Wednesday, December 31, 2008

New Year Numbness

I'm up in Anacortes again, seeing in the new year with my mom. We're going to dine on leftover chicken enchiladas, New Zealand wine, and finish off with several chocolate truffles, each. then we'll watch Miss Potter or Jane Austen's Emma or maybe both.

We're hoping to get Dad home next week, but it's a bittersweet victory. He's made progress since my last Anacortes post, but the reality is that he's facing the sunset and there's clouds obscuring it.

We lost Goddy's dad on a New Year's eve several years ago, so you see, it's not our favorite night of the year.

The bright spot was spending a few days earlier this week in the company of our sons (and their sweet wives) and grandson. Always the best compensation for the doldrums.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Shining Memories

Shining memories are those moments that glow in the remembering, the ones I hope to retain should I become a very elderly woman who forgets what was said five minutes ago.

There's a pocket in my memory bank holding those shiners. I can't predict when they're going to happen, sort of a random act of kindness of the brain. They are elusive, popping in for a brief moment then flitting away. None of them are mundane, though the moments that inspire them may seem so.

A shining memory takes shape when you realize a slice of the ordinary isn't ordinary at all. That moment has a different shape, one that makes it stick out on the shelf of life experience.

They are nearly impossible to describe. Words can't capture the essence of a moment when the soul and mind connect.

As we've been making our way through these amended Christmas plans, I've been praying for some special moments to occur. Something that would make this more than a messed up holiday.

It happened this evening. We went to Black Butte Ranch for dinner, a compensation for not having the kids around and something we hadn't done before. (Christmas Eve dinner is the biggie at our house, ensuring many leftovers. That way nobody has to cook on Christmas day.)

As we neared the end of our meal, dear friends, the Whites of Camp Sherman, came to the table next to ours.It was a sweet surprise, a burst of conviviality with folks we hadn't laughed with for ages. A night out became a special token to tuck into that mind pocket.

A shining memory is a gift, so wasn't that good timing?

Monday, December 22, 2008

Those Holiday Traditions

It looks like our traditions are going to be scaled down a bit this year. Doesn't seem like either of the stateside boys and their families will make it to our winter wonderland.

So I'm torn whether to press on regardless, cooking up large on Christmas Eve, eating leftovers on Christmas day, making blueberry muffins for breakfast and going for a hike (or ski or snowshoe) on Christmas.

Or to do something completely different like eating out on Christmas Eve, having french toast for breakfast on Christmas and going to see a movie instead of burning calories.

Anybody have a suggestion?

I know we're in good company with these messd up plans. There was another customer in the Pony Express store in Sisters this morning, boxing up presents for her children who'd cancelled their visit. I'd love for someone to come share eggnog chai with me while listening to Celine Dion warble Christmas music. Ok, that last wish might narrow the field somewhat, but I do have other choices of music.

I keep two traditions unaffected by outside influences - reading a Christmas novel and watching Sandra Bullock in While You Were Sleeping. This year's book is The Christmas Promise by Donna VanLiere. I started it this morning and will make it my breakfast companion over the next few days. I've already watched the movie (actually, I end up watching it a couple of times each year. We won a married couples quiz game once with the question to the husband "What is your wife's favorite movie" and he answered "While You Were Sleeping." It wasn't really a skill question.)

One thing remains true to the season, and that's the message in Luke 2. Whether we're surrounded by a gaggle of loved one or with our one true love, we have a reason to celebrate. My favorite part of the passage...vs. 19, "And Mary treasured all these things, pondering them in her heart."

Mothers of men do that a lot.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

New Tricks

If you live in one of the northern states, you're dealing with snow right now. I feel your pain. Snow hasn't always elicited squeals of delight in this house. It usually means slogging through it to feed the stock, breaking ice, shoveling, plowing and digging it out of horses hooves. Its pristine and sparkling beauty gets lost in the chores.

Until now. Last year we discovered that even ranchers can have fun in the snow. We acquired snowshoes and found a winter activity that we're determined to enjoy. Mind you, Goddy tromps along in his sweat pants and wet-weather gear, looking like someone taking a break from ranch chores. Oh, wait, he is. So maybe his attire isn't completely agricultural geek. Actually, it is but we don't care. There are plenty of places far from the swanky crowds that are just fine for aggies.

Here's an example of what you can do on snowshoes that incorporates agricultural activity...Check the cows who are quietly chewing their cud at the far end of the pasture. Watch them race off in alarm at the weird yetis approaching. Walk the fence in the horse pasture. Pay no attention to the fact that the horses will be nowhere near the fenceline all winter because they'll be hanging around the barn waiting for the next drop of hay. Walk from the house to the barn, ignoring the freshly plowed drive just to your right.

This is what Goddy looks like before he gets into his snowshoe gear...

Today I went out into the forest behind the ranch to enjoy a chore-free tramp in the snow. Those of you who know me know my penchant for setting the self-timer on my camera. I learned a few new things about taking pictures that way today.

You need to be careful to not drop the camera in the snow. Or your mittens. And you need to be less optimistic about how far from the camera you can get in 10 seconds while on snowshoes. This is what might happen...

The sky was clear and brilliant, and it looked like a perfect outdoor day. The temperature, 15 degrees, was daunting from inside the house, but once out in it it didn't seem that cold. Unless you dropped your mittens in the snow.

Nevertheless, it was a day worth embracing.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Hats On

There's a hole in the ozone layer over New Zealand, and everyone there wears hats in the summer. In fact, many schools don't allow students to eat lunch outside unless they're wearing a hat. So sensible!

