Monday, November 25, 2013

Holiday Memories


It is this time of year when memories come lightly tip toeing.  There is a road that begins back in my childhood Christmases, and as I travel upon it, the faces of my father, mother and sisters each much younger than today, lit by holiday lights of years gone by, appear.  Laughter, meals, gifts, me silently sitting by the glowing tree, alone with it's splendor, soaking up the sounds of Christmas music, conversation, the smell of spicy and buttery cookies.  I've always, in the midst of the celebration, stolen away for a few moments to savor it all at it's apex, imprinting it upon my memory.

Best Christmas ever?  The year we had the Christmas eve blizzard.  We always went to Midnight Mass and that year we had to walk because the roads remained unplowed.  It was like magic, all five of us put on our winter wear and boots and out into the frozen air we went.  Christmas lights on the houses, the bulbs shining through layers of snow; the road disguised as a field or a lawn.  We walked down the center of the road through the pristine snow, leaving our footprints behind.  It must have been a foot and a half deep.  The wind wasn't blowing too much and our scarves covered our nose and mouth.  What an adventure it was for 9 year old me.  The snow muffled our voices and the silence was thick and glittery.  The beauty of Midnight Mass with the candles and the lovely ladies choir, the warmth inside the old gothic style church, the stained glass windows shining from inside dully.  Walking home I was barely able to stay awake and fell into bed as soon as I peeled off my outdoor things.  Oh - before I went to bed I had to put the baby Jesus into his manger - after all, it was really Christmas morning.
The road goes on through the years and into my own motherhood.  My daughter and
I, she in pajamas and a blanket, if it was cold, would venture forth in our car to look at Christmas light displays, all the while old English Christmas music wrapping itself around my ears and my heart.  Ashley singing with the chorus, "Salvator mundi natus est" in her high childish voice, not knowing what she is saying, but singing it with relish.
It is astounding to me, as it is to everyone who finds themselves having aged, that all these events are behind me.  My daughter is nearly 30 years old - how could that be?  Why - I'm really still a child myself!   My father is always somewhere in the midst of all my thoughts - how I miss him, how I remember his full throated laugh, his humor, his tall, handsome self. 
We are all really still children inside.  Our souls and spirits don't age, just these bodies, which is quite a shock.  After all, we imagine these bodies to be "us", don't we?  I look in the mirror - that's me, right?  Not really, just the eyes are the window to the soul.  Everything else passes away and we are left as children again, as youths again, with eternity, always-now to look forward to.   
Meanwhile, I'm going to turn on the Christmas lights, light a scented candle, and, cozy and comfy, go back in time and visit with all those lovely memories.  Perhaps, in this very room, my grandparents and my father are remembering with me.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Halloween Fun

This was the best Halloween in my neighborhood ever.  We have never gotten more than 3 or 4 kids in an entire evening, but this year I ran out of candy (I think my husband is disappointed - oh well).  I set myself up on the front porch (nice and warm outside in South Florida) and began reading the first book of the "Call the Midwife" series by the porch and Halloween lights.  I wish I could have taken pictures, but I didn't want to alarm any parents.  Even though I know I would have blanked out their faces, I just knew that taking pictures would make some people uncomfortable - so you'll have to use your imagination.

We had some middle school girls dressed as the "two dead red riding hoods".  I asked them if they were from a Steven King movie or something.  They had little red dresses on and blood drawn on as if coming from their mouths.  Kind of gross, but they were having the time of their life.  There were ninja boys, one boy with a white stocking over his face and a fake dress suit on - he didn't know what he was, but who cares?  Four teens came by, dressed normally - so I guessed that their costumes were "being normal".  There were children laughing and shrieking up and down the street, their parents hanging back and watching.  Many princesses, one angel, whom I asked, "how is it in heaven these days?" and she grinned and shrugged her shoulders and said, "I dunno."  One teen boy had a split soccer ball on his head - so being the smart person I am I said, "you are a soccer ball" to which he agreed.

My favorites of the night were the really little ones.  Mom came up carrying a little 2 year old girl in a ballerina outfit (shades of my own daughter's first Halloween costume that I made).  She was just looking around and taking everything in - the lights, being out at night, etc.  So sweet.  The best was a small 2 1/2 year old boy.  His mother and father were escorting him in a little yellow cart that looked like a car.  He rode in the cart with his candy.  I'm not sure what his costume was, but mom and dad instructed him to come get some candy.  Instead, he ran toward the 6 little blinking battery-operated pumpkins on the ground in front of the bushes that line my front porch area.  "Ba'y Punkins!" he said as he dropped down to get a look at them.  Mom and dad got him to leave the pumpkins and come get candy, which he did, but his interest in the baby pumpkins had not waned.  I asked him if he would like to bring one home with him and his parents made sure I meant it.  "Of course" I said.  His name was Mason and Mason ran back over to the pumpkins and tried to decide which one he wanted.  His dad helped him while the rest of the group they were with were yelling, "Mason, come ON".  Finally, he picked one brightly blinking pumpkin up and carried it with him to his little car.  I told him, "that pumpkin really likes you - look, he's blinking at you!" and Mason stopped to look closely at the baby pumpkin before he was hustled off for more trick or treating.

That was my very favorite.  This has been a very enjoyable Halloween - the best ever in all my years in Florida - and that's a lot.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Trip to Portland, Oregon

So - my husband and I went to Portland to visit our daughter.  We left Ft. Lauderdale airport on Thursday, October 17 in the early morning.  After a 6 hour flight (going to the west coast takes longer because of headwinds) to San Francisco and a 4 hour layover (which still wasn't enough time to leave the airport, see Fisherman's Wharf in San Fran and return to the airport - oh well) we continued on to Portland.  It was an hour and a half flight from San Francisco to Portland.  As we landed we could see Mt. Rainier, Mt. St. Helen's and Mt. Hood.

