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Mt. Constitution

Saturday, December 28, 2013

After Christmas Celebration at the Kuhlmanns

The thoughts occurred to me on Christmas Day:  "I don't have to work tomorrow, I have no commitments, I have free time, the driving weather is perfect, I could drive to Spokane."  Those thoughts became new little Christmas packages for me, just waiting to be opened for new experiences.  I'd get to visit with Joan, Marilyn, and Don - more Kopczynski time!

Dan's family tradition is to go bowling the day after Christmas and Marilyn and I went just to watch.  Judy Kuhlmann's parents operated a bowling alley for years and the Kuhlmann boys all bowled on leagues and the next generation spent a lot of time at the bowling alley. Some of those younger kids are great bowlers.  But the best part of that day was being with Carter - Marilyn's grandson.  He's walking and smiles at everyone, including the camera.  Here are some great shots of that little peanut:
Bowling with Dad!
Proud Grandpa Dan
Loving Grandma Marilyn
Doting Uncle Justin
Amazed Aunt Theresa
Carter loves to eat and we listened while he babbled, but decided his new word for the week was "Mine."  Amanda added this word to her list of words he's mastered.  Did he learn the word at Day Care?  He's smart enough to know what it means!
Saying Goodbye to Great Uncle Rick!
Dan and Marilyn appreciated the special time Carter had at Grandma's house!  It took an hour to get their car loaded with all the special gifts.  Hank, the dog, barely fit into his space in the back seat.   We were feeling a little sad after they all left and decided we needed to get involved in a project.  I have a strong desire to start a knitting again and asked Marilyn to find some black yarn for me.  Well, one thing lead to another and we spent hours trying to get her yarn, patterns, needles, and current projects organized.  We drove to Staples for some organizers and Marilyn made her New Year's resolution to get organized.

I found the black yarn and started my first stained glass prayer shawl intending to use up all those skeins of yarn that people had given to me over the years.
It seems a prayerful way to begin 2014

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Silent Night

From Mary Katherine Deeley's advent reflections I read, "It never fails that the closer it gets to Christmas, the noisier it gets.  But after the last present is wrapped, the last prayer said, and the last child tucked away, a blessed and holy silence rains down and the world hold its collective breath.  Jesus' birth was long ago, but still there is something special about this silent night that makes us turn in love to family and friends or reach out to a stranger."
I'm kind of holding my breath right now, waiting for the kids and grands to arrive for a Christmas Eve meal before Mass.  My silent home is about to erupt with the sounds of children, a dog or two, and Anne's high school friend, Chris,  and her daughter, Abby, strangers to me.  I'm really used to the silence now and this advent season seems like the silence gave me a longing to share love with others.  Whether it's the spirit of Jesus within me or some little transformation, I could not get enough of the people to whom I took the Eucharist or picked their name off the tree at St. Stan's.  Retirement brought the joy of taking time to be with several elders confined to long term care facilities.  I visited a former Clarkston neighbor and his wife at Royal Plaza.  Joyce has Alzheimer's, but Bob recognized me the moment he opened the door!  Joy, not sadness greeted me!

I tried to set up a radio station on Pandora that would just play Silent Night songs, but it didn't work.  The song always brings tears to my eyes - probably from early childhood memories of singing around the piano at the Kopczynski grandparents home.  Even though Uncle John is gone, I am able to listen to Stille Nacht on YouTube.  What is it about a song that bubbles emotions to the surface?  Memories?  Desire for peace?  Longing for simplicity?  Silence in a noisy world?

We all managed to get to St. Stan's for the Family Mass at 4 PM.  I had nostalgic feelings because next year our Masses will be in our big new church.  I love Christmas at St. Stan's - the church is decorated with lights and red poinsettia's.  But, the church really is too small for a 4 o'clock Family Mass.  We arrived at 3:30 and already there was "no room in the Inn."  The O'Shaughnessy's were a little smarter than the Wessels because they captured seats by arriving at 3, as well as Larry and his whole family - 2nd row!
It was crowded and quite distracting with all the children and people we rarely see at church.  But never mind, God sent His Son to us for that very reason - to be among us, among the noise, the chaos, the sadness, the joy, the clutter, the imperfections, the hugs and the tears.  The Mass ended with my favorite of all songs, Silent Night!  I felt incredible joy even though my eyes were stinging with tears.