Our boys embraced the hat thing, none more so than Evan. New hats were more coveted than most anything and I wish I had some photos to post of him in some of his early headgear. Favorites were various cricket hats and what we called "flap hats". I think they're"legionnaire" hats over here. They have a flap that covers the neck. Smart when the sun is beating down.

One year we bought new flap hats to go with the new shorts the boys wore to the local fair (which we called 'The Show', short for Agricultural and Pastoral Society Show.) It was the place we exhibited our cattle and it rated new outfits every year for the youngsters. They were very stylish, and sensibly attired, that year. Too bad it rained on show day. I had to go back to the farm and get sweaters and raincoats. Oh, well.

Evan continued his hat-wearing habit when we moved to Oregon. Except in the US, one isn't expected to remove hats upon entering a room. Good news for people who are sensitive about their hat hair. Not that Evan was or is...

So it was a surprise to Evan, and several others, when he attended his first Ford Family Foundation Scholarship conference and Mrs. Ford demanded that all the young men remove their hats while in her presence. They never knew when she'd show up so the hats ended up languishing in suitcases.

Evan has developed into a man so comfortable with himself that he can get away with wearing outrageous garments. I envy that trait, most of the time. There was one instance, when we were in a dodgy part of Atlanta, where I wished he hadn't chosen to wear his tartan shorts . The hat was fine though.

We enjoyed Thanksgiving dinner this year at Evan and Crystal's home. They have a true gift of hospitality, and Evan is handy in the kitchen. But no gathering would be complete without a hat, and here's Evan's latest offering...

So it's hats on to you, son. You're a winner in all categories!

Do you still have those tartan shorts?

Saturday, December 13, 2008

who, Me?

Since there are a few cute pictures floating around of Rowan having innocent fun, I thought I'd add to the collection.

Here's one I found in my stash from Thanksgiving Saturday, at Rowan's great-grammum's house.
Notice his partner in potential crime...

Being a grandmother of a boy is just as much fun as being a mother of men.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Ode to Ty

We put up our Christmas tree today, a tree we found yesterday near Camp Sherman. I think we must have set a record for fast tree getting. We went to the same spot we've visited the last two years and spied the tree within seconds of stopping the truck.

As I was putting on the decorations I noticed that I'd placed Tyrel's special ones together in a prominent place, front and center. So I thought I'd honor him here too. We'll miss him and his sweet fiance, Caroline, like we do every year at Christmas. It seems like it might be worse this year. Our visit to New Zealand in October seems to have whetted our appetite for more time with this kid.

One of our family traditions was a photo of the boys in front of the Christmas tree and it was fun to see how much more of the tree they blocked each year as they grew taller and broader. The first year Ty was in New Zealand we still took the photo, but I sat in his place holding a sign with his name on it in front of my face. We laughed, but it was bittersweet.

Two years later we had him home for Christmas, a sweet surprise that all the boys knew about and managed to keep from us. How did our children learn to be so devious? That year was bittersweet for him since he was missing Caroline. We are longing for the day when they both can celebrate a cold Christmas with us.

One of Ty's quirks was (is) a vocal dislike for Christmas music, especially the tunes I like to play while I'm decorating. That would be Kenny G and Celine Dion. I promised him that I'd keep Kenny G locked up but couldn't promise the same for Celine. And Amy Grant is a definite keeper. Sorry bud. I love you to pieces but some things I just won't do.

Ty will spend his Christmas season trying to keep cool as he gets a new cafe up and running. I imagine they'll be making lots of iced coffees for those poor old office workers cooped up in downtown Wellington.

I'm so proud of my youngest and the life he's making in the land of his birth. He is a man of principle and integrity, discovering things about himself and not shying away from them. Who knew that this kid who regularly got into mischief and more would become so good at making sure others get a bright spot in their day and a fancy swirl in their coffee cup?

It warms the heart of this mother of men.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Go Placidly

I don't know why cows don't get more kudos as therapy animals. We hear all about the rumbling purr of a cat, the treasured nuzzle from a beloved dog, the belly-warming nicker of a sweet horse. But have you ever spied a copy of Chicken Soup for the Cow Lovers Soul?

I can't figure that out because cows embody the serene "acccept the day as it comes" philosophy of so many self-help books. They roam around on their range, find food and water, socialize, investigate curious occurrences on said range, and sit down regularly during the day to ruminate on it all.

This week brought me back to Anacortes, where there are many more seagulls than cows. We celebrated Thanksgiving, family and the American way, and visited with Dad in the care facility where he's working on getting his strength back.

It was a time to celebrate a life just starting out and to savor those already on their way. And when the family headed back to their homes, Mom and I did like the government and stimulated the economy a bit.

But I found myself missing our cows. I like to stand out in the field and just be with them. Sometimes, either on foot or mounted, I'll play with them a bit and move them from place to place. I win if they go where I want them to and they've not gone faster than an amble. They win when they fling their tails into the air and dash off to the other side of the pasture.

Goddy and I often spent weekends and evenings on the farms in New Zealand checking the cows. They didn't always need checking but it was a good excuse to take a purposeful walk and enjoy being amongst our livestock. The early evening shadows are kind to the landscape and its creatures and the cows looked especially sleek and healthy then.

Cows are peaceful and live out the Biblical admonition of being content in whatever circumstances they are in. Except at weaning time. Then they make their discontent known to each other, the neighbors and the world at large. But sometimes we should do that too. A bit of hollering at the universe is good for the soul.

But mostly they hang out together; the most violence I've ever seen a cow do toward another is a mild head-butt near the mineral licks.

My mom has a copy of the old poem, "Desiderata" on the back of one of the bathroom doors. As I studied it at various times over the past days, the first line always reminds me of cows...
"Go placidly amid the noise and the haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence."