Summer Hiking

Summer Hiking
Mt. Constitution

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Christmas celebration

Oh, how I love the Christmas season!  The music, cards, letters, decorations, and the preparations, feasting, baking, and anticipating precious family time.  However, I do not enjoy shopping for gifts or even thinking about the perfect gift for my small family because it seems to cause me stress and un-needed anxiety.   My kids have embraced alternative gift giving for four years now and it seems to take away some stress for them too.  The eight of us draw names and find some sort of theme to guide our gift giving.  We've done thrift store gifts, T-Shirts, and this year we agreed to buy hats for each other.  Here are a few memories courtesy of Duane's photos.

 Anne and Bradleigh bought the same knitted pony-tail hat for each other!
Hard hat for John with lots of personalized stickers
We spent some time recalling some favorite or memorable Christmases/gifts
Theresa:  1958 when my Mom was in bed with Rheumatic Fever and Santa Claus delivered gifts to all eight kids, including new handmade clothes for all the dolls.  We kids got to decorate the tree and thought it was gorgeous with spray-on snow!
Duane:  1980 - one of the first Apple computers!
Anne:  Sizzler's hot wheels track
Karen:  Tears to go along with the gift of Tree Crabs
Bradleigh - Laughter and giggles opening the thrift store gifts
Jake:  The fake gifts hidden in IPAD and IPhone boxes
Colin:  No way to fake the Hockey Stick gift

And, we piled non-perishable food into a huge gift bag and donated it to the local food bank to remember those in our community who are hungry.
Next year we may have to insist that we wear our T-shirts and hats to our party!
Duane spent time trying to get cute pictures of the dogs, Odie and Boomer

 I love Christmas morning at my house, watching the family open their gifts for each other!  They come up with the best ideas, such as a case of toothpaste for Duane
Odie socks for Colin
Colin got super excited about an old fashioned keyboard, one that makes clicking sounds!
New doorbell device to call the family to dinner!
And I got a lovely heart indicating I'm the World's Best Grandma!  It doesn't get much better than that!   Feeling grateful for the best gift of all - my sweet family!

Sunday, December 24, 2017

What is Christmas all about?

What is Christmas all about?  It’s such a deep question, I had to contact Google to find out.  And, of all people, it turned out to be Linus, one of the Peanuts characters, who said it best. Here’s the link:  

It takes about one minute for Linus to recite the biblical story and explain the tidings of great joy!  Why do I spend so much time and energy recalling the birth of a baby?  I guess it’s because I hope something will change in me…..perhaps my heart will be open to God’s incredible love on this one silent night….  Or I’ll recognize the modern tidings of great joy in my rather simple life!
My brother, Don, made bread for all his siblings this year.  He’s the best baker in the family and used my sister, Carole’s recipe.  I always hang her heart creation in my kitchen.  It seems fitting that her presence continues to bring me tidings of great joy, along with Don's bread.  

I complained to my brother, Larry, that one of my favorite Christmas CD’s that he’d made for me had so many scratches on it, I couldn’t listen to it, so this week he brought me a new one with all my favorite Christmas songs  - another example of music tidings of great joy! And, then he took a photo of my little cottage, sent it to my family titled, "Mrs. Santa Claus at her workshop."  Larry loves Christmas, still evident by the incredible display of lights at Locomotive Park in Lewiston.  

He received this note via EMail from the Lewiston Parks & Recreation:
Thank you to the Parks and Rec and all those who may have coordinated the music, lights, etc. and who were responsible for the Christmas fantasyland.  As weary travelers, we could not have been more thrilled with your city; so much so, we had dinner and spent the night so we would spend more time aimlessly meandering through the display.

You brought great pleasure to us as I am sure you have with many others.  Our sincere thank you for the hours and hours of work you put into this endeavor.  We can only hope that one day, we will again pass through Lewiston.  I must add, those we met who were from your area, were wonderfully friendly and ever so pleasant.  I think we found utopia!!

Happy Holidays to all of you, and again our sincere thanks! Warmest regards, 
Cynthia and Stephanie

Connie and I delivered several Trees of Hope and spread lots of tidings of great joy.  I love the note from a parishioner at All Saints....
And this note from a friend who lost his spouse months ago.
"Theresa: Thank you for the very thoughtful Christmas tree you delivered to my office. It is on display and this meant the world to me. Going through this first Christmas season without Vicki has been very hard."

I get to help my Moscow family bake cookies every year - we make two kinds, Grandma's frosted sugar cookies and a family favorite - chocolate mint cookies.  These cookies bring great joy to our neighbors and the homebound seniors I visit every week.

Several years ago I helped the O'Shaugnessey grand kids make wall hangings for their parents.  Great joy filled this grandma when I noticed them in the hallway of my daughter's home.  

            Last week my sister, Joan, invited Karen and me to her house to visit with our 96-year old aunt, Maxine Kopczynski.  She and Uncle Bernard travelled to China three different times and she wanted to hear our stories and how the country has changed since she last visited there.  We were amazed at her recall and opinions about the once closed communist country.  She has two adopted Chinese granddaughters….girls who were abandoned during the one-child policy, when boys babies were favored.  Maxine also delighted us with her courageous stories of following her new husband to California, where he endured several months of basic training while she lived alone in an apartment off base.  She appeared to be fearless in those years….  I walked into her home of 70 years and she hugged me tightly.  I left offering a prayer that I might have a niece or two willing to visit me when I’m 96! We each received a gift of the famous Davenport peanut butter peanut brittle.  I'm filled with candy tidings of great joy everytime I indulge in a little taste.