Above is Mt. St. Helens from Council Crest Park in Portland.

Above is Mt. Hood which is the nearest to Portland.

Above is Mt. Rainier from a roadside stop on the way to Cannon Beach, Or.

My daughter met us at the car rental place and we drove to Beaverton, a suburb of Portland to the southwest.

Portland is very hilly and the trees were all changing color.  There were brilliant reds, oranges and yellows.  It reminded me of upstate New York where I was born as far as scenery.  There are more pines in Portland, though.

Above shows all three mountains.  To the far left are Mt. St. Helens and Rainier.  To the right is Mt Hood - I think.......

Above is the overlook at Council Crest Park in Portland.  The mountains on the far right are first in front - Mt. St. Helens and  behind it, Rainier:

Above is the view showing Portland in the foreground, Mt. St. Helens and then Mt. Rainier.  Below are the signs telling about each mountain.

Mt Hood from Council Crest Park.

Me, my daughter and James, her boyfriend.

Ashley trying to touch Mt. St. Helens for me so I could make a trick picture - it didn't work.

Above is Ashley "touching" Mt. St. Helens.

My beautiful daughter - it's very hard living so far from her!!

A shop on Cannon Beach.

Above is a rose at the famous rose gardens in Portland. More roses below.

Above is in the city of Portland.

The tree right outside our hotel in Beaverton.

More roses and beautiful trees at the rose gardens.

I love seeds and dried pods - I collect them and display them in baskets.  I don't know what tree this came from - but I had to bring some home - beautiful.

My daughter being serious.

Sun and shadow on the grass at Council Crest Park.

A Woolly Bear caterpillar!!  My daughter yelled at me for picking it up thinking it might sting.  Since I got it to crawl on me and never touched it's body - only it's "feet", I was fine.  I don't think it stings anyway - I've picked them up before.

A street in Beaverton where Ashley lives.  Sigh.  Beautiful.  I have to remind myself that Portland gets LOTS of rain and clouds - but they sure weren't around when we visited.  It couldn't have been nicer or more beautiful.

Last - Cannon Beach.  Pictures below - I'd never been to the Pacific Ocean - and now I can say I have.

My toes in the Pacific Ocean - CCCCCOLD!!!!

Cutest hubby ever.

Tillamook Rock lighthouse - uninhabited.  Read it's history - WOW!!   Tillamook Rock Lighthouse.

Cannon Beach main street one way.

Cannon Beach main street in the other direction.

Man against the Pacific Ocean.

 Haystack Rock - Cannon Beach. 

After this we spent one more day.  We went to Powell's (below is not my picture - it is from

Powell's is very unusual.  Do not think it is just a bigger Barnes & Noble.  It is in an older city building and has multiple floors.  Some of the floors step down into other rooms, while some are somewhat slanting.  The building doesn't appear that old, yet some of the floors are slanty.  The inside has books located by subject in different "rooms" - the Purple room has history, while the Red room has books on art.  There are knick-knacks, t-shirts, calendars, stuffed animals, Christmas ornaments - and the piece de resistance for me - used books.  Yes - in every area there are new books on the subject at hand - AND used ones.  Now - do not think "used" as in dog-eared paperbacks.  Think antique, think 1800's, think - wow!  I don't think I made it to the "rare book room", but I can look on line, thanking God for the internet.

We also visited the downtown Portland Sunday market on the Willamette river (which I don't pronounce right.)  I say it like WILL-amet.  It's Will -A-mit.  I also have to stop myself from saying "Or-e-GON, instead of OR-e-gun.  It marks me as a newbie, an outsider.  We bought my daughter some pottery mugs - she loves clay pottery and has taken a class in it.  I told her to send to me the things she has made (that she doesn't like) - I'd rather have them than some unknown mug.  

After that it was goodbyes,  which are always very painful for me, so I just hurry through them - give quick hugs and try to drive away as fast as possible.  This is followed by hours of tears at the airport as we wait for our flight.  Once we hit San Francisco again, I wasn't crying over missing my daughter, but over having to wait another 3 hours for a flight that left San Fran at 11:10pm, but is really 2:10am our time.  By the time we landed in Ft. Lauderdale at 7:30am (4:30am Pacific time - a 5  1/2 hour flight), both my husband and I were zombies.  We made it home.  Barely.  Then my husband fell asleep and I slept for a few hours.  I then woke up, vacuumed, emptied the luggage and did laundry, made sure the whole house was straightened and clean, and cooked bacon and eggs for dinner.  All this while hubby slept.

I thought - "I'm all set to return to work tomorrow", and went to bed early at 8:00pm.  I slept like a log, had a billion dreams, and when I woke up to go to work on 10/22, I could not completely wake up no matter what I did.  My husband made me coffee, some of which I drank, but it did no good.  I kept falling back asleep in my chair and felt drugged.  I finally sent a text message to my co-workers that I'd not make it back to work that day -  I could not stay awake - and proceeded to go back to bed and sleep like a bear in hibernation until 1pm.  After that I still felt wobbly and tired.  Very weird.  Why didn't I feel like this upon arriving home after being awake and active for 24 hours?  Don't know - but the house is clean, the laundry is done, and I will make it back to normal tomorrow......

Oh - and we DID see a Stellar's Jay - below is not our picture, because we only saw it for a second, but here is a photo of one by Stephen Ting:

Saturday, October 5, 2013

BackYard Pics This Morning - The Painted Buntings are BACK!!

My hubby and I sat outside this morning after about 8am and it was worth it.  Last year, the Painted Buntings arrived on 10/5, so I was watching for them.  Sure enough, one came through this morning.  I hope he stays - they have for the past few years.  A beautiful male. 

As usual, here are the morning's pictures: