Thursday, December 3, 2009

Losses and Gains, part II

The week of Dad's memorial service had many bright spots, namely the gathering of the clan. Well, most of us anyway. Kiley and Vivian were missed, but we get to see them at Christmas.

I'll admit, it's strange to look at a family photo with the patriarch missing; pretending that he's behind the camera works for the first few seconds then the reality squeezes in. I know this is part of the adjustment process but that doesn't mean it's welcome.

Having Ty and Caroline, and Bruce too, was a sweet bonus. I know well the feeling of separation that happens when you live across an ocean and there's a family crisis. My hat's off to them for putting up with the rigors of international travel for a short visit.

Bruce, getting to know Rowan.

We brought Ty and Caroline home with us and central Oregon didn't disappoint - there was some snow, a bit of drama on the Santiam Pass, brilliant sunshine and no wind. Goddy and Ty learned that a practice run with tire chains helps when it's cold and dark and the flashing sign at Santiam Junction reads "CHAINS REQUIRED." After a fruitless and surprisingly calm attempt, we drove off in 4-wheel drive, sans chains, and arrived unscathed. And had the snow tires put on the next day.

Ty, who previously complained about snow, claimed that getting rugged up and heading outside was bracing. It helps when you have sensible headgear.

Caroline hadn't experienced Thanksgiving before, so we did a typical feast. Oops -we neglected to share the story of the Pilgrims with her. Hmmm, so much for the educational aspect of it. Should have had my mom there...Sorry Caroline, you'll just have to come back for another one some day and we'll fill you in on the details of why we sit down mid-afternoon on the 4th Thursday of November and eat a big dinner.

When T & C were here three years ago, I'd planned for us to spread the ashes of my beloved Golden Retriever, Sheena, in the pasture at Camp Sherman. Ty ended up with the dog-loving genes and it seemed appropriate to share the moment with him. It never happened because we didn't locate the urn until after they'd left (it was packed in a box in the garage.)

All things work together for good, because in the ensuing years I'd written an essay about Sheena called "The Bond." It sums up the sweet relationship I had with her, a once-in-a-lifetime tie that even now, eight years after her death, brings me to tears. Ty, Caroline, Goddy and I walked to the back of the pasture, sat down under a tree by the river, and took turns reading the essay.

As I poured the ashes out of the urn, I thought about how she would have loved the pasture. It contains an abundance of her favorite things - water, trees and horse poop.

There was still some snow on the ground, so the kids lightened the moment by building the cutest snowman I've ever seen!

And no visit to the pasture happens without some face time with the horses.

Danny is quite the popular soul - he has a way of wanting to be with people that's very endearing.

Logan went riding with me the week before... another shining moment in a month of experiencing the highs and lows of being a mother and daughter of men.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Losses and Gains

Since my last post, my dad has passed away, we've had visits from children and grandchild, and life continues to roll on relentlessly.

I don't feel quite up to writing about the loss of Dad so will dwell on other aspects of past weeks.

Here's a highlight - taking Rowan for his first horseback ride.

All along I've wanted to be the Gremmy and Aunty Kathryn who is known and loved for her warm hugs, great cookies, interesting books but most of all, her horses. My mom used to tell me that her step-father, Les, would have made sure I had a pony to ride had he lived to meet me. I grew up knowing I wanted to provide plenty of warm, furry animal necks for my grandchildren to hug. A bonus is that the grown-up children now think the animals are pretty swell too.

Two years ago I got to share my beloved mare, Misty, with my niece, Vivian. This year it's Rowan's turn.

Never knowing how kiddos will react to horses, we brought Misty close and let him look at her over the fence while I saddled her. He was perfectly happy to look at her and get hoisted aboard for a short ride to look at the cows.

The next day we walked down to the outdoor arena where Logan was helping Goddy trim the alpacas' feet. We watched for a while then wandered off around the arena.

When I asked Rowan if he wanted to go a bit faster, it was no surprise to hear, "Yes!" A little squeeze sent Misty into a rolling canter, which was a bit unexpected since she is 27 years old and arthritic. But she was perfectly happy to go and Rowan was perfectly happy to feel the breeze in his face. I was just perfectly happy.

We went out in the forest for a bit too, and I'm thinking this riding deal is going to be a fun aspect of being a grandmother of men (and women. Can't wait for Katelyn's turn.)

Monday, September 28, 2009

When an heirloom is not a tomato

My mom sold some of the family silver the other day. Plus some china, crystal and a couple of wicker pieces. It's part of her systematic thinning out of 'stuff', a process she can engage in because Dad, the one who sticks to the stuff like glue, is no longer able to have an opinion on things.