My little house felt crowded with 10 people, but we managed to pray a Christmas blessing, offer a toast, welcome strangers, open gifts, and take annual Grandma-Grandkid pictures.  I copied a Table Liturgy prayer from my favorite prayer book, "Prayers for the Domestic Church," by Edward Hays.  Nothing touches me more than to have my family read and share prayers.  Bradleigh read, "As we light our candles, may the eternal light of God sine upon our table and fill our home."  We missed Karen, who had to work all day. Gratefully, I had another celebration with the O'Shaughnessy's opening gifts and sharing Peppermint Ice Cream.

The gifts were a bit unusual this year - Coconut Oil for each family - we continue to search for ways to improve our health.  A strange family picture meant to imply that a professional photographer would be hired to get a really good one of all of us.  Colin's college fund gift that generated this response, "Well thank you, Grandma, that will probably pay for 2 days of college."  Some new shoes, fishing stuff, X-Box games, USB battery charging station, Yoga gear, heavy fireproof safes, pillow cases, and soft blankets for the family pets.
After Mass I enjoyed a walk through Locomotive Park with Anne's friends from Ohio.  I always enjoy the lights, but even more so with friends from out of town.  
 Abby and Chris warming up by the fire
Anne and Chris

This morning boxes and wrapping paper await the journey to the re-cycling bin, but Christmas joy continues as I ready myself for a trip to Moscow to join the kids for Christmas Day.  

Someone sent me this sweet poem by Howard Thurman

I will light Candles this Christmas,
Candles of joy despite all the sadness,
Candles of hope where despair keeps watch,
Candles of courage for fears ever present,
Candles of peace for tempest-tossed days, 
Candles of grace to ease heavy burdens,
Candles of love to inspire all my living,
Candles that will burn all year long.

When the song of the angels is stilled,
When the star in the sky is gone,
When the kings and princes are home,
When the shepherds are back with their flock,
The work of Christmas begins:
To find the lost,
To heal the broken,
To feed the hungry,
To release the prisoner,
To rebuild the nations,
To bring peace among others,
To make music in the heart.
Even though the silent night has come and gone I pray that we continue to reach out in love to our families, friends, and strangers!
Merry Christmas

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Snow and Millie's funeral

Duane and I walked out of Holy Family church yesterday, after Millie Funke's funeral, and were surprised to see how much snow had fallen in two hours.  The snow created a little chaos for those of us traveling to the cemetery for the final blessings and burial.  Father Root said the prayers quickly as we huddled under umbrellas and the tent.  Family members didn't linger at all at the cemetery and seemed to eat quickly at the Parish Center.  The looming dread of driving back to Cottonwood and to Oregon hovered as we visited with the Wessels extended family.  The sight of the Sonnen, Hasenoehrl and Arnzen cousins delighted me….. it was quite a testament to their Aunt Millie.  I felt a little sensory overload to see so many and have so little time to visit and catch up with each one.  Many of my Wessels nieces and nephews have their own children now.  Millie had seven great grandchildren and those little ones stole the show.  Meghann Funke, Dale's daughter, got up to the microphone at the end of Mass, and read a beautiful tribute to her grandma.  Ah, the blessings of a large family!!!

I love the rich Advent reflections that sit on my prayer table.   This morning I read Mary Catherine Deeley's thoughts about Isaiah's words, "For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways, says the Lord."  She mentions that most people lay our their lives in calendars, which gives us the illusion that we are in control.  The story of the Incarnation reminds us that Mary's yes meant yielding to God's plan to bring LOVE into the world.  "God comes in the middle of things that throw our calendars and schedules into chaos.  Birth, death, suffering, and profound joy don't come to us at neatly planned appointments."  Is it possible to set our calendars aside and believe that God can transform us mundane as well as spectacular moments.

Millie's death came smack in the middle of busy Christmas preparations.  Her family made room for the transformation that happens with death….connection with others, celebrating a life well lived.  Nieces and nephews rearranged schedules to be present at the celebration.  Every funeral I attend transforms me in some little way.  Bernard and Millie were married for 65 years - their love and concern for each other made it possible for her to be at home the final months of her life.  The kids stepped up to help out and other community members brought meals, the Eucharist, and other moments of support.

