"In every walk with nature one receives more than he seeks."
John Muir

Friday, December 30, 2011

The Day After the Day Before

Thinking as a mature adult, one would imagine a late morning rising
following the excitement of Santa's deliveries, grandparent visits,
new toys and nighttime Candy Cane Lane romping.
A mature adult, mind you...

The bodies of 4 and 6 year olds aren't programmed the same way.
5:45 AM and 2 quiet little people entered our bedroom then stood fairly
motionless--inches away from our faces. Their warm breath woke me.
It was still black out.
Nonetheless, tummies were growling and ideas were brewing.
Time to get up.

The high energy level didn't last for very long, however.
A touch of mellow hung in the air.

Thank goodness for On Demand videos.
There is minimal conversing at 6AM.
The day after Christmas.
I just couldn't enforce the "no thumbsucking" rule this one time

as Cash slumped lower and lower.

Breakfast was repeated 3 times over 4 hours,
in progressive elaboration--
First Cheerios... then pancakes, eggs and bacon...
then waffles, pancakes, eggs, bacon and sausage.
Orange Julius with all, of course.

The sugar and maple syrup did the trick and we spent the rest of the day
outside with the out-of-control remote car
(I couldn't get any pictures of that because it was all a blur!),
avoiding the licorice traps in Candy Land,
creating wild and wonderful tales with Story Cubes and
fishing for the elusive Clown Fish, among others.

After Mommy came to take her little ones home,
Shoeless Joe gave a long sigh and closed his eyes.
He wants to know when that silly bow on his collar can come off...
Christmas 2011 is now a wonderful memory.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Candy Cane Lane

We had an extra fun ending to our Christmas Day celebrations.
A double bonus, if you will:
Mommy and Daddy requested a night out and, better yet,
a day-after opportunity to sleep past 6 AM,
so we brought our grandchildren back home with us.
Darkness arrived in Georgetown at about the same time we did,
so an exciting adventure visiting "Candy Cane Lane" happened.
Thanks to one of the more enthusiastic neighborhoods here in Sun City,
this street was full of fun and magic.
Each mailbox looked like this:

The little ones and Shoeless Joe raced from house to house,
glorying in the child-sized decorations spread on the lawns.

This golf cart's wheels kept spinning

and the red tree trunks were fascinating as they even made the children
glow in shades of red.
Sort of camouflaged, right?
As in: How many tree trunks do you see? 3? 5?

Gigi posed for this one--two angels and a pup, right?

I loved this picture--
my favorite gifts tucked in wrapped boxes!

Cash tried to hold the hand of this bright soldier.
Fun to find a world just the "right" size.
I'm not sure what Gigi was doing--
maybe practicing her "royal" wave.

All the running and squealing with delight helped use up the last of the energy of these highly sugared and frenetic little ones and they finally climbed back in the car to head home.
Ready for baths, supper and bedtime.
But first our wish as written here:
Merry Christmas, y'all!

Monday, December 26, 2011


My favorite day of the entire year is Christmas Eve.
A day of culmination.
The day when weeks of preparations are complete.
Cards are written and sent,
cookies baked and shared,
ornaments gently lifted out of tissue paper wraps and set about,
presents carefully chosen and lovingly placed under the tree,
adorned with colorful paper, ribbons and bows.
All is made ready.
Like a breathy, long sigh heard above the Christmas carols on the radio.

I am a young child again on Christmas Eve.
My memories are acute and imagination active.
I have lived through many Christmas Eves,
though I won't admit the number.
Lots of my decorations are aging with me but I cherish each one.


My grandchildren's eyes sparkle as bright as the candle's flame.
The magic of pretty dolls whose arms move

and tiny glass houses with even tinier people.

I have known some Christmas Eves without my family nearby
and that makes their presence all the dearer to me.
I am made rich by them.

And sharing a meal, conversation and then some cookies with
friends gives us good reason for smiles.

This year, the most amazing thing of all--
my dear mother now lives just a few miles away.
Though weary with the unpacking from this recent move,
she still made the effort of decorating her own Christmas tree, wrapping gifts and joining in our holiday plans.

No matter what our age,
each of us holds some quiet, unshared dreams on this night of nights.
I, too, believe in flying reindeer and listen for sleigh bells.
But then, all too soon, the goodbyes are said, the dishes washed and put away,
and the silence prevails.
Tomorrow will arrive and with it rejoicing, singing, laughter and bustle.

But THIS is my time to pause...sit...remember...pray.


The room is dim, lit only by the tree lights, candles and fireplace.
The carols are hushed and their lovely chords float around me.
I let my mind travel on the familiar sounds and my thoughts and memories blend together, the lines distinguishing old from new now blurred.
Details of Christmas Eves from the past hover around me like old friends.
Some memories cause me to smile, others bring a tear.
I know I have so much to be thankful for and I am. Oh, I am.
Especially this Night of Nights.
The clock chimes midnight and still I sit.