Marilyn's daughter, Karlee, is home for Christmas this year.  She's holding her brother's new puppy, Ancel.  I think we elders experience great joy when our adult children come back home!  I helped Marilyn and Dan haul up boxes of Christmas decorations form the basement and then I watched patiently  put each precious ornament in just the right spot on their tree.  Their house proclaims those great tidings of great joy to all who visit them during the Christmas season.  The grandchildren and Seattle kids will be there for the weekend too.  She's still busy making chex mix and peanut brittle.  Other tidings of great joy:  Karlee and John are getting married in July, 2018!!!

I love to send a Christmas package, filled with homemade treats, catnip and "mice" for his cat,  to my nephew, Levi.  Joy filled my heart when I received his gift in the mail, along with these sweet words, "I noticed all the love in your package.  I got a much needed hair cut with the money and I'm sure Alaska, the cat, will enjoy the catnip you sent for him."  I will continue to experience joy whenever I enjoy a cup of this great tea.

Here's a story that shows how the Cottonwood community brought tidings of great joy to a family of eight kids and the Mamma in the hospital with Rheumatic fever:
 Don and I had a brief conversation early on Tuesday morning after noticed this picture on my bookshelf.  The family celebrated his third birthday and our neighbor came to take the picture.  You might notice our mom is wearing a bathrobe.  Don said, “mom told me it was the first time she’d been out of bed for two months.”  Our Mom contracted Rheumatic Fever in the fall of 1958, spent several weeks in the hospital and I think she came home just one week before Christmas.  We kids had Christmas that year – new clothes under the tree, dolls dressed in new, handmade dresses.  I think Christmas happened that year because of the relationships our parents had with relatives and friends in Cottonwood.  Mom and Dad had no magic formula but they encouraged us to spend time together.  Larry told me the “little kids” used to wait by the window, anticipating the moment we older kids would drive into the driveway.  Mom connected us over the years with letters and phone calls.  She taught us, by her example, how to give back to the community that supported our family that Christmas.  She sought out the lonely, the alcoholics, the troubled kids, and the elders in nursing homes.  We all learned to be giving people and to work at staying connected to each other. 
We made the effort to have lunch with each other at the Davenport Hotel earlier this month.  Joan even took a day off work to join us.  We missed Allan and Maureen, but felt connected because Joan had sent them candy from the Davenport!  

And, we have to celebrate these tidings of great joy from Allan and Lisa on December 13:
Hi everyone,
 I thought you would like to know that Jessica had her interview today, and her visa is approved!!! They will be able to pick it up at a local bank in a week or 2. Once she has her visa, then they can schedule their flight back to California. Once they are back in California, they will be able to reschedule their wedding. We're thinking that it may be in February. We will keep you posted on that!
Thank you for all of your prayers! We appreciated them!

Just like Linus, it takes my niece, Grace, to explain what Christmas is all about.  Here's her Christmas list:
Such simple requests, to love, to be happy, to remember the poor.  

My current Nativity on the left and my first one on the right, now in Anne and Duane's home!

I often found it quite a challenge to find the tidings of great joy during the past month.  Words like divorce, anxiety, death, fear, Trump, taxes, immigration, fires, cancer, Hospice, blood clots, glioblastoma, Christmas alone, radiation, poverty, foster homes, Alzheimer's, addiction, mental illness, conflict, and surgery gave me reason to despair and fill my heart with darkness.  This Christmas Even, when I reflect on all these tidings of great joy, I find reason to be hopeful.  Those little gifts give me hope that my heart became more aware of the LOVE that drives everything.  I'm eagerly anticipating this silent night when God became one of us, just as He promised!  I pray that His LOVE shows brilliantly for all to see!  Merry Christmas.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

The faces of China

Here's another gem of a quote from J. Philip Newell found in Joyce Rupp's Book:

                In the morning light, O God, may I glimpse again
                your image deep within me,
                the threads of glory woven into the fabric of every man and woman.
               Again, may I catch sight of the mystery of the human soul
               fashioned in your likeness, deeper than knowing,
               more enduring than time. 

The mystery of the Chinese people grabbed our attention every day.  Christine engaged them by taking their pictures, hugging, doing sign language and laughing with them.  My sister, Karen, observed that we oogle and stare at them as if they were in a zoo.  Sometimes I put my camera away, thinking I might be intruding on their private and mysterious space, devoid of English conversation.  Now, when I look back at the pictures I can see the threads of glory woven into their tired and wrinkled faces.  I also see joy and happiness in their smiles, despite the hardships and strenuous work.  The children's faces drew us to them, many were shy, but a few offered smiles after we presented balloons and hair clips to them.  Such a mystery, this huge population, obeying the laws of the government by having only one child.... 

These pictures all speak for themselves and need no written words to uncover the mystery in their souls.

Kelly's baby

 Pounding the dyed indigo

 cotton cloth; gathering the cloth for the indigo dye bath. 

Weaving trim for local dress.  To the right, a woman thrashing rice by stomping on it with her feet.

 Woman on the right cutting up scraps of fabric - maybe to make shoes.
Minority people at the Stone Forest.

 Maker of Rice Wine

 Maker of Coffins - permanently stooped!
Women always sit on tiny stools!!

Shy boy & Danian cook's happy grandson

The crafters, weaving cloth and fine embroidery
 This little cutie walked all the way from her school to her home village with us.  She wanted to know how to say our names and we were amazed at her English pronunciation!

The faces depict minority people, old and young, who work hard and smile big!  Some were blind, others without teeth, some with crooked backs and un-cut hair, some were creative, others content to sit and be present to grandchildren.  I was disappointed that I could not have conversations with them, but the looks on their faces spoke volumes in strange and mysterious ways.  

What a privilege to be here on the planet to contribute a unique donation to humankind. Each face in the rainbow of colors that populate our world is precious and special.
Morris Dees