How does one describe the quiet, the whiteness, the softness of snow on a winter morning?  It feels like a great gift, a miracle to me, especially here in Lewiston.  I get my camera out and try to capture the moment and the feelings I have….

Snow and death….. Is there a connection?  

Millie, be the light that guides our way this holy season.  Teach us to set aside our calendars and relish those moments of transformation that come to us through the surprise of snow, the hug of a grandchild, the joy of connecting with extended family

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Annual Cookie Baking

It's such a Grandma thing - baking Christmas cookies with the little kids.  I remember my Grandmother spending a whole day at our house while Mom piled her white sugar or ginger cookies on our kitchen table.     I remember it being a day of so much fun..frosting, sprinkles everywhere.  Mom let us all help decorate the cookies.  She then packed them in a 10-gallon tin and set it in the corner of the un-insulated attic to keep them fresh.  Mom baked and made lots of sweet treats back in the 1950's.  I'm sure the ingredients were cheap and Mom's loving touch made every cookie special for the recipients.

I've enjoyed these cooky baking days with my own grandchildren.  Duane and Colin helped me on Sunday wrestle the sticky cookie dough into a ball and then into stars, trees, and bells.

Colin needed to use a lot of flour to keep the dough from sticking to the mat and some made it's way to his shirt!  We even tried to use a fancy tip to make designs on the cookies.
Sweet Success

 It was not all work - Colin challenged Anne and Duane to a doubles game of Ping Pong, with Grandma as his partner.  I haven't played Ping Pong for years and thoroughly enjoyed having Colin as my partner.  I think he and Duane play frequently and he has a good sense of the game and knows the rules….  I think we won!
We also attended a Pullman Civic Theatre play called the Best Christmas Pageant Ever.  Miss Heidi's son and daughter were in the play.  The story taught the audience the true meaning of Christmas and encouraged us to reach out to naughty welfare children and quit being so judgmental of others.   The actors and costumes were outstanding.  I loved it! 
Colin was eager to give me an early Christmas gift already under the tree.  Earlier in December he had the opportunity to do a little shopping on his own and he found this beautiful angel Christmas stocking for me.  I now have a fireplace and I have my own Christmas stocking.  I'm so grateful for the special love of a grandchild.  That's the only Christmas gift I need.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Raya' s Pinning Ceremony

My nephew's friend, Raya, graduated from WSU's School of Nursing on Saturday and I attended her pinning ceremony yesterday in Spokane.
The pinning ceremony gives the graduates an opportunity to light a candle and tell the audience about their plans for the future.  I'm so proud of Raya and her decision to go back to school and be the first in her family to graduate with a bachelor's degree.

Raya's family traveled near and far to witness this great event.  Her Mom and sister, Theresa, could not get warm in our single digit weather - they both live in Florida.  I enjoyed meeting them and hearing their stories.  Stories of love and acceptance!  Theresa inspired me when she told me she sat with an intoxicated, homeless man at Laser Quest.  She encouraged the manager to let him stay inside because it was just too cold on the streets.

Marilyn told me Susan, Raya's Mom named her girls after her sisters, Victoria, Rayanne, and Theresa.
The girls surrounded by Isaiah, Raya's son, and her brother, Jim.   I sensed everyone's pride in Raya's accomplishment.  Justin bought champagne for a special toast.  

I took lots of pictures of Marilyn and Dan's Christmas decor.  Dan told me they don't even get the decorations down from the attic anymore.  The house looked and felt so festive.  The Eddy's, Brook, Jake, Hank, and Willy, Rick and Judy, Steve and Terri joined in the celebration! Too bad Raya can't rest a little - she'll be studying for the national nursing board test in the next few weeks.  She wants to get her license quickly so she can start the process of applying for critical care positions in local hospitals.  No one has loved “my” residents more than the licensed nurses who cared for them.   They’ve had to be the advocate of those with dementia, those who are just tired of living, and those whose families never visit.  I want Raya to know she'll make a difference in many lives and how grateful I am that she chose this great profession. Today, I encouraged her to take time to reflect on this incredible accomplishment and offer a prayer of gratitude to those who supported and cheered for her  the past few years!

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Everyone Writes Winner!

I mentioned writing a little piece for Everyone Writes! - a contest sponsored by our local libraries in an earlier blog post on November 11.  I started writing the piece on the anniversary of my mom's death and finished it in time to meet the deadline on November 22nd.  I had no illusions of winning the contest, but felt compelled to write as a way to honor my Mom and the way she lived her life.   The Library Board honored we three writers tonight prior to the Community Pride Awards Program.
Misty Rego and Debra Allen both work for local libraries.  Misty is working on her PhD and Debra, a former teacher, is a freelance writer and poet.  I gelt quite honored to be in such good company.
I received a $50 Amazon gift card for my efforts!  Thinking about ordering John Stockton's autobiography….

These community leaders were honored for their positive spirit and contributions to the communities of Clarkston and Asotin.  Among the winners, Fred Dole, Wes Clizer, Linda Peterson, and Dan Cease.
Fred, for his contribution to the Music Program at CHS, Wes for volunteering for the Rotary Club and Holy Family School, Linda for picking up trash everyday all around Asotin, and Dan Cease for organizing a Community Garden and donating over 3 tons of fresh produce to the Asotin County Food Bank!  Congratulations to all!

I've included my essay, if you'd like to have a read….


I read these words as I began my morning prayer today.  The words pierced my heart as I realized today is the eighth anniversary of my mother’s death. 

My Mom died eight years ago today, instantly of a broken neck.  An impatient driver passed a semi in the fog near Winchester and hit her car head-on.   I never got tell her good-bye.  I still wonder if she suffered and if she had time to pray when she saw the truck coming toward her. Surely she prayed the Rosary because that’s what Mom and Dad always did every time they left Cottonwood.  She may have finished praying,  Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, I give you my heart and my soul;  Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, assist me in my last agony; 
 Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, may I die in your blessed arms” as she realized the truck was headed toward her.  

So after praying the Rosary and the aspiration almost 50,000 times in her life, why would not Jesus answer that prayer?    What was her agony?  What was she thinking as she headed into the heavy fog?  My Mom’s life exhibited kindness toward all, especially those in need.  After a bout with rheumatic fever in 1958 she vowed she would do a “lifetime of charity” because so many people helped maintain her home and care for her eight children during her illness and recovery.  Did my Mom die realizing she accomplished the vow made in 1958?

When my brother found the will and I became the Executor of her estate I wondered how I would honor my Mom’s life, learn from her example, and bear witness to her integrity.  The day after Mom died I took a call from the driver’s insurance agent offering condolences, but also suggesting a quick settlement.  I wanted to say, please leave me alone, but instead I silently prayed,  “Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, assist me in being kind to people who are just doing their job.” 

I really did not like my new title, Executor!  I had to pay the bills, deposit the memorial money, keep in touch with my eight siblings, and meet with the attorney.  Sometimes the emotion of her death overwhelmed me and I felt paralyzed to make even simple decisions.  I waited a long time before I paid the first bill!  The collection letters started to arrive and I wanted to say, “good grief, you can wait a few weeks…don’t you know my Mom just died??  “Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, assist me in the agony of settling this estate. ”

My brother helped me find an attorney to settle the estate, but I had to meet with him alone.  The attorney informed me of my duties as the Executor, told me he would file the necessary paperwork, encouraged me to bring important papers to his office, and suggested that we hire a team to evaluate the personal belongings.  He also informed me that I must represent my brothers and sisters in the lawsuit to sue the driver that killed my mother.  What lawsuit?  “Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, give me the spirit of my Mother’s heart and soul.” 

My Mom did not carry grudges, harbor resentments, or judge others.  She raised 10 children, cared for an alcoholic cousin, baked cookies and cinnamon rolls for the homebound, and attacked weeds in the flower beds of elderly relatives.  What good could come from a lawsuit?  It would not bring my mother back.  I imagined a long year of frustration and pain as the attorney gathered information and sought out witnesses of the accident.  A woman, who came upon the accident, called me and told me she held my Mom’s head and prayed for her as the police and paramedics arrived on the scene.  She became the visible arms of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph.  I could not fathom, that because of her compassionate gesture, she might be called to testify against the driver.  My sister had already sent a note to the driver stating that our family’s attitude was one of forgiveness, not legal justice.

It took months to convince the attorney and the court-appointed advocate that our family had no intention of pursuing a lawsuit or being represented at the driver’s day in court.   The driver’s public notice in the local newspaper made visible the power of my mother’s charitable heart and the healing act of forgiveness with his words, “Although Bertha’s family forgave me of this tragic mishap, I will forever have nightmares and regrets of this event for the rest of my life.” When I read the notice I could pray, not for myself, but as my mother would have,  “Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, assist the driver with his last agony.” 

Friday, November 29, 2013

Thanksgiving, 2013

My kids informed early in November that they'd both be traveling to Boise to be with their Dad for Thanksgiving.  The news brought a little anxiety to my peaceful heart because I'd never been without one of them on this traditional family day.  I soon discovered that most of my brothers and sisters would be enjoying the week with their families in a variety of places, far from home.
Connie and Garry made their annual visit to the Oregon Coast
Karen joined Zeke,  AnnMarie, Kennedy, Taylor, and Johnson friends in Jamaica
Where there is warm water, Karen will get in!
Don and Dena enjoyed a week in Hawaii with their children and grandchildren.
Thanks to this group of social media experts, I enjoyed their days via Facebook.
How many families have the perfect number of children, spouses, boy and girls friends for a pyramid?
Marilyn and Dan got some special time with Carter in Seattle.

I jumped for joy when Larry invited me to spend the day with Holly, the kids, and Grandpa Bob.  I realized how healing it must've been for them to reach out since holidays are painful without Holly's mom, Margie.  And, God, blessed our region with good weather, so Joan was able to make the trip to Lewiston, despite a few miles of intense fog!  
We started our day by visiting the Festival of Trees!
Maureen, we took this picture for you, just in case you'd like to have an M&M tree someday!

We so enjoyed our visit with the Kop kids, Bree, Jordan, and Grandpa Bob.  Joan engaged him in conversation about his family history and Larry brought out a Goodall history book for us to look through.  Kyle and Kole chatted with us about dogs, vitamins, healthy foods, and music!  Kole's senior project involves electronic music.  We got a great tour of his room and the history behind all the guitars.

It looks like a simple device with lots of buttons on it, but I think it's a complicated electronic music machine.  Kole intends to use it as part of his senior project.
Kyle and his girlfriend, Bree, told us all about healthy dog food and healthy people food.  Joan did not recognize Kyle's dog, Rocco, who has lost 30 pounds!  Kyle and Bree take him for long walks and ensure portion control for all his meals.  The kids shared their gratitude, in prayer form, and I loved the way they prayed for Katilyn, who is absent this Thanksgiving, and for Kyle, because he was present this year.  We outsiders, Joan, myself, Bree, and Jordan, offered prayers of gratitude to be included in the family celebration.  Joan also mentioned her gratitude for health insurance!!!
Larry's great turkey, cooked on the Traeger Grill
Grandma Kopczynski's orange rolls
We didn't even make a dent in the snacks offered before the turkey.
Zippity entertained us off and on throughout the day!
This new kitty is quite comfortable in the middle of Holly's sewing projects.  She's been making blankets for Helping Hands Pet Rescue out of the cutest, warmest flannel possible.
After the great dinner, Larry joined us at Locomotive Park.  Joan had not been there for several years and we both acted like children admiring the lights and listening to the music.  The LED lights really show off the handiwork of hundreds of volunteers.  
We finished off the three days by doing a little Black Friday shopping at Macy's!  The bargains tempted us with warm fleece and pretty sweaters.  Joan should be all set to stay warm with new pi's and fleece jackets.  Larry joined us for breakfast and we continued to share our blessings…  Joan said to me, "I had so much fun at Larry's house…I loved the animals.  The cats are affectionate and the dogs playful and entertaining."  She's already thinking of getting a dog when she retires!  It was a different holiday without my children and grands, but I felt the warmth and affection of my extended family.  God blessed my time with Joan - we rarely spend time together - just the two of us.  We watched a few movies, ate sausage and sauerkraut, and counted our blessings over and over again.