I am complete, not perfect, because of the King of kings born on this very night.
Not born in a palace rich, but a cave used as a stable for animals.
As I ponder this old story, I am there, listening.
I hear the rustle of the cows and sheep as they shift in the hay, their tails swishing.
I hear the soft voice of a young, weary woman singing a lullaby.
I hear the tiny noises that every newborn makes.
My heart swells within me and I find it hard to breathe.
These humble beginnings for so great a God prevents anyone from believing
he or she may be rejected because of poverty or station.
All can believe. All are loved.
Such a Wonder. Such a God. Such a Plan.

Thinking such, I recognize that this night is not so much a culmination
but more of a beginning.
A wondrous beginning.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Christmas baking-Yum!

For a number of years my heart has just not been into
Christmas baking.
To me, the task is not about the end result of tins and containers
stocked with cookies, sweets, and candies but rather the
event of baking: getting out the recipe cards all stained with food coloring,
sugar and butter and then choosing the ones to make;
listing the ingredients to buy;
selecting the perfect cookie cutters to use;
measuring, pouring, beating, you know the drill.
The happiness that came from this activity was not in the sweet smells from the oven, but the chatter of children's voices above the Christmas carols being played in the background.

Somehow, after my children grew up and moved away,
missing them during times like baking for Christmas was too much.
I stopped baking more than a token of basic cookies.
I longed for the spilling of sprinkles and red sugar crystals, the sticky floors,
the laughter, the little angel wings broken while frosting, the pleas of
"Can't I eat just one more?"
That whole exhausting bustle of it all.

This pre-Christmas week's visit of my granddaughter revived the baker in me!
Dust off that rolling pin and let the vanilla pour!
Of course we wear sundresses under our aprons when baking Christmas cookies--
it is Texas, after all!

Licking the beaters has become a controversial topic due to the raw eggs,
but a taste shared with a black and white friend didn't seem too risky.

She carefully and selectively frosted every one of the shapes,
choosing the colors wisely.
"The stars MUST be yellow, Grandma!"

Creamy mint candies were tedious as the rolling of the balls went on forever.
She stuck with it and we had lengthy conversations about life and Santa Claus
and best friends while we rolled.
Occasionally we broke into spontaneous song as a favorite came on the radio.

The following day, the various tins were laid in a row and we made up plates of
our pretty fancies. Christmas cards were addressed, bows applied and my little elf skipped through the neighborhood, delivering the goodies to the houses.
She looked like Little Red Riding Hood who traded her hood for a Santa hat.
Our street is so safe, but Popeye watched for any signs of the Big, Bad Wolf.
Just in case.
Her enthusiasm and happiness spread cheer to all.
Her brief delivery visits were sweeter than the goods in the basket.
And I am humming and smiling as I scrape dried cookie dough
off the floor and cabinets (and the dog!).
I remember why I enjoy Christmas baking.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Doing the Most Good

Today is December 20. Already.
I hold on tight to each day, willing it to linger.
Why the rush? I pull the special moments close to me,
bury my face in the softness of them, inhaling the fragrance of their sweetness.
Memorizing this fragrance for days when I may need to recall it.

Sweetness wrapped in the loveliness of my granddaughter.
6 years old--almost 7, she has come to share some of her days.
School vacations mean overnights with Grandma and Popeye.
And these are especially good days since they are countable-
before-Christmas-days! We check the calendar each morning
and her eyes sparkle a bit brighter with each one.
She adds so much happiness to our home.
The child in me has come out to play with her.

Today we spent a small bit of our morning standing outside
of the entrance to Walmart.
We rang the bell for the Salvation Army.
The sign over the red bucket read "DOING THE MOST GOOD"
and we discussed the purpose of said bucket.
She stumped me with her questions me about the soldiers
until I realized she assumed the "Army" was a military one.
Ah, delightful glimpses into the mind of a child.
They give me pause and redirect my thinking.

As we had rehearsed, she politely greeted each shopper with a smile, a cheery
"Merry Christmas!" and "Thank you" if there was a donation.
The few preoccupied shoppers that happened to ignore us were a puzzle
to her and we had a good talk about sharing kindness to everyone,
whether or not it was returned.
Taking responsibility for our own actions.
Putting our own needs second.
Lessons many of us still need to learn or at least review.

The day was pleasant, the sun warm on our faces.
But an hour is a long time when one is 6-going-on-7.
When our shift ended she gladly handed over the bell to the next volunteer.
Her smile never faded and her pure little heart touched many.
She earned the Happy Meal and ice cream reward that followed.
She had done "the most good"she could for that moment.
Is that not the best each of us can do?