But just because it's part of a plan doesn't mean this is easy. She said that if the liquor cabinet hadn't been cleared out the week before she probably would have indulged in a medicinal tot.

I've been encouraging this clear-out but it wasn't easy for me either. Suddenly it seemed like bits of china and silver I either hadn't ever laid eyes on or looked at for years were the most precious things to behold. That gave me pause, because I've trained myself to limit the amount of sentimentality I indulge in. But I just had to put aside some pieces of china that belonged to my mom's Gremmy, the woman whose grandmotherly moniker I've taken but never got to meet.

When Goddy and I married, we specified no china or crystal, knowing that we'd soon be making an overseas move. I now bless the two friends of my mother's who ignored the directive and gave us a crystal bell and candy dish. "Every family needs some crystal," they said to my mother. "No matter where they live." Those pieces, and the fine bone china teacups my mother-in-law eventually gave me, survived numerous moves and who knows, maybe they'll be what my great-grandchildren pounce on.

It's got me thinking about what constitutes an heirloom. These things, pieces of stuff, keep the circle of family intact. Each time they are passed to another generation, a layer of love is added. It makes the cookies on the old plate sweeter, the tea in the fancy-lady cups more soothing, the grand dinners served on platters with faded patterns more satisfying.

I wonder what things will become the reminders of my life when I'm long gone. Will it be the crystal and china, or the funky jeweled duck that sits on my desk? Or the sculpture of Black Beauty that's always had pride of place on a mantle or sideboard? Will my pen collection survive the years?

And what about Ramsay? Are there more road trips in his future, perhaps until his colors fade and his mane is nearly gone?

Yes, some stuff is necessary. It's the choosing that's the hard part.

Friday, September 25, 2009

The Slower Road

I learned a thing or two this summer on the Epic Journey with Evan. So Goddy and I were willing to dip our toes into the road trip pond when an opportunity recently arose.

A couple of weeks ago we were visiting Logan and Alyssa and Rowan. The sun shone for two whole days, something I've never before experienced in that neck of the woods. (I'm sure it does happen, just not when I'm in the neighborhood.)

When it came time to head home, the thought of trekking down I-5 was dreary, no matter what the weather was doing. Logan suggested taking the back roads down behind Mt. St. Helens. "It'll add about an hour to your time, but is so worth it," were his words. I remembered them as we eventually pulled into Portland, three hours later than anticipated.

But that doesn't matter, because we'd gotten into road-trip mode. We experienced all the meaningful moments, such as driving past the only viewpoint for 30 miles, deciding that none of the eateries in one place looked any good, then realizing the next food wasn't for 60 slow miles.

There were lots of trees and we sure got to see what was around the next bend of the road. We stopped to stretch our legs and as we strolled up an old logging road I remembered a movie I'd seen where a psycho killer roamed the woods looking for unsuspecting wanderers. This is the curse of an overactive imagination.

We breathed the air, enjoyed the slow pace and when we finally had to get back on I-5 for the last few miles into Portland, felt like we'd just been in a sweet dream. The jerk back into reality was jarring.

A good nights sleep got us all set for the next leg, and once again we took the slow road, through Silverton and Silver Falls Park. How did we get so lucky with the weather?

We learned that Silver Falls is not a particularly dog-friendly place but we eventually found a trail we all could enjoy. Plus, it whetted our appetite for a return trip to go look at the waterfalls.

So who knows, perhaps another Epic Journey is in our future?

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

With This Ring

Twenty-nine years ago I placed a ring on my husband's finger, promising to provide a home for him with love to fill his heart and laughter to fill his soul.

It was a bit touch and go that day as to whether the ring would go over his gnarley knuckle. We stood watching as the minister spoke about the significance of the rings, all the while twisting Goddy's ring in his fingers and rubbing off the Vaseline we'd carefully applied so it would slip on. It did get stuck a bit at the second knuckle, but I managed to shove it on without losing too much composure.

The rings we exchanged served their intended purpose, reminding us of the great love we share and the never-ending circle of God's love that keeps it intact.

Well, all the years of shearing and hard work finally took their toll this summer and Goddy's ring finger swelled dangerously. After agonizing over it for a few weeks, with me sure that gangrene would set in and we wouldn't need to worry about a ring finger, much less a ring, he finally agreed to have his wedding ring cut off.

He said it felt like part of his identity got cut away at the same time. The only time that ring had come off in all those years was for rugby games in the first year of our marriage.

