Me: "Who has the best seat in the house, me or daddy?"

Adam: "Well, Daddy's is nice, but yours is best. Your's is squishier."

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Don't Wait Until Dark



We just passed the year mark of having moved into this house, and I have been waiting to climb to the lookout.  Not waiting as in, "I can't wait, get the sunblock and repellent!", more like, "Um, yah, that sounds like fun, but maybe after I finish cleaning..." (bwahahaha!  Has any mother ever finished cleaning?).  The kids said it was an easy hike, except for the parts that are hard, but that's just at the beginning and a little in the middle, and the pine needles are a bit slippery, but you can just slide down on your butt.  That was a motivating little pep talk.  While we're at it, why don't we get a root canal?

But with the weather warming, the sun hanging around past dinner time, and with it having been a whole year without my ever having gone, I had run out of excuses.  So, one recent evening I asked Guy if he'd like to go on a walk with me.  He was what I call happy-hesitant.  Guy has to "buffer" for a little bit before he can shift gears and add something unplanned to the day.  When he was finished buffering, we threw on shoes and sweaters and set out ambitiously on "a family walk"; Guy and I, Tessa, Jonah and little Nano, the other kids being off on adventures of their own.


We walked the old pioneer road just on the other side of the creek, and when we hit the trail head where it departs from the road, I stood at the bottom of a rather steep incline with a little trepidation.  I have an old-for-me condition (back in the day it was called condromalacia, which, in Latin means "Crunchy, Owie Knees".  My doctor informs me the diagnosis has changed.  The crunching has not).  This crazy three story tree house, with my dad's place and the laundry at the bottom, and our bedroom at the top, has woken up a sleeping dragon, and my bendy-bits are starting to really complain at me, and I have never quite gotten my balance back since the blood clots.

But I HATE being dictated to by crabby body parts.  "Let's do it!" I told the gang, and started charging up the slope.  (And by charging, I mean carefully picking my way up the pine-needle covered hill).  My sweetie, who usually does things at his own pace, chose to hang close to me, his hand often reaching for my lower back to steady me on the steeper parts of the trail.  I have to say, though I am an independent chick, feeling his protective hand on my back was my very favorite part of the hike.


After the initial billy-goating up a pretty gnarly incline (ask Natalie, it was Everest.  She even stopped trotting a few times), things leveled out a skoach, and the walk was lovely.  The path widened to a fire road, and we easily made our way up the last rise.  We reached the crest of the hill in only about 20 minutes and the view that awaited us there was glorious.


The hills in every direction were awash with dusky pastels; pinks and blues and grey-greens.  It was stunning.  We could not only see Jackson, Sutter Creek, and further off, Ione, we