I hope we began a new tradition today.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Old Friends in New Places

Northern California's coastline was green and lush,
the vineyards neat and pretty.
We turned left and headed east through Sacramento.
We had followed the news of Texas' severe drought throughout the summer
weeks and tried to avoid any landscapes that reminded us of deserts.
But, shock that it was, we hit Sacramento and the green vistas ended.
Like a line drawn on the ground.
We were in the desert.
It was flat, brown and dry.
And HOT! whew! We weren't in Alaska anymore, Toto.

No longer staring in wonder at the scenes outside the car windows,
I grew rather bored and restless.
Then Nevada's border approached and the elevations changed.

During a cell phone call with Kathleen, we were reminded that
a couple of "old" friends lived in Reno and Lake Tahoe.
Not old in years, by any means. These were friends of our children.
We had known them for many years while they all grew up together.
They visited our home often and we loved them.
What joy when we connected (at the last minute) with Amy and she took the afternoon off
from her job so we could sit under an umbrella at Jamba Juice and catch up.
The sun was intense and unfamiliar to us. But, in the mountains just behind us, the ones Amy crosses every day from her home in Lake Tahoe to her job in Reno, they were expecting snow within the next few days. She and her husband ski all the time and his goal is to ski year round.
As a girl, Amy's energy, enthusiasm and loud giggle kept us all laughing.
We were thrilled to learn none of that had changed.
When we pulled out of parking lot late in the afternoon, we were
refreshed by her presence and our discussion of years and people from
the North Country in upstate New York.
Proms, high school musicals, sports, teachers, classmates, families.
Though none of us live there anymore, our roots go deep and we recognized the
bond of the familiar. Friendships that cross generations are the sweetest!
It was like going back in time 15-20 years and not skipping a beat.
Thanks, Amy, for sharing your afternoon with us-it meant so much!
Your energy spread over us like fairy dust and we drove on with new stamina.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Touring Through the Tree

Before we could see the Redwood Forest in our rearview mirror
we had to do the "tourist" thing of driving through that famous tree.
We were glad not to own a wider and larger car or truck.

It was a careful trip through the rather tight squeeze but
Jack managed fine. He's a great driver.
Then he did it again...
We were getting our money's worth.

And, being the adventure that it was, we did it once again.
I even took a try at it. (But I swiveled the side mirrors in first.)
How does this tree survive with the big center carved out?
The trunk looks like two sturdy legs that could step out at any time.
Amazingly, the tree is still thriving and growing and reaches way up into the heavens.

A bit later, down the road,
we naturally ran into good old Paul Bunyan.
And Babe, the blue ox-his sidekick.
They were happily patrolling the protected redwoods and I think
the axe he carries, these days, is no longer for logging,
but rather for the loggers that may be (illegally) eyeing the wood.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Walking Softly Among the Giants

So often, as I sit at this computer and search for the words to describe the pictures,
I fall short. Today is another one of those times.


John Muir penned "noble simplicity" when reflecting on the mountains of Alaska in 1879.
I realize that those awesome views are days behind us in our journey, but California's
magnificent trees also exude this noble simplicity.
As with the Pacific Ocean and Alaska's mountain peaks and glaciers,
standing in the cool shadows of these tall trees both inspires and humbles me.
Nature in its purest sense reminds me that the world doesn't revolve around us.
Removing the man-made parts of our lives-the buildings, roads, towers and walls-
opens me to praise the God of Creation.
We call them earth tones--the natural shades of green, brown, blue and white. They come from the original pallet of the Artist Himself and speak peace to my soul.

We left the car tucked in a wooded spot and wandered back along a trail.
Not a sound except the trickle of a nearby stream; it seemed too sacred to speak.
Rich earthy, damp aromas surrounded us in the shade of the canopy so very far above.
It was dizzying to bend our necks back, following the rough, mossy trunks up and up until the boughs of green were finally seen.

Some of these silent pillars are 2,000 years old.
Imagine the world 2,000 years ago...
We discovered a damp log bench with this plaque:
I wonder about thoughtful Brett Thompson.
I imagine he was 80 or 90 years old
when he wrote this in 1998.
Though old in years, when comparing his brief life to that of these redwoods,
he considered himself a mere "youth".
I like that comparison.

We lingered in the silence, listening for the echoes of the Native tribes that
crept through these same places back when the oldest of today's trees were just saplings.
I'm sure there were still many tall ones that have since been harvested or just decayed,
the ancestors of these we see today. It was their pine cones that fell into the mulch below and took root, growing into today's trees.
I believe that Shoeless Joe is listening carefully to the ancient voices...
or maybe just a little squirrel.