Thursday, December 30, 2010

Family Times and Traditions

It was a good holiday of spending time with family and friends. Pictures? Not sure if I have any downloaded to the computer, but I'll check.

We had a Christmas Eve dinner with 3 of our boys, one daughter-in-law, and one significant other, who we love as much as a daughter-in-law. After exchanging gifts we all headed to Shaffer's house for our traditional Christmas eve gathering, culminating as usual with singing Christmas carols. Our tradition began about 35 years ago. Tom and I would pack up our two little boys, then three, then four little boys and head over to Gary and Nadine's house. Sometimes we'd take a detour through Pleasant Hills and look at all the pretty Christmas lights. At Shaffer's, in the early years, our kids played with their kids, we exchanged gifts, snacked, and sang Christmas carols before heading home, sometimes in blizzard conditions. Through the years our small group grew adding the Thayer family, Fergusons, Parsons, Thumms, and more. Kids grew up, families came and went. A few years ago we moved the gathering to our house. This year though the Shaffer's grown children hosted the Christmas eve party, and it was splendid. What a joy to have Shaffer's little ones running around -- a treat that the Parsons' grandchildren and the Thayer's grandchildren offered in years past. I fantasize about a day when my own grandchildren might be among the little ones who cheerfully chant "Rudolf the Red Nosed Reindeer" and sweetly sing "Away in a Manger". Someday -- maybe. On the other hand, my children may be busy creating their own family traditions -- and perhaps we'll be drawn into theirs. Traditions are lovely, but they aren't sacred. Only love is sacred and it can be lived out in so many wonderful evolving ways.

Christmas Day was relaxing...waking up late and enjoying a quiet morning with just Nathan here. We had coffee, and opened presents, and then made a light brunch before heading off to Erie to have a delicious Christmas dinner with David's in-law family. What a treat. I can't remember when I didn't spend Christmas morning fixing Christmas dinner. We had a happy, blessed time with the Blais family.

The day after Christmas, after church, we were off to State College with half of our kiddos for the Bruce family gathering. Good times, grand confusion, great amounts of food, exchanging of gifts, playing games, catching up with sisters, brothers, and their super-duper spouses (who are like sisters and brothers), nieces, nephews and their friends. Even Pop-Pop made the trip from Florida, although without Oma -- because that's just the way it worked out due to a business meeting. We missed Kathy's fam from France and of course missed our brother Rob who has gone on, but is with us in spirit... always.

Days after Christmas we took Nathan, David and Melanie last night to Adam and Alicia's house. The seven of us enjoyed a long s-l-o-w dinner at Chili's. We spent the time laughing about lots of stuff including our favorite sitcoms :-) Then Tom and I headed home, leaving the early morning airport run (which I trust happened at about 6 a.m.) to Adam and Alicia. That allowed Tom and me to stay snug in bed at 5:00 a.m. rather than finding ourselves cruising down the highway to get all 3 out-of-state kids to the airport for morning flights.

Enough. I've got to get ready for company. Apparently we just can't get enough of spending time with people! Tomorrow is New Year's Eve. Enjoy, be safe, review your old year, and no matter how good or bad it was, make good resolutions for the one coming up. My resolve will be to know and love God more clearly and His people, all those He puts in my path, more dearly. Happy New Year to you and yours.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Counting Down, Looking Up

Ready or not, December 25th comes. I'm ready enough. My trip to Philly last weekend was so inspiring that I came home and got the tree decorated and the stockings up. Then I rearranged the living room. My friend says that's the sign of an insecure woman...always rearranging furniture. Maybe. But I really like the furniture this way...for now.

 I was inspired by my sister's newly arranged den, which is much classier. I have to rely on the old farmhouse charm...such as it is.

But all the trappings of a happy Christmas aside, this is the focus, this is the reason to look up: God sent his son, to save us from our sins. That's my reason to rejoice... all year long, all life long.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Catching Some Holiday Spirit

The Sister's Christmas Party...Aunt's Party...Cousins Get Together...with friends too.
Everyone but the gals in the kitchen

It was a wonderful fun time at Aunt Ro's house...

Mom and Aunt Lou came from Florida, I drove clear across the state and back again. A sister-in-law of one cousin came all the way from Wisconsin, or one of those mid-west states engulfed in blizzard conditions. By the by, there is no snow in Philly and it was warm. The temp was falling when I left this morning and there were reports of snowflakes in the air, but I couldn't see any. Another pic...

My momma and her life-long friend. Look, you can still see the little girl in them...

You're looking at 160 years between them!

Mom is going to hate reading that. She's not willingly owning her 80 years yet. 
She and Sara are giggling over being two 40's each.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

A Break in the Precipitation

Pink snow babies ready to play...

         Two kids, one sled...

                             Happy to share...

                                                                                                                                      It was a good day.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Shoveling the Roof

Thirty inches of snow, I wonder how much that weighs? I don't know, but we had to get it off the roof. 
Don't worry, honey, help is on the way...

The fence is 6 feet high, snow 3-4 feet

That's the diving board
We only got about 1/3 of the job done. More snow falling, but tomorrow it should stop.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Snow Day

Twenty two inches and counting. This beautiful fluffy white stuff is falling at about 1" per hour. The local school district called for a two hour delay this morning, but then went ahead and had school. Crazy. The surrounding districts played it safe and took a snow day. No one likes to make them up, but no one likes to have buses full of little kids stuck on bad roads or in a ditch either.

I went to work at the church only because I had an appointment to get snow tires put on my car. Yeah, like a day late -- that's the price you pay for being a practicing procrastinator. But it worked out for me because I could leave my car at the garage and walk to work. Assessing the church parking lot, my PT Cruiser never could have mustered through. I used Hoover's Tire as my parking garage and trudged the few blocks in knee deep snow. No kidding. In a few places the drifts were thigh high. I wore snow pants and boots and swooshed onward like a champ. So about the time I was done updating the website, answering mail and phone calls, sorting out other business, my car was ready to be picked up. Oh, I also shoveled a path for Mr. Mailman from the main sidewalk to the church mail slot. I'm sure he appreciated it. I know I appreciated it when I left work to go get my car.

With all this beautiful snow I should be happily decorating the house for Christmas. But no, haven't found the spirit yet. Perhaps I can cajole Tom into helping when he comes in from the great outdoors.  He's out hunting for Bambi's father. I'm not hoping he finds him, but then again, I am hoping for venison in the freezer. Can't have it both ways.
This little car wants a garage for Christmas.


Thursday, December 2, 2010

My Inspiration to embrace today...

I want to call her my friend, but we've only met through cyberspace and Christmas cards. She is my husband's third cousin, I think. (I would have to get the chart out and see if that's correct, or if it's second cousin once removed.) I know her mother and father. I pray for this young woman, her husband, her children and her parents. She has been fighting IBC (Inflammatory Breast Cancer) for 3 1/2 years. As a scientist, wife, mommy, blogger, and all around amazing woman she has touched countless lives -- including mine. I've been following her story, eavesdropping on her life for more than 3 years. At turns I've rejoiced, cried, laughed, sighed, and even gotten angry (not at her, at the cancer and the unfairness of life). Her most recent blog post Unexpected Strength moved me to tears this morning. Her words are profoundly touching, inspiring, heartbreaking, uplifting, sad... and somehow... full of hope.

Monday, November 29, 2010

First Day of Buck (or Doe)

The not so lucky buck and doe. Real men wear blood on their shirt.
This is a northwest PA holiday. The kids have no school. One fella that was scheduled to work today had to tell his boss he'd be late. How late? Well that depends. But most likely he could get there by late afternoon, right about dark thirty.

I was way too tired to get up with Tom at 4:30a.m. (owing to still being awake, tossing and turning at 2a.m. -- both of us.) But I'll tell you what, by 6:00 breakfast smelled wonderful -- bacon and eggs, pancakes, cheesy potatoes, and coffee. The coffee aroma nearly put me over the side of the bed and on my feet. But no, I resisted. I enjoyed warmed overs at 8:00, quick made some soup and sloppy joe, and went to work for a couple of hours. (On Mondays I update the church website -- and I hate to let that go, since I don't work on Tuesday. So you see, I actually write two blogs a week. I'd like to post on this one more often, something I only occasionally accomplish. I knew you'd want to know all that.)

I got home in time to put lunch on the table for the grateful deer-slayers (2 of them) and the guys who came up empty handed (5 of them). Eat, drink, tell stories, call neighbors, friends, family, then back out to push the loop. That means most of the hunters go get in their places and a couple of them walk around the field called the flats, all the way to the creek and then loop back. Out of today's push one more from our hunting party got a buck. That makes 3, and it appears the hunters are done for the day. What?... it's not even dark yet. So the lucky bucks get to live another day.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Giving Thanks with Grateful Hearts

Beautiful borrowed beads and a scrumptious pumpkin pie

I got to watch my little girls on Thanksgiving eve. As they were leaving Audrey offered to let me borrow something from her. (Mommy is teaching her not to ask to take things home. She's very bright. and although she probably can't articulate it, she's figured out that perhaps if she offers something, the favor will be reciprocated. Of course it will -- if mommy and daddy allow :-) So she offers her pretty pink princess beads. Well, how could I resist that? I told her I would love to wear them on Thanksgiving Day. And I did.
Adam, Alicia, Gary, Nadine -- a small, but lovely gathering

Cleo the cat's thanksgiving dinner was pretty much same old same old. But she didn't seem to mind a bit.  After dinner the girls sat around the table chatting, the guys caught some football, then we all watched a chick flick. It was a good day and we do have much for which to be thankful.

Thursday, November 25, 2010


The pies are in the oven and the turkey is waiting his turn. This is the first time in a few years that we've done our Thanksgiving dinner on Thursday. Usually we feast together on Saturday to accommodate busy schedules and other obligations. Not so this year. Last year on Thanksgiving day we took turkey and all the trimmings and shared the day with our friend "Aunt" Ronnie. This year she's celebrating in heaven...

I'm catching a few minutes of the Macy Day Parade -- here they come led by the Master of Ceremonies and the parade producer. There's Snoopy right behind the big yellow Macy's stars, followed by Lucy and Charlie Brown. ...And I have to interrupt this blog to say that I just had a Happy Thanksgiving phone call from Dad. My parents' tradition of having Aunt Lou and Uncle Harry over is reversed this year and they are traveling to the west coast of Florida for turkey dinner at Lou and Harry's place instead. ...Before that call the cast from Sesame Street sang a song about music touching everyone's heart... and it touched my heart. Sweet memories. Those Sesame Street people are like old friends, who have grown quite a bit older over the 20-30 years since my kids were Sesame Street age. Only Big Bird hasn't aged -- he's still spry, has a child-like voice and his color hasn't faded a bit. Oh this really is too much fun, high school bands and university bands, and singers...all sorts of entertainment.

I think I'll wrap up this blog. I really must go. There are things to do, getting ready for company to come. Meanwhile, the pies are out of the oven and the stuffed turkey is in.

Pictures from one year ago...

A gorgeous woman and great friend, a beautifully set table... a fond memory.

And now... to get busy making this year's memory! Have a wonderful holiday.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Day of Worship, Day of Rest

The early morning frost is melting away. Chris Matthews is on TV (without Chris this morning), and mmmm, I'm enjoying my first cup of coffee. This is part of our Sunday morning routine here, and it's almost heavenly. I'm dressed and ready for church. Better grab some breakfast and get ready to head out the door. Don't want to be late. I so enjoy our Sunday morning small group that meets before worship time. After church we have a baby shower for one of my friend's daughters. Then tonight a group of us will sing hymns for residents at the local care facility. Sunday is a day of worshiping  in more than one way, giving God honor and praise, blessing people, and being blessed. It's a wonderful break from routine, a day for God and people, a day of unconventional rest. I love Sundays.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Let Everything That Has Breath Praise the Lord

15 days since my last post. Will I post again? Probably, but not just now. William Wordsworth said, "Fill your paper with the breathings of your heart." First I have to breathe again. It'll happen, always does. Then I'll write, and blog, and praise God. "Let everything that breathes sing praises to the Lord!" Psalm 150:6. All I have to do is find my breath.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

One Last Fall Walk

Nathan and Phoebe heading to the beaver dam after shearing Christmas trees. The leaves were crunchy beneath feet and paws.

Guard dog...

The beaver dam...

Nate's back to California. The dog misses daily treks to the tree fields with him. The decision has been made to put up a "No Trees For Sale" sign this year. We need a catch-up season...too many customers last year.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Autumn Leaves...Endless Raking

 The beautiful, colorful fall season is so pretty in real life and in pictures. We're blessed with huge old maple trees all around our house. Simply gorgeous. For several weeks. Then the wind and rain drives the leaves to the ground, and somebody's got to get them off the grass. Me. And Tom. But he's busy doing things I can't mostly it's me.

I feel overwhelmed when I start the leaf mulching, raking, hauling (or, shhhhh, don't tell the environmentalists, burning) process. It takes about three sessions. I've tried waiting until all of the leaves are off the trees so the job could be done in one session. Hah...then it's dang near impossible.

At the start I attack the job with vigor. Then alas, the energy flags, my back aches, I can't see what I've accomplished, only what's still to be done. I won't quit, can't quit, I just want the job finished. Tom comes to my rescue and talks me into a sensible stopping point. We sit on the porch swing and drink in the view. A lawn (nearly) swept clean of leaves. Ahhhh, what a sense of accomplishment. Life is good again. Not perfect, but good.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Me and My Dad

When my boys were little, Mercer Mayer books were favorites at bedtime. Just Me and My Dad was a particular favorite -- this post and picture have nothing to do with that, except that this is, I think, a wonderful picture of me and my dad. And I don't have many pictures of just the two of us. So this will no doubt remain a favorite -- just like the book of similar title.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

A wedding and two funerals

In the midst of the wedding week, on a Wednesday, my dear, dear friend "Aunt" Ronnie died. She was 94 years old and completely ready to go to be with God. She said to the nurses, "I don't know why it's taking so long."

For the past year she had been up and down with health issues. During the down times she would often say, "I just keep asking God to take me. I don't know why I'm still here." She was lonely for her Frank who died in October 3 years ago. I don't think she ever fully got over losing her first husband, Byron, back in the early '60s. I had held on to hope that Ronnie (Rowena) would have a second wind and be able to enjoy getting out and about after Frank's passing. Her health did perk up some at first -- I think because they got all the smoke from his old stogies out of the house. She had begun having bouts of pneumonia in the years before Frank died. And in the end that is what caused her death.

We attended her funeral on Sunday, after David's wedding on Saturday.

The next Wednesday, Gerri Deeter Mitchell passed away. She was 95 years old and had been as vibrant and vivacious as can be. She always sat in front of me in church, often joined by her granddaughter and great granddaughter. She absolutely lit up when they breezed in and sat beside her. The tall, gorgeous granddaughter had to bend way down to hug her tiny gramma, but as she said in her eulogy, "Even though Gram was only 4 feet 10 inches tall, I never stopped looking up to her.

I know both of those sweet ladies are hanging out with special loved ones in heaven and basking in the presence of Jesus. But I miss them.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Wedding Pictures!

Melanie's new husband, brothers, and father-in-law
David's new wife and sister-in-law
Melanie's mom and dad

David's mom and dad
The moms
The groom
The ceremony

The married couple

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Two Weeks Minus One day

David and Mel's wedding is fast approaching. I'm paralyzed. By what?... emotion, excitement, expended energy or all of the above? Yet I'm thrilled that the day is approaching. I'm looking forward to family and friends celebrating with us. I will miss those who can't come and those we weren't able to invite. But here I am anticipating the joy of expanding our circle of family as we have already expanded our circle of friends through getting to know Melanie's loved ones.

In less than two weeks Maggie Blais and I will both watch our youngest child commit to the other, joining their lives and ours inextricably. I think we'll both shed tears of joy, tears that will release the conflicting tension of letting go, giving and gaining children till death do (any one of) us part. Sweet, sweet, bittersweet.

Turn around and they're two.
Turn around and they're four.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

The Middle of September!

We're counting down the days until David and Melanie's wedding. Well, they're counting down the days. I'm just sort of keeping in the front of my mind that it's coming up quick. Meanwhile... Tom works crazy hours, just for a little bit yet, until the bus drivers all get acclimated to their routes and the new point of sale system smooths out. Who would have thought we'd see the day when children could buy their school lunch with a finger scan? I guess it beats losing your lunch money, or worse, getting it stolen and going hungry as result.

So those fishing days I blogged about below provide memories that still offer relaxation to Tom and quick meal fixes for me. And after dinner it's off to the tree fields, mowing and shearing, getting those spruces and firs in shape to be Christmas trees come December. The weather has been perfect for mowing an entire gas tank's worth at a time -- about 1 1/2 to 2 hours -- and that's a lot of pushing, pulling, and reefing on the mower. The light gives-out earlier each week. I had to quit last night for fear I would run over a little tree camoflaged by weeds.

My fall schedule is to work at the church 3 days a week and babysit one. Tomorrow is my babysitting day. It'll be me and the girls doing fun things like playdough, coloring, reading stories, and walking to the mailbox, which is always an adventure what with lucky stones to find and butterflies to chase. There used to be a sandy spot where my own little boys would stop to sift sand through their fingers and practice making letters using sticks for writing implements. Now the sand is covered up with pseudo paving -- a chip and tar thing. No more muddy ruts, puddles, holes, which I don't miss. No more sand to stop and play in. I miss that terribly.

Funny how I can get all nostalgic and glamorize the past. Like the sandy spot in the driveway, our old woodshed now a lovely entry and diningroom, and most recently, the 100 year old windows replaced with new vinyl, tilt-in-to-clean, beautiful, efficient, functional windows. Functional means you can actually open and close them, or even keep them open without a stick. And you can see out them sans distortion. Although I miss the wavy's really cool to see the birds, deer, baby woodchucks and leaves on the trees clearly. Oh yeah. It's great.

It's the middle of September and soon the broad strokes of God's paintbrush will turn grain fields to gold and dot trees with myriad shades of red, orange and yellow. It'll be right about the time of Dave and Mel's wedding. Perfect timing.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Fish Stories

One fine day Tom and his boys went fishing. They were lucky enough to have a photographer along (Thank you, Matt) There were plenty of fish biting and some were keepers. Matt doubled as fish lander and holder for the photo op..

Dave and his really long pike.>>>>>

Of course someone has to clean all those keepers -- after measuring them, that is. Tom and Aaron were up to the task.

And I learned something I didn't know before. Fish get longer after you cut them up! At least in the telling of the fish stories that's the way it goes.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

39 years and counting

For our anniversary today, we went to a wedding. It was a fabulous day for an outdoor ceremony. We took advantage of the beautiful setting to commemorate the day for ourselves too.

Kimberly Thayer married Marcus for the second time on Saturday.  Their first wedding was an intimate private ceremony on a beach in Florida. The bride's Floridian brother performed both ceremonies for the gorgeous, happy, free-spirited, romantic couple.

A picture of the newlyweds at our house before the wedding.

The musician. Our boy, David, provided the music for his childhood friend's wedding.
(David and Kim go way back... to their diaper days.)

We're so looking forward to the next wedding we'll be attending...our own David and his sweet Melanie.