christmas Concert to Remember

And Heaven and Nature Sing! That was the theme of a Christmas Concert we attended this weekend at a local church and it was fantastic! One of the show-stoppers was their version of The Little Drummer Boy -- played like you have never heard it before! You have to be there in person to fully appreciate the vibrations of all the drum beating and the lights and fog, but please take five minutes and enjoy this as a gift to yourself:

The Little Drummer Boy

Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Enjoying the Spirit of the Holidays

Do we 'get it'? A couple of days ago I was stressing. How would everything get done before December 25? This morning I woke up and reminded myself that I will get a lot more done if I am relaxed and enjoy the process. I realize that things won't be done 'ahead of schedule' as the born organized people recommend. It might be 5:00 December 24, but they will get done. Included in my list of still needing done are:

1. Finish shopping for my girls
2. Finish my dad's custom Christmas gift
3. We have our artificial tree up in the living room, but we really wanted a small real tree in the family room -- we were all too sick to get one last week. So we'll carve out time to get one and decorate it in the next couple of days.
4. Gifts to wrap
5. Cookies to bake
6. The home office that I had started reorganizing looks like a disaster zone -- I had to stop in the middle of clearing out cabinets and the storage closet due to major life events. Now it is half done and in boxes and piles all over the place! I wanted to have it done before my dad arrived, but since he arrives tonight he will get to share in the joy of the process. ;)

Sometimes just making the list helps bring order and calm as you realize it is possible to do it. Plus I'm off work after tomorrow for two weeks break.

Enjoying the holidays is not just about tearing into gifts on Christmas morning and eating a dinner you slaved over. It is about the fun of anticipating the looks on loved ones faces when they see the effort you put in to finding something just right for them, or laughing and reminiscing as you roll out the cookie dough or cut up the vegetables. It is finding pleasure in tying an especially pretty bow on a package, and taking a plate of cookies to the neighbors.

So from now on, no stress -- just enjoying the moments one by one.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Portland in December!

Portland, Oregon was my home for awhile back in the 70's. I've always loved the city -- not too big and not too small, as far as cities go. Between the great outdoors and educational and cultural offerings there is something for everyone.

We took a few days off and went up to the City of Roses this past week. With relatives on both sides of my family in the area, some of whom I hadn't seen in years, we thoroughly enjoyed visiting and sight-seeing! My Uncle Don and Aunt Darlene live in Vancouver, Washington, just across the Columbia River, so we stayed in a hotel down the road from them. My uncle graciously loaned us his car so we could get around on our own schedule -- what a treat! My dad had arrived a day earlier so he joined in the reunions as well!  It was especially wonderful to see my cousin Becky and her husband Darryl after several years--we keep in touch through cards and letters, but face-to-face communication reminded me what a fun personality she has.

I also got to visit with cousins Nancy and Priscilla.  Nancy and I see each other every once in awhile, but I haven't seen Priscilla in years, so that was special, too!

Lys wanted to check out Portland State University as a transfer option for next year. The brochure said that it is difficult to tell where the campus begins and the city ends -- so true!

The Visitor's Center on campus:Lloyd's Center still has the ice skating rink I remembered:
We took Dad with us to tour Pittock Mansion which overlooks the city. Each room was enchantingly decorated for Christmas! We were inspired to come back home and decorate our rooms more intricately.

One very cold night we went to The Festival of Lights at the Grotto. This internationally known Catholic shrine is a rock cave carved into a tall cliff. For the Christmas season, the story of Christ is told with lights, a beautiful nativity scene, and choirs singing in the chapel.

Missing from the photos are:
~ The wonderful dinners we enjoyed each night with our relatives,
~ Learning how to play a new card game,
~ Driving through Washington Park, past the zoo, rose garden, children's museum, and so
much more,
~ Our rosy cheeks from staying out in the sub-freezing temperatures a bit too long,
~ The scrumptious breakfasts provided by the Marriot every morning,
~ The welcome warmth of our gloves and scarves,
~ The time spent inside the world's largest new and used bookstore (Powell's!),
~ The delicious taste of Stumptown cocoa and coffee drinks,
~ The bridges criss-crossing across the rivers,
~ Mt. Hood keeping watch over the city,
~ The jokes and teasing and oh so much fun.

I miss it already.

Note: Some of the photos are courtesy of my daughter Ash who has a real eye for photography and a much better camera!

Friday, November 27, 2009

Smacked by a Random Act of Kindness!

It was one of those days. Last weekend Ash was diagnosed with not one, but two, DVT's. What a shock. Only 22 years old and very health conscious (eats right, exercises regularly, doesn't smoke), we figured she had pulled a muscle exercising. The doctors said, "What an interesting case!" (she's not amused). So this week turned into a whirlwind of doctor visits, lab tests, and pharmacy runs. This morning we made the trek back over to the hospital lab for another blood test, then stopped in downtown Monterey to get some special supplies she needed at the medical supply store. It had started raining and when we got back to the car I looked over and realized my front tire was almost flat. Argh!

Driving ever so slowly until we found a station with 'air' (had to pay a buck for air!), I squatted in the rain and inflated the tire. Got back in the car and Ash said, "Mom, what happened to your hand?" Blood was dripping down the back of it. I must have cut it on something fiddling around with the air machine. Fortunately one of the things I stocked up on at the med supply shop was bandaids, so I slapped one of those on it.

We decided after a morning like this we deserved Starbucks. There is a drive-through Starbucks on the way home so we got in line and put in our drink order -- then as an after thought decided to order a couple of blueberry muffins, too. Why not splurge -- Ash had been through the mill this week!

When we pulled up to the window to retrieve our order the cashier said, "The lady in the car in front of you wanted to spread some holiday cheer -- she has paid for your entire order!"

What a lovely surprise! I don't know when the last time was that we were on the receiving end of such a kind deed by a stranger! I wanted to cry. It made me realize that we are all just people, each dealing with our own set of problems and set backs. We need to be kind to one another. We don't always know what is going on in one another's lives, but we can be kinder and gentler to our fellow travelers on this earth.

The least I can do to repay that lovely lady is to hop on board and spread the holiday cheer she started! So here is the challenge (and feel free to comment on it here, if you like): Find at least one person this week, preferably a stranger, and do a random act of kindness.

Happy Holiday Season indeed!

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Wishing You a Happy Thanksgiving!

My daughters and I will be having a quiet Thanksgiving at home this year. We have been dealing with some health issues this week (Lys is recovering from a cold, I'm getting a cold, and poor Ash has something more serious), but we won't let that stop us from cooking our turkey, dressing, Gulliver's corn, yams, and other favorites just the same. No siree! It may be a less formal banquet than usual for Thanksgiving, but every holiday is special in my book, and we have so much to be thankful for!

And now for the top five American Thanksgiving traditions (drum roll, please -- or should that be drumstick roll, please):

1. A turkey and the trimmings -- 95% of Americans eat turkey for Thanksgiving.

2. Football (American football, that is)

3. The Macy's Day Parade in New York City -- yes, we usually have bits of it running in the background as we start our cooking.

4. Making a wish on the wish bone.

5. Giving thanks -- this should be #1 as this is what Thanksgiving is all about!

Hope you have a blessed day!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Monterey's Fisherman's Wharf

Last weekend was beautiful so Ash and I decided to go down to the wharf, walk on the beach, take pictures, and enjoy a leisurely lunch.

We finally decided on a restaurant (there are many), and were thrilled with the view from our windowside table:
We could even watch the whale watcher boats come in...
and the sailboats go by...

I've always wondered how other people live -- there is a houseboat tucked in this photo, and I try to imagine what life must be like living on a houseboat:
A truly lovely day!

Sunday, November 15, 2009

King Tut

Last month we went to the King Tutankhamun Exhibit at the de Young Museum in San Francisco's Golden Gate Park. It was fascinating! It is hard to imagine that he lived more than 3000 years ago -- harder still to imagine that the treasures found in his tomb were undiscovered until this last century! To truly appreciate this fact, read the following passage from the exhibit site:

"On November 26, 1922, Lord Carnarvon, his daughter Evelyn Herbert, and architect Arthur Callendar, anxiously stood by as Howard Carter made an exploratory hole in the doorway. After letting the 3,000-year-old air vent from the chamber, Carter widened the hole and peered inside. As his eyes grew accustomed to the dark, he began to make out the treasures packed haphazardly into the room. He was, in his words, “Struck dumb with amazement. Lord Carnarvon, unable to stand the suspense, inquired 'Can you see anything?' to which Carter famously replied 'Yes, wonderful things'."

"Wonderful things" doesn't even begin to describe the exquisite detail of the items on display. We were unable to take photos inside the exhibit, but click here for a small taste of what we saw:
King Tut Exhibit Preview

After enjoying the exhibit, we had lunch in the museum cafe's pavilion, then stepped outside into a beautiful little park-within-the-park to take photos. The whimsical sculptures in this small garden were fun and impressive. We enjoyed the fall colors, as well.

The "sack race people" (my name for them) look 'soft' but are solid sculptures:

We thought this was a reflecting ball from a distance -- mirroring nearby monuments and buildings, until we got up close and realized the ball had actually been carved out:

I LOVE apples -- and loved these "Land of the Giant Apples" sculptures:

After exercising serious restraint in the gift shops, we stepped outside the museum to head back to the car. Our ears and eyes were met with the sounds and sites of a Sunday in a San Francisco Park -- music playing, people dancing and hula-hooping.

We passed by a few more park monuments we had photographed:

We had a gloriously fun day!

Friday, November 13, 2009

I Sense Magic In The Air

The holidays are arriving! It won't be long now! There is a chill in the air at night and our fireplace has been aglow with crackling logs after work each night. I've started my holiday cleaning, the girls have started their lists and shopping, I even bought my Christmas cards and stamps this past week.

I'm working through The Three Musketeers and finding there is nothing like settling into a warm bed with a cup of cocoa and a good book at the end the week. Cheers!

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Reading the Classics

I joined a book club. Not just any book club. A Classic Books book club. I've read my share of classics through the years -- some required in high school and college, some picked up for fun and knowledge. But discussing classics with a group of articulate people will be a welcomed (I hope!) challenge.

We are reading The Three Musketeers this month -- a book that actually was not on my list of previously read literature. I'm on chapter 4 and already hooked!

Members of the club actually explored why people are hesitant to read classics - some suggested it is simply because it is difficult for people to get into the 'language' used, to put themselves back in time to a different set of values and opinions. It does seem to take more effort to work through a classic than to jump into a modern light novel. As a lover of words, I'll give it a try.

Here is a great article about reading the classics (the best part of the discussion starts at Lunchtime at the Museum):

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Who Will Buy This Wonderful Morning!

Last night we went with friends to see "Oliver" on stage at the Forest Theater in Carmel. Excellent acting and singing, along with pleasant weather and good company, made for a wonderful evening. I love sitting under the trees, as the sun goes down and the stars begin to twinkle. Can you catch the peak of the moon behind one large clump of branches toward the top of this photo? They have strict no photography rules, so I had to turn my camera off before the moon was in full view against a darker sky.

Several years ago we lived just a few doors down from the open-air theater. In the summer, in between our own visits to the theater, we would open our windows and listen to the music. It has been an annual tradition for our family to go to at least one play each summer ever since. You have to "pack" for the Forest Theater:

- Munchies and Drinks (check) ~ unless you opt for a chocolate chip cookies and hot apple cider at the concession stand instead! Many bring full blown wicker hampers with wine, cheese, fruit - the works.
- Warm coats for after the sun goes down (check)
- Cushions for your back and tush so you don't get too tired on the wooden bench style seating(check)
- Blanket to put over your lap when it is especially chilly or the fog rolls in (check)
- Flashlight so you can see your way back through the dark, winding Carmel streets when the play is over (check)

Of course, the words to the music play through our heads all the way home....

Consider yourself at home
Consider yourself one of the family
We've taken to you so strong
It's clear we're going to get along!

That song has always made me feel upbeat, but I really enjoyed the words to this song which I didn't know until last night....

Who will buy this wonderful morning.
Such a sky you never did see
Who will tie it up with a ribbon
And put it in a box for me.

So I could see it at my leisure
Whenever things go wrong
And I could keep it as a treasure
To last my whole life long.

Lovely thought!

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Gratitude Journals

Work has been a wee bit more stressful this school year. Lots of changes, more responsibility, unanswered questions prohibiting me from completing tasks....

Yesterday on the drive home from work I reminded myself that I could either focus on the things that were frustrating OR I could focus on the things that are wonderful in my life.

So how serendipitous to come across this YouTube Gratitude Challenge tonight!

Check out if you feel so inclined. There is a calendar full of journal ideas, a pledge to sign to solidify your commitment to taking note of life's blessings, links to other participants' blogs, and more. I've kept gratitude journals off and on for years now, and they do help you keep life in perspective.

Now I'm off to enjoy the comfort of my warm home, eat food that is plentiful in my cupboards, and talk to a loved one on the phone -- things so many people in this country and around the world can not do. God's blessings abound.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

If You Give a Therapist a Book...

