Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

A Birthday Well Celebrated!

Though my birthday was yesterday, the birthday surprises began on Friday, when a package arrived from my friend, Gloria, along with a letter full of incredibly nice words; and cards began showing up in my mailbox. Then came an e-card from Uncle Bud and Ardyne, in Alaska. How sweet it is to be remembered at special times, by those far away!

Yesterday, though, was filled with birthday blessings, from the top of the morning through the close of day. It started as I got into the car to leave for work. I spied a card, propped on the steering wheel from my sweetheart. It said things that put a big smile on my face, all the way to work.

At work the four other people on my team came into my office with brownies and began singing "Happy Birthday" -- very loudly, and each one in a different key! No one in our office suite could possibly have missed knowing that it was my birthday.

I left work at 12:30 (my normal quitting time), and met Sherry at our favorite little cafe, called Hannah and Nate's. She treated me to lunch and gave me a book by one of my favorite authors. I can't wait to start it.

As I was working on my computer, in the afternoon, along came an email notification of an e-card that was waiting for me, from my good friend, Kathy (in Alaska).

That evening, Dan came home and asked me where I'd like to go for dinner, and we settled on Red Lobster. It wasn't quite time to go yet, so I was doing a few things around the house when Dan said to me, "Have you checked Kelsey's blog?" I immediately opened up her blog page, to find the most precious little video of Sweetpea singing Happy Birthday to me. It was a heart-melter!

And then, to my surprise, along came Tim to join us for the celebratory meal out. While we were waiting for our food to arrive I got two special calls on my cell phone - the first from my Mom, sending her love; and the second from Chris, with his birthday wishes.

To top it all off, when I got to work this morning, I found a bouquet of pretty flowers on my desk. Tim had ordered them for me, and they arrived after I left the office yesterday.

It's humbling, actually, to consider my own responsibilities in light of, and in response to, such an outpouring of love.

[Any of you, who have my email address and who would like to see Sweetpea's video, just email me and I'll connect you up with Kelsey's blog.]

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Overheard II

Here's another snippet of conversation I overheard - this time at the grocery store.

Wife: Why are you getting two milks?

Husband: I got two half-gallons instead of our usual gallon because the half-gallons are two-for-$3.00, and the gallons are $3.89. We'll save 89 cents this way.

Wife: Yes, but we never go through two milks in one week!

(By the way, she wasn't blond!)

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Ten Things I'll Never Do

(Thanks to Patty for posting her list, and encouraging others to do the same.)
  1. Eat sashimi (raw fish) - I just can't bring myself to put it into my mouth. Call me "squeamish about sashimi." (And say that ten times, fast!)
  2. Get a face lift - I don't have anything against it, but I'm just a chicken when it comes to needles, scalpels and . . . pain.
  3. Smoke or drink - I've gone close to six decades without either; why start now? Neither one holds any attraction for me.
  4. Stop reading - I suppose my eyes could get so bad that I wouldn't be able to read, but there are always books on CDs.
  5. Be thin - I've tried, it seems, my whole life, and all it has done is steadily move me in the other direction.
  6. Wear high heels - I never learned to walk in them, when I was young; and walking, itself, is enough of a challenge now!
  7. Write the "great American novel" - I love to write, but I don't have the talent to sustain a complex plot, much less several intertwining plots.
  8. Say, "I'd be bored if I didn't work" - Not me! I have too many things I want to do, and too little time to do them.
  9. Be wealthy - It's too late for me to think about that. But I am rich, in the ways that really count.
  10. Travel to all the places I want to see - But I hope to give it a try!

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Red or Green?

(Note: This post was written for my friend, Gloria. I promised her an explanation of Mexican vs. New Mexican cuisine. But I thought others might find it interesting, as well.)

Most states have a state flower, a state bird, even a state song. But did you know that New Mexico has an official state question? It’s true. The state question is, “Red or green?” This is the question inevitably asked of you when ordering a meal at a New Mexican restaurant, and refers to the red or green chiles that will top your entree.

Most of the Mexican restaurants in the Albuquerque area are, more accurately, “New Mexican” restaurants. The cuisine differs from the Tex-Mex restaurants I was used to before moving here. New Mexican food comes from a blend of Indian, Spanish, Mexican and Anglo influences. Probably the most obvious difference, though not the only one, is the prominent role of the chile in New Mexican dishes. (Notice, this is “chile” as opposed to “chili.” “Chili,” in New Mexico, refers to the ground beef, chili powder, tomato sauce and – sometimes – pinto bean concoction. “Chile” on the other hand is the fresh vegetable – I’m told it’s actually a fruit – grown in-state.)

New Mexico is famous for its home-grown chiles. Some are picked while still green. They are then roasted until the skin blisters, peeled, and chopped into a green chile sauce. Others are left to ripen, until they are red. The green ones must be used fresh, or be frozen fresh from the field, unlike the red ones that can be dried and ground into a powder and shipped anywhere. Therefore the green chile stays fairly close to home, for the most part, making it a regional specialty. (Note – the color of the chile does not indicate its “hotness.” There are both mild and hot green chiles, and mild and hot red chiles.)

Some differences you’ll notice when eating New Mexican food include the addition of vegetables, such as chunks of potatoes or corn in your tacos or enchiladas (an Indian influence); blue corn tortillas, in addition to the white or yellow varieties; the absence of jalapeƱo peppers and cumin (a spice used in Tex-Mex); and the method of preparation, especially for enchiladas.

Let’s talk about enchiladas. I was most familiar with beef and/or cheese enchiladas, wrapped in white or yellow corn tortillas, smothered in a fairly mild, creamy red enchilada sauce, with shredded cheese on top, the whole concoction then baked in an oven for a half-hour. (I’m making myself hungry!)

But when I order enchiladas in a New Mexican restaurant, they can be quite different. Corn tortillas are still used – sometimes white corn or sometimes blue. The tortillas have a small amount of the filling placed upon them. If you order beef, there will probably not be any cheese added. Sometimes they are then rolled, but often they are left flat. No enchilada sauce is used. Instead, the warmed tortilla and its filling are served topped with either red or green chiles – your choice. The chiles are chopped and made into a sauce, similar to a salsa. The enchiladas are never cooked in the chile sauce. If you, like me, don’t “do” chiles, then you just get the tortilla with a little dry meat or cheese on it. (Can you tell I miss the enchilada sauce I’m used to?)

Available at many New Mexican restaurants, as well, are authentic Mexican dishes, such as posole (a hominy, pork, chile stew), menudo (a spicy soup made with tripe, hominy and chile), and chorizo (a pork sausage).

One nice thing is that, at most New Mexican restaurants, your meal includes freshly fried, hot sopapillas and honey, always a delicious end to dinner.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Call Me "Tom"

Continued from yesterday's post . . .

Tim started kindergarten when he was five. Because Salem didn't yet have public kindergarten, he went to a private one. His teacher was Mrs. Bebe, and she was the perfect teacher for Tim.

Mrs. Bebe had a system for teaching phonetics that involved taking one phonetic sound at a time and concentrating on it, starting with the short vowels.

One day Tim came home from school and announced that he had changed his name to "Tom."

"Why?" I asked.

"Because we learned the 'o' [pronouncing it as in "Tom"] sound today. But we haven't learned the 'i' [pronouncing it as in "Tim"] sound."

I figured this would last for all of about five minutes. But as the day went on I realized he was serious about this name change. Whenever I called him "Tim" he would correct me, "Call me 'Tom.'"

I was relieved that the next vowel in Mrs. Bebe's lesson plans was the short "i," because it wasn't until then that we got our son, Tim, back.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Good Job!

The child development experts tend to say that it's not so important when a child learns something as it is in what order he learns. For instance, a child should crawl before he walks. But Tim tended to turn that whole child development chart upside-down, especially in the intellectual areas.

When he was three and four years old he was still unable to put any words together to make a sentence. He had no problem repeating any single word you would throw at him, so it wasn't a speech problem. But the interesting thing was that he was an early reader - able to read a simple sentence before he could form one on his own.

Concerned about his development, I took him to Western Oregon State College (now known as Western Oregon University), in Monmouth, Oregon, for an evaluation. They determined that Tim was having trouble with sequencing, and offered to let us enroll him in the Children's Language Development program that they operated as a part of their graduate education program. I jumped at the opportunity, although it meant driving about 50 miles (round trip) between our home on the east side of Salem and the campus in Monmouth, two or three times a week.

I was permitted to sit on the other side of a one-way mirror from Tim as he worked with various graduate students on his language development. In the beginning, as they were evaluating him, they did want to hear to his pronunciation of various sounds. The grad student would place a picture before Tim and ask him to tell her what it was. He would respond "elephant" or "sandwich" with no problem. Each time he said the word, the student would say, "Good job!" and then move on to the next picture card. If he didn't know what the picture was, he'd look up at her, and she would tell him the word and then ask him to repeat it.

Tim, though he had a problem with sequencing, was bright and clever. I was always amazed at how he could turn this game around. After a few cards had gone by, he would ask if he could hold the cards. The grad student for that particular day, happy that he was so totally engaged, would turn the stack of cards over to him. That's when he would turn the tables on her. He'd start looking to her for help with words that I was sure he knew, and she would say the word for him. Instead of repeating it, he would lay the card down on the table and say, "Good job." Sometimes three or four cards went by before the grad student realized that he had taken over her job.

The Monmouth experience was a good one for Tim. He made some solid progress on his sequencing skills. The next fall the federal funding for this program was discontinued, and it was closed. We then enrolled him in a co-operative preschool, where the parents were committed to working, according to a schedule, in the classroom alongside the teacher. Being around other children and adults who didn't know his body language encouraged more growth in his language development, putting him on target for starting kindergarten, along with his peers, when he was five.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Baby, It's Cold Outside!

For the most part, Albuquerque has mild winter temperatures, but right now we are in a cold spell that is reminding me of my years in Alaska. When I left for work this morning it was 13 degrees, and, according to the radio, the windchill brought it down to -2. I used to be okay with that kind of weather, but after 4-1/2 years here I guess I've become acclimated. It's even worse because we don't have the cold-weather clothes that we had in Alaska.

Some of you may be watching my "366 Photos for 2008" blog, and if so you've probably noticed that I've had to settle for indoor pictures the past couple days. But the weather man is predicting a gradual warming trend, so hopefully I'll be back out there snapping shots around the city pretty soon.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Inspiration

Some folks are a great inspiration to me.

Two of those people would be S & K. S and K are members of our church congregation. They have one daughter, who is eight years old. Recently a single mom in our congregation fell very ill, and her illness was complicated, later, by a stroke. After several months, she was still in and out of the hospital. Her children, a girl and a boy, about 11 and 12 years old, already had a good relationship with S & K, who stepped up quickly to bring them into their home while the mother recuperated.

As time went on, it became apparent that the mom wasn't going to fully regain her health and wouldn't be able to care for the children. After prayerful consideration, conversation with the mom and the grandparents, and discussions with all three children, S and K accepted the responsibility of becoming legal guardians for the two children. This suddenly increased the size of their family from three to five, including two pre-teens.

Dan and I have talked with them several times during the decision-making process. Dan had the experience of being brought into a new family, at the age of nine; so he has some insight from the child's perspective. And, of course, we've kept foster children and exchange students; so we both have some insight into caring for children who were not, strictly speaking, "our own." We understand that the family dynamics of events like this, though rewarding, can be complicated and challenging.

S, K and the children usually sit directly in front of us during worship services. They are a great inspiration to me of selfless commitment to walking in the Light. If you have any space left on your prayer list, could you please add S, K and the children to it?

Monday, January 14, 2008

Overheard

Are you sometimes out in public, where you overhear part of a conversation that makes you smile? Saturday, when we were coming out of Costco after purchasing the new TV, we were walking behind a couple of young ladies, probably in their mid-twenties.

One of them said, "I want to have five children."

The other questioned her, "Why FIVE?"

She replied, "Because I want 15 grandchildren."

Now, that's planning ahead!

Saturday, January 12, 2008

The New TV Comes Home

For Christmas I gave Dan the flat-screen, high-definition TV that he's been wishing for, for some time. I'd been giving him a hard time about it, knowing that I wanted to do this for him, and not wanting him to jump the gun. I think I went overboard, a bit, with the "hard time," because he was becoming a little glum, certain that I'd never be convinced that we needed a new TV.

Since we traveled to Chris and Kelsey's for Christmas, there was no way to actually bring a new TV with us. Instead, I made my very first E-Bay purchase - a little dollhouse-sized flat-screen TV (no, it doesn't actually work). It has a teensy weensy power cord with a plug on the end, and an itsy bitsy remote control (teensy weensy and itsy bitsy are high-tech terms of measurement). That's what I wrapped up and gave to him, as a stand-in for the real thing.

Today we went to Costco, with the money I had saved up for this purchase, and bought the TV. Keith met us there, to help with loading it into our Escape, and bringing it into the house once we got it home. Next we need to get the Direct TV people out to the house to change over our service to high-def. In the meantime, we can watch it anyway, and Dan is a happy hubby.

And here it is!


. . . with the mini one sitting right in front of it.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Feet and Shoes

Kelsy posted a blog about Sweetpea's 2-year medical check-up. She's been proclaimed perfectly healthy by her doctor! During the check-up, Kelsey took the opportunity to ask the doctor about Sweetpea's rather high instep; the doctor confirmed her perception, and told her to make sure Sweetpea's everyday shoes have a good arch support. Sadly, Kelsey has found that Sweetpea's little foot tends to bulge out the top of most Mary Janes. And what little girl (or little girl's mama) doesn't love Mary Janes?! Chris' solution, according to Kelsey, was, "She'll need to just wear one pair of shoes with everything." Chris, Chris, Chris. She's a G-I-R-L!