But then, we got a brilliant idea. Actually, I got the idea but Goddy agreed that it was brilliant. Well, maybe he wasn't that enthused right at first, but he thought the idea had merit. He would get a ring tattooed onto his finger.

When the boys and I got our tattoos, people would ask Goddy when he was getting his, and he maintained he wasn't going to succumb to peer pressure. His abiding memory of a tattoo discussion was with his grandfather Charlie, who'd gotten one during WWI, during a wild leave in London. Charlie and his buddys all got tats, convinced they were going to die in the trenches in France and so it wouldn't matter. Well, they didn't and it did. The only time Goddy remembers his grandfather getting angry was when he admired the tattoo, only to be told that a day didn't go by that Charlie didn't regret what he'd done.

Those kind of memories have a way of coloring how one looks at things, and Goddy never saw a reason for a tattoo. Until now...

The very thing that had been taboo for so long became the solution. Now, a tattooed ring doesn't completely encircle the finger (our digits just weren't designed for it I guess) and you get to think up a design that's got a bit more spiff that a plain gold band. But that's what makes it special, and it'll never go away, no matter what those old knuckles do.

Imagine our delight when a tattoo studio opened last week in Sisters, run by a local young woman who we admire. We do love to shop local.

Today was the day, and here is the process...

It's an interesting canvas to work on!

Ashley warned that it would hurt...

And it did!

But it was worth it in the end.

Tattooed fingers, tattooed ankles, tattooed hearts - we've got 'em all now!

Friday, August 14, 2009

In A Tangle, reprise

A while back I wrote about a tangled mess of yarn that got that way during the road trip with Evan. I've been spending the past several days working on that snarl and have had ample opportunity to mull over life and spiritual applications of a messed up hank of yarn.

The first quote that came to mind was from Sir Walter Scott: "Oh what a tangled web we weave when first we practice to deceive." It sounded good but didn't apply here because there was no deception in this cottony snag. It innocently occurred when the nice, tidy hank was unwrapped and the handler (that would be me) attempted to roll it without help.

Life principle #1: We are presented to this world as a created package, but often it takes a team or at least another pair of willing hands to get us into a useable form.

Life principle #2: Tangles can be someone elses fault and it's ok to say that.

So the next quote that related to this mess was actually a song we used to sing to the boys when they were little...

"Tangles, tangles, tangles I was in,
I was all in tangles because of Adam's sin.
Jesus came along and he undid all the knots,
Now I'm free from my tangles."

Much more applicable.

I looked at the snag, which appeared like a mass of dark pink and purple...something. Intestines maybe. (Although I know from my colonoscopy pictures that an intestine isn't pink and purple, but I digress.)

Tossing it away did cross my mind, but then I remembered that I had paid for it.

Life principle #3: We have been bought with a price, the life of Jesus.

If God figures we're worth straightening out, a task that can take years, a few days spent on a hank of yarn is nothing!

Partway through the process I was getting a bit frustrated, but then realized there was enough rolled up to make something. So I took a break and knitted a useful dishcloth.

Life principle #4: We can be used even in the midst of getting untangled.

At some stage the other end of the yarn appeared out of the fray, so I started rolling that end too. So now there were choices of which side to work on, though sometimes one side was just easier to work with than the other.

Life principle #5: There are two sides to every situation.

Getting close to the end, I was tempted to just cut out the last bit. Who'd miss that extra yard or so that was going to take several more hours to unknot? I looked at it, and just couldn't do it. Having come this far, why waste any of it? What if those last inches were needed to finish whatever project this yarn would be used for?

Life principle #6: "He who endures to the end shall be saved." (Matt. 24:13) And the last little bit of anything can be the most valuable.

Finally, after weaving the yarn balls in and out of the last loops, the final tangle fell out. Yay! But then there were two balls of yarn joined together. Oops. To be able to use them I'd have to cut them apart.

Life principle #7: Sometimes you have to be cut loose to be useful.

So what to do with all this smooth yarn? I'm thinking it'll make a lot more swell dishcloths!

Friday, July 31, 2009

Meet Tuli

This is Tuli, my new best friend in Anacortes. She is an Electra Amsterdam cruiser bike, true to her name with tulips painted on the bright yellow surfaces of the chain guard (which you can't see because I had her facing the wrong direction for the photo.) And isn't it an appropriate bike to have in Anacortes what with the Skagit Valley Tulip Festival happening each April!

Just like the initial encounter with Danny my mule, Tuli came by way of a serendipidous meeting. Crystal and I were heading out for a walk downtown when Mom and Dad's neighbor, Tuli's previous owner, came riding up the alley on the bike.

I immediately began enthusing over the bike's graceful lines and bright paintwork. This is the sort of bike I've longed for since I began to get wrinkles and cellulite, one that calmly states, "I'm not in a hurry and I don't do hills." After she thanked me, the neighbor mentioned that Tuli (my mom suggested the name, by the way) was for sale.

The next morning Goddy and I were walking up to get the Sunday paper from the corner 7-11, and I was telling him about this beautiful set of wheels, wondering to myself how many Nugget articles it would take to earn the $200 that the neighbor wanted for her. Meanwhile, Goddy had already decided that the cash he'd recieved shearing alpacas the day before would make his little woman's dreams come true.

(Just so you know, I do wear a helmet when I ride but for vanity's sake I took it off for this photo shoot. P.S. My mother took these pictures - Good job, mom!)

In short order, I handed over the cash, the neighbor handed over the bike and off I went. What glorious freedom there is in pedaling serenely down the bike path, passing walkers and joggers, smiling at other bike riders and knowing that I'm looking and acting my age.

I had a bit of fun teaching Henry to trot alongside, though I don't plan on taking him for regular spins down the bike path. He's not fit enough, and I don't like the thought of what might happen if he did one of his little spooks at something.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Post Vacation

You've already read about what I did on my vacation. So here are a few things done since then...

My mule, Danny, got a new saddle made while we were trekking cross-country, so I've gotten out on him a few times. I come home with a grin on my dusty face saying, "I love this mule. He's the best one ever!!" This makes my husband smile, possibly because he didn't have to shell out lots of money for this wonderful animal but more likely because he's the sort of man who gets a kick out of seeing his wife happy.

Goddy and I went to an investment meeting last week. Well, ok, it wasn't really for investment purposes but the races in Prineville were a heck of a lot of fun.

We studied up the form, watched the horses parade around the paddock, then headed off to the betting window to put $3 on the one with the brightest silks or shiniest coat. Well, I did anyway and made a return of $3.60 on one race.

Our $20 stake ran out about the time we were feeling pretty tired from all the excitement, so we headed home before all the patrons in the whiskey bar hit the road.

Today my friend, Becky, and I hiked up Iron Mt., a small hill (compared to say, Mt. Jefferson) in the Cascade foothills west of Sisters.

We'd heard that the wildflowers there were at their showiest. We sure weren't disappointed in God's landscaping plan.

What a treat for the eye, and the nose too as we hiked through the perfume of old growth forest. Neither of us could believe we've lived here for 10 years and not made this wildflower pilgrimage. We vowed to reform and wear out our hiking shoes.

Summer in Sisters is here at last, and I'm ready to enjoy it!

Friday, July 3, 2009

We Touched the Atlantic

I dabbled my toes and Evan swam for a while. Coming from Oregon, it's still a novelty to see people on the beach in attire that isn't made of neoprene. There sure wasn't a body image problem at this beach on Isle of Palms! People of all ages, shapes and sizes were cooling off. Although swimming in tepid water is hardly cooling off. But the breeze was pleasant and the fact that we were looking toward Europe was fun for us west coasters.

This morning I toddled around historic Charleston, making a well-earned blister on my little toe. All worth it for the pleasure of wandering down lanes that echo history. I started off with a carriage ride and our guide thoroughly loved her job and appreciated us tourists. After all, we're the reason Charleston has recovered some of its former glory. Most of the buildings in the downtown have been lovingly restored and are a treat to look at.

Did they forget that trees grow quite a bit in 300 years?

There weren't many old cobbled roads left. I'd never seen one up close. Bless the man who invented paving.

After the ride, I set off in the general area we'd toured, pretty sure I wouldn't get lost in the 90 square blocks of historic city.

Charleston Harbor, a small part of it. It's huge!

Meanwhile, Evan and Ryan were sweating out on the golf course. They came to get me after lunch and we headed out to the beach. I admit I was pleasantly surprised at how nice it was out there. I think I expected the heat to beat the breezes. Don't get me wrong - it was still stinkin' hot but bearably so.

The beach 'cottages' were pretty amazing. They're all really tall, to accommodate the tall ceilings, I guess. Which nobody needs any more because all the houses are air conditioned. But it looks impressive. They didn't appear overly hurricane-proof either, but (thankfully) what do I know about that?

Ramsey stayed home today. Ok, I admit it - I forgot him. But I promise I'll make it up on the next road trip, to...?