Have you heard of the children's book, If You Give a Mouse a Cookie? Well, the mouse will then want a glass of milk to go with it.... and then he'll need a straw to drink the milk. And on the story goes, exhausting the boy who gave the mouse the cookie to begin with.

Quite by accident, I realized I'm creating my own dangerous version. I decided to revisit some classic children's books ("Good Night, Moon", "Mama, Do You Love Me?", "The Very Hungry Caterpillar", to name just a few) and use them in therapy. So I went to eBay to see if I could pick up some used editions. There I happened upon some "visual aids" to go along with the stories.

Wouldn't my students love it if I had the little Eskimo doll that went with the "Mama, Do You Love Me?" book? Or how about taking turns holding the fuzzy caterpillar stuffed animal while I read the "Hungry Caterpillar" story? Oh, and there was a nice flannel board set of colorful animals for "Brown Bear, Brown Bear".

But wait! Some clever teacher made some picture cards to accompany some stories. So after reading the story, the children can practice their recall and sequencing skills by putting the pictures in the correct order.

Oh, someone else took it a step further! This person made an entire literacy kit. So not only do you have the Caterpillar book, but finger puppets and coloring pages of butterflies to go with it.


If you give a therapist a book, she'll want a visual aid to go along with it.... and then she'll want sequencing cards so the children can retell the story, and then she'll remember that they can practice their artistic skills with coloring pages....

Perhaps I should just stick with the books.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

I Left My Heart....

I love San Francisco! Fortunately it is only 90 minutes away. Here are some photos I took while there a couple weeks ago....

City Hall is beautiful, proudly carrying its gold trimmed crown. A bridal party was coming down the steps when we walked past it later.

A magnificent building near City Hall:
An interesting statue -- I intend to read more about it.... In the background you can see the advertisement for "Wicked", the play my friend and I saw while there.
My favorite time of day is dusk, and here you can see the San Francisco Bay fog rolling in, shrouding the apex of the Transamerican Pyramid. Typical summer weather -- sunny days, foggy evenings and mornings. This is not a great picture, as I had to hurry with the shot while in the midst of traffic at a stoplight.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Ewww, That Smell!

It has been five days since Frosty's curiosity resulted in a dose of skunk spray on his shoulder. The odor still lingers. We had been sitting in the family room, when I first smelled eau de skunk outside. I told Ashley, "We better bring the dogs in -- I smell a skunk." Too late! They came bounding in from the backyard, the odor stronger with Frosty's entrance. It was then that Ashley noticed the lovely yellow spot on his shoulder. In high gear, Ash handed me cans of tomato soup (no tomato juice on hand) which I frantically poured over him. Meanwhile she called my friend Lynn for her special de-skunk recipe. I continued bathing Frosty (lost track of how many times) while Ash drove to the drug store for the ingredients: 1/3 hydrogen peroxide, 1/3 baking soda, and 1/3 Dawn detergent. She mixed the concoction and Frosty received two more baths with that. Fans were set into motion, scented candles lit, windows and doors opened. At least we could stand to be in the house again. The next day she took him to the groomers for their special skunk-be-gone bath and the groomer told me I was the second call in an hour asking for it. Apparently "the skunks are bad this year".

We had our carpets cleaned and deodorized yesterday. They needed it anyway, but this ordeal prompted faster action. I noticed Frosty smelled bad again yesterday and wonder if the skunks are still around the yard and he is sniffing where they have been. Once again I bathed him. Poor little guy is getting a complex.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Summertime at Dad's

Life's riches moments can be made up of the simplest joys when you spend them with people you love. Here are a few photos representing how my sisters, daughters, father and I spent our time together at his house this summer.

In high spirits we celebrated Ashley's college graduation,
and a few nights later Linda's and Dad's birthdays.
Determined to conquer despite our time constraints,
this was one of the challenging puzzles we managed to put together....

Enjoying the beauty of the nearby college campus,
we visited the waterfalls and walked the track in the evenings

United in love and remembrance,
we took flowers to the cemetery where my mother and brother are buried....

Bees in Your Meter

We've heard of bees in your bonnet -- but bees in your meter?! While staying with Dad in July the water meter man stopped by to announce he was unable to lift the metal lid of Dad's in-ground water meter because there appeared to be a swarm of bees entering it. The meter man said he would send someone to get rid of them. When I went back two weeks later, the water company still hadn't sent anyone out, so Dad decided to take matters into his own hands.

No, these are not pancakes from my kitchen -- they are honeycombs!
By some miracle, no one was stung.