Cute little Mary Janes

All of this sounds way too familiar to me. I guess Sweetpea may have inherited something more than blue eyes from me! I still struggle to find shoes that fit properly (uh-huh, high instep).

But all this talk of feet and shoes reminds me of my dad. When I was a child my Dad held firmly to two closely related opinions: 1) a child must wear very good shoes to avoid foot problems later in life, and 2) saddle shoes were the only very good shoes for children.


Good-for-the-feet Saddle Shoes

I would beg my dad to let me wear something other than saddle shoes, and he'd say, "We'll see." But when we got to the shoe store, he'd ask the shoe fitter (making sure I was listening), "Now, what do you recommend as the best shoes for a child's feet?" And I would cringe, because, as if there was some huge conspiracy, every shoe fitter would reply, "Saddle shoes."

So, I was left with choosing between black-and-white saddle shoes, brown-and-white saddle shoes, all white saddle shoes, all black saddle shoes (sometimes they came in suede) or, for a brief period in the '50s, pink-and-white saddle shoes.

Not only did the shoes have to be saddle shoes, but they had to fit perfectly, according to my dad's healthy-foot theory . . . which led, ironically, to the grand finale of the shoe-shopping process - sticking my feet into the shoe-fitting x-ray device!

You don't know about these machines? You can read about them here.

[In truth, I only remember doing the shoe-fitting x-ray device a time or two, thank goodness! They weren't that common by the time I was of school age. Not sure if I was exposed to them in my earlier years, as a baby or toddler. . . Maybe I don't really want to know.]

Dashed Off Quickly, After Watching a Hallmark Channel Movie

Here I sit, at almost 11:30 P.M., with big old tears rolling down my face.

Dan went to bed earlier, like any sane person who has to go to work early in the morning; unlike me, who started watching a Hallmark movie, Charlie and Me, two hours ago. I was only going to see how it started. After all, it was Tivo'd, so I could finish watching it at any time. But I was hooked almost immediately, by a feisty and complicated little girl, and the grandpa who was her hero and her salvation. And I had to keep watching until the end, which is when the tears were jerked right out of some wellspring inside of me.

Last night, I attended a ladies' Bible class. It was the first one in a series, and the teacher, Sue P., started off the class by asking us what we like about being women. There were a lot of us in the class, and the list just kept growing. After watching this movie, I guess I would have one more to add to the list. I like being a woman because I enjoy "exercising" my emotions, which is what a good five-tissue movie helps me do. That's not to say that men don't sometimes "exercise" their emotions, as well, but I don't think they quite get the hang of enjoying it.

So now, I'll wipe my eyes, blow my nose, and snuggle down in bed beside my sleeping husband, not fully understanding, but fully appreciating the differences between us. And in the morning, when that alarm sounds, I'll remind myself that the enjoyment of this good cry was worth the loss of an adequate night's rest.

(And if this doesn't make much sense, I'll remind you that it's late, and I'm in a hurry to get to bed.)

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Chris and the GTI

Chris, as a teenager, had a propensity for crashing cars. I think that most of the accidents could be attributed, quite simply, to inexperience . . . or to engaging the gears of the car before engaging the gears of his brain. The one that we all remember most clearly was when he wrecked his Dad's VW Rabbit GTI, the American version of the high performance Golf GTI - truly a hot little car.

It seems to me that Chris had been going on a Saturday outing with his (then) girlfriend's family - I think it was to the air show in Hillsboro, but I could be mistaken about that. Dan, Tim and I were out that morning, also, just running typical weekend errands.

When we got home, lying on the kitchen counter were Chris' driver's license, the car keys, and a note, written in his own scrawly handwriting. The note read something like this: "I know you'll be wanting these, so here they are. I had an accident. I'm not hurt. Dad's car is parked in the parking lot at Select Groceries. I'm at the airshow [?]. Back tonight. [signed] Chris."

Of course, Dan dashed over to take a look at his sweet car, which, as he discovered, was no longer so sweet. Among other things, the frame was bent, and Dan determined it could never be restored satisfactorily.

It was before the days of cell phones, so we had to wait until that evening to get the rest of the story from Chris. He had been driving down Hwy. 99, which runs right through Newberg. A package of gum, which had been on the dash, fell on the floor, and Chris leaned over (while still driving) to pick it up. Sadly, the truck, ahead of him, slowed to a stop. And Chris didn't. That was one very expensive package of gum, before the day was over.

The GTI had been Dan's all-time favorite car, hands down. Of course, he was thankful that Chris hadn't been hurt, but, none the less, he truly grieved over the loss of his car.

Years later, after Chris was grown and on his own, Dan commented on a new Mustang he had bought. "I think I even like this better than my GTI,"* said Dan. (That was before he tried driving it in Juneau, in the snow.) I remember Chris' response, "Dad, you don't know how long I've been waiting to hear you say those words!"

Since then we've had a number of vehicles that both Dan and I have enjoyed, and, of course, it's unlikely that Dan would still have that little 1980's vehicle, even if it hadn't been crashed. But, for some reason, that doesn't seem to relieve the little heartache that's rekindled every time he's reminded of his little white Rabbit GTI.

*Edit: After Dan read this post, he corrected me on the quote about the Mustang. He says he didn't say he liked it "better," but that he "might like it as much as" the GTI. (I told you there is still a little heartache inside him!)

Monday, January 7, 2008

And Then There Was Grandpa

I wrote about Grandma in one of my early blogs. But I've never told you about Grandpa. Grandpa died when I was 15 years old, so my memories are a little sketchier than they are of Grandma, who lived 26 years longer, long enough to get to know both of her great-grandsons.

Grandpa's name was Ivan Womack, but my mom tells me that his name, at birth, was Ivy Green Womack. Had I been around at the time, Grandpa would have had my vote of approval for changing to Ivan.

Grandpa was a baker, and I remember him wearing his flour-dusted, round-toed, black leather shoes, slacks that were a sort of a tiny black and white houndstooth pattern and held up with suspenders, his white shirt with the sleeves rolled up, and his white baker's apron. He was tall and thin, and bald except for a fringe of hair "around the edge."

As a child, whenever we went to Grandma and Grandpa's apartment, my place was in his lap. While everyone else talked about boring grown-up things, Grandpa would entertain me with stories. They were wonderful, creative tales, sometimes about adventures of his childhood, sometimes about a voyage he made to some South Pacific island (Tahiti? Bali? I can't remember). What I wouldn't give to have a recording of some of those stories he spun. I think most of them had a kernel of truth to them, but I was pretty sure, even then, that they were being embellished by Grandpa's imagination.

Despite his vocation, Grandpa didn't much like sweets, but there were two kinds of candy that he would eat. One was hard peppermint, so I usually bought him a huge peppermint stick as a Christmas present. He would break it into small, bite-sized pieces and eat on it for weeks. The other candy he liked was the U-No Bar. (U-No Bars were chocolate coated bars with a truffle-like center that had ground almonds in it. You can actually still buy them - look here.) He preferred his U-No bars frozen, so usually kept one or two on hand in the freezer. He'd take a sharp knife and slice off just one bite, then re-wrap the rest of the bar in its silver wrapper and put it back into the freezer for another day.

Grandpa also often carried a little package of Sen-Sen. Sen-Sen was the original breath freshener mint, developed at the end of the 19th century. By the time I was a child, it was not common. In fact, I never knew anyone else who carried it; nor did I ever see it in any stores. I think, maybe, that Grandpa used it because he was a smoker. But every now and then he would give me one of those tiny black squares, barely more than 1/8 of an inch on a side, and I would suck on it. It had a potent taste - licorice? mint? tar? cough medicine? all of the above? - that I wasn't sure I liked, and yet I felt privileged to be asked to share Grandpa's Sen-Sen. I see that it is still available on-line, as well, right here. I don't think I'll be ordering any, though.

Although Grandpa's love for me was never in question, I can't ever remember getting a kiss from him. Instead, when we were about to leave Grandma and Grandpa's apartment, after a visit, he would put his lips against my cheek and squeak air between them, then nuzzle my cheek with his stiff whiskers, leaving me, every time, with a stubble burn. A stinging, red cheek was just part of being with Grandpa, and a sure sign that he loved me!

Grandpa was born in January of 1896, and died in March of 1964, after a very tough battle with cancer. He was only 68 years old.

So Worth the Wait!

About the middle of December of 1975, I was a few days past-due to deliver my second baby. Chris, who had been born two years and nine months earlier, had brought a joy to our lives that had been unimaginable, and now we were being blessed with a second bundle of joy.
Back then a baby's gender was unknown until the doctor held the wiggly newborn and declared, "It's a boy" or "It's a girl." Although sonograms weren't available, there were all sorts of clues that people looked for to try to predict the gender, all of them, I'm sure, old wives' tales. Here are a few that I remember:
  • If you're carrying high, it's a girl; low, a boy.
  • If you're carrying in front, it's a boy; wide, a girl.
  • Take a needle or a wedding ring and attach it to a thread or strand of hair. Hold the dangling needle or ring over the mama's belly while she is lying down. If the needle or wedding ring swings in a strong circular motion, you will be having a girl. If it moves in a to and fro motion like a pendulum, you will be having a boy.
  • If your baby's heart rate is fast, you will have a girl. If the heart rate is slow, then you will have a boy.
So, not knowing whether we were having a girl or boy, but knowing we'd love either one, we were all set to make our run to the hospital. We had agreed on a boy's name, but not on a girl's (I wanted Holly Marie, but Dan wasn't fond of it). There was no doubt in our minds that the little one would be born and welcomed home well before Christmas. We had presents under the tree for him/her, and my parents were flying in from Anchorage to celebrate, both, Christmas and the new grandbaby's birth. They planned to stay through New Year's Day, so they'd have plenty of time to love on their two grandkids.

The middle of the month passed without any signs of labor. Mom and Dad arrived a few days before Christmas, and we all joked that the baby would probably wait until Christmas Day to make its appearance. But, to everyone's disappointment, Christmas came and went without a new baby. It was a bitter-sweet Christmas for all of us. Sweet because Chris, who was nearly three years old, was really beginning to understand the whole Santa thing, and brought great joy to our Christmas morning. But bitter because, after everyone had opened their presents, there remained a pile of unopened ones, a sad and constant reminder that one expected guest had not shown up for the occasion.

My parents were staying through New Year's, so they were sure that they'd have that baby to hold and rock and kiss before then! But New Year's Eve, and then New Year's Day, came and went. No baby. Mom and Dad, having used up all their leave time from work, said tearful good-byes to the three of us, wishing there were four.

It was January 7, 1976, (almost a month late) when the doctor finally held up an 8 lb. 14 oz. squalling infant and announced to Dan and me, there in the delivery room, "It's a boy!" We named him Timothy Andrew (Timothy, from the Greek, meaning "honoring God"), and we knew immediately that he had been worth the extra-long wait!

3-1/2 months

Tim was probably the happiest and most contented baby that God ever made (not to mention one of the three cutest - Chris and Sweetpea being equal contenders), and he added a brand new dimension to our family. With two boys and a husband, I was definitely out-numbered for the next many years, but there really is a special bond between Moms and their boys that I treasured then, and still do now.

This year, since Tim wasn't able to come with us to Chris and Kelsey's home for Christmas, Dan and I delayed our Christmas celebration with him, and combined it with his birthday party (as I mentioned on Saturday night's post). Seems only fitting, considering that's the way it was on his first Christmas - delayed until January.

Tim, I'm proud of you and happy to be your Mom. My prayer for you, every day, is that you will continue to grow in wisdom, that you will live a fulfilling life on this earth, and that your heart will remain soft and be receptive to the Lord's will.

Happy 32nd Birthday!

1st Grade School Picture

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Late Christmas; Early Birthday

Tonight we celebrated a late Christmas with Tim, since he wasn't able to accompany us to Chris and Kelsey's. Monday will be his birthday, so we combined the two events into one evening of celebrating.

I prepared our traditional Christmas meal, with the exception of desserts. Tim loves my pasta salad, and he said he'd rather eat another serving of salad for dessert than have pie or cake. He's never been much of a sweet-eater. So I made a big batch of the salad, and sent lots home with him when he left this evening.

He wasn't keen on the idea of posing for a birthday picture, so here's a candid one I snapped as he sat, studying the user manual for his new camera. After all, there has to be at least one picture to memorialize a birthday!

Watch for my Monday post (Tim's actual birthday), when I'll have a little more to say about the birthday boy.

Friday, January 4, 2008

Fourth Grade Follow the Leader

I began fourth grade at Harborview School, but only a week or so into the school year we moved, and I changed schools. Fifth Street School was in an old, three-story building. I was assigned to a classroom on the second floor the first morning I was there, and then, later that same morning, was moved to Mrs. S's class, on the first floor. That meant that in less than two weeks of school, I had had three fourth grade teachers and about six dozen classmates, none of whom I had gotten to know!

That first day in Mrs. S's class may have been the worst day of my entire elementary school career. Mrs. S wasn't one of those teachers who gave a new student special consideration - no "buddy for the day," or anything like that. I was simply assigned a desk and expected to figure things out. I did surprisingly well . . . until lunch time.

When noon came, we all lined up at the door, one line for cold-lunch kids, another for hot-lunch. My Grandma had bought me a red plaid lunch pail, with a matching thermos. I stood in the cold-lunch line with the others, wondering where the lunchroom was and what the rules would be. After Mrs. S opened the door, the line leaders led us up a mountain of stairs, to the top floor; down a hall; through a door; and into a huge room with a stage at one end and rows of folding lunch tables spread across the floor. I was hoping that we would all eat together, as a class, so that I could stay with the group. But that wasn't the case. As soon as we passed through the door, everyone scattered, and I stood alone, for a moment, wondering where to sit. I finally chose a seat, sat down, and opened my lunch pail. In it, as I expected, were my tuna sandwich on white bread, with no mayo (that's how I liked it back then); an orange with the skin scored and a circle cut off the top, to make it easier to peel; a sugar cookie from our bakery, a folded napkin and a thermos of cold milk. Somehow, that lunch, familiar and safe and prepared by my Mom, eased my jitters a bit.

As I sat eating my lunch, I kept an eye on what the others were doing. As they finished their lunches they packed up, tossed their trash, and headed out the door. Not knowing where they were headed, I looked around for a classmate to follow. But, having been in that class for only part of one morning, and having been in two other classrooms in the week before that, I couldn't positively identify even one classmate. But there was one boy, with a crew cut, who had been acting goofy and making faces at me; I figured he must be from my class. So when he hopped up and headed for the door, I followed him. He went out the door and turned left, down the hall. I followed, although I was pretty sure that my classroom was to the right. About half-way down the hall, he noticed he was being tailed. He sped up, doing a fast-walk (we didn't dare run in the hall), and so did I. Then he stopped. And I stopped. I guess he figured it was a game by then, so he took me on a wild-goose chase around the school, finally entering a classroom on the second or third floor - by then I wasn't sure whether I was up, down or in between. He tossed his lunch pail on the shelf in the cloak room, and so did I, although this clearly was not my classroom. From there I followed him down stairs and outside to the playground.

I didn't know if I was supposed to be outside. And I didn't know where my lunch pail was. And I didn't know who my classmates were. And, when the whistle blew, I didn't know which line to get into. So I just leaned up against the building and cried.

The "duty teacher" saw me, and after the lines had been dismissed, one by one, to go inside, she came over to me, knelt down, and asked me why I was crying (she was the first kind face I had seen since arriving at school that day). WHERE TO START?! I finally sobbed out my story, and she took me by the hand and brought me inside. She asked me if I would recognize the boy whom I had followed, if I saw him again. I nodded. So, starting on the second floor, we went room to room. She would open the door, I would look inside at all the children (who would stare back at me with all 48-or-so of their eyes) and I would shake my head "no." Finally, upon opening yet another door, I saw the boy. He saw me too and turned red and covered his face with his hands.

I looked up at the duty teacher, and nodded "yes." She walked me into the cloak room, and we retrieved my plaid lunch pail. Then she took me to my own room, and came in with me to explain my tardiness to Mrs. S.

That disastrous first day set the tone for the entire year; the fourth grade was the only one, of all my school years, that I didn't like. In fact, to me it felt, all year long, like Mrs. S was trying her best to get even with me for that first day, when I came back from lunch tardy.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

From Ghoulies and Ghosties

A Traditional Scottish Prayer:

From ghoulies and ghosties
And long-leggedy beasties
And things that go bump in the night,
Good Lord, deliver us!
-------
I had tucked Tim into bed about a half-hour earlier, and had left his bedroom door slightly ajar, as was our custom. Now, as I walked down the hall, past his door, I thought I heard a tiny and desperate whisper come from his room. "Mom. Mom! Come here!"

I pushed open his door and found him lying in bed, with his little index finger pressed to his lips, apparently warning me to be quiet. Puzzled, I went to his bedside and leaned down to find out what he wanted.

Pointing to his closet, which had been left open, he whispered, "Look. In my closet. There's a flying saucer!"

I turned my head and peered, through the darkness, at the closet. At first I didn't see the "saucer," but then . . . there it was, eerily hovering above his closet's top shelf. A very small "saucer," indeed, but as realistic as any I'd seen on TV.

A Mylar balloon, mostly depleted of its helium, had drifted into the closet, had tipped onto its side and was just barely levitating a few inches above the shelf. The air from the heater vent caused it to tremble slightly in its hover mode, and the dim light from the hallway reflected off its shimmery surface.

I gave Tim a hug and turned on his bedroom light. I couldn't tell whether he was more relieved or disappointed at what the light revealed. But, either way, he was insistent that the rogue balloon be banished from his bedroom.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Photo Challenge for 2008

As many of you know, my hobby is photography and photo editing. For 2008 I hope to challenge myself to get out there and take more pictures, therefore I have decided to try DOGEARED's (aka Helen's) version of the 366 challenge, which you can read about here. (And Helen's own inspiration for the challenge came from this blog.) I will be making one change to the rules, however. I am allowing myself to Photoshop the pictures. After all, editing is also part of my passion.

The general idea of the challenge is to take 366 pictures during the year 2008, each one depicting one of the themes that Helen has specified. The themes can be taken in random order, and the pictures don't absolutely have to be one per day. If you miss posting a picture one day, it can be made up. The bottom line is that you post 366 pictures spread out over the year and covering all 366 themes.

Instead of cluttering my regular blog with the photos, I'll post them to a different blog site, but I have provided the link here, in the side-bar to the left. Please feel free to click on that link every day, to see how I am doing. The theme list is also available on that page.

And, if you got a new camera for Christmas, or if photography is your passion, as well, please join into the fun. Be sure to leave a comment here, though, so other readers and I can enjoy your 366 photos.

I'll be posting my first photo this afternoon.

A Close Encounter of the Country Kind

Following high school graduation, Takashi, realizing how short his time with us was and wanting a farewell experience with his "brother" Chris, asked Dan and me if he could treat Chris to a couple of days somewhere - just the two of them. He wanted to go to "a resort," where they could play tennis, ride bikes, and golf. Our initial reaction was that they shouldn't be going anywhere overnight without chaperons. But Takashi was 19 and Chris was 16, and it seemed so important to Takashi. So we agreed, and helped Takashi book a reservation at Sunriver, in southern Oregon. It had all the amenities that he wanted.

The boys packed up the car and headed down to Sunriver on a Thursday morning, to spend Thursday and Friday nights there. Chris was familiar with the facility, as he had been there with the church youth group more than once. Naturally, Dan and I, being somewhat nervous about this adventure, gave lots of instructions. Drive safely. Call often. Be good. Be safe. Have fun. Be home on time. And so on.

We kept in close phone contact, and the boys seemed to be having the time of their lives. The weather was perfect and they were outdoors most of the time. Saturday morning came all to soon for them, and it was time for them to come home. They started taking things out to the car, from their room, and loading up for the trip home. Back and forth they went, stashing away golf clubs, tennis equipment and suitcases. Each trip to the car, they chatted with this fellow who was smoking a cigarette and leaning up against the van in the next parking space. As Chris described him to us, later, he was "an old man, with lines in his face." Chris thought he had seen him somewhere before, but couldn't figure out where. He asked them where they were from, and what they were doing there. The boys explained that Takashi was an exchange student from Japan, about to return home, and that this was his farewell gift to Chris. Once they had everything stashed away in the car, they walked over to say good-bye to the old fellow. That's when he pulled out two tickets from his pocket, and offered them to the boys, saying, "I wonder if you'd like to come to my concert tonight. Here are a couple good tickets for you."

Chris took the tickets, and looked at them. "Johnny Cash, In Concert." That's when Chris remembered where he'd seen the man's face before. There had been posters taped to windows all over town, advertising the Johnny Cash concert. "When is it?" asked Chris.

"It's tonight at 8:00," replied Mr. Cash.

The boys looked at the tickets, but remembered that they had made a solemn promise to be home on time, and didn't think they should call and beg for another night away from home. So, they thanked the man, handing back the tickets, and told him that they really had to be home by that evening.

When Chris and Takashi got home, Chris asked me, "Do you know who Johnny Cash is?" I told him that I certainly did. "Is he kind of old, and does he have deep lines on his face?" I assured him that he did. (Dan and I had never been fans of country music, so we'd neglected to introduce the boys to Johnny Cash.) And Chris then told me the story of their encounter.

I have always regretted that the boys didn't call home and ask if they could stay for the concert. After all, it really was a once-in-a-lifetime experience, and would have been a great ending for their big adventure. But, instead, they said their good-byes to Mr. Cash, and drove on home, just as they had promised us.

Dan and I figure that Johnny Cash enjoyed his visit with our two teenagers, who took the time to be friendly and talk with him as a complete stranger, not just because he was "Johnny Cash." I doubt that he often had such casual and naive conversations out in public, and I've always hoped that he found their refusal of his generous offer amusing rather than rude!

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Happy New Year - 2008!

The sun was shining brightly in Albuquerque today; the sky was a brilliant blue; there was a slight dusting of snow on the mountain. The air had a bite in it, but a heavy sweatshirt was sufficient.

Dan and I had a most relaxing and enjoyable New Year's Day. We met Keith and Sherry for lunch, where we exchanged Christmas gifts and talked a never-ending blue streak. It was the first time in five or six weeks that Sherry has been well enough to get out; I've really missed her. After lunch, we "migrated" to another restaurant for dessert together.

It was a great way to celebrate the new year . . . unless our new year's resolution was to watch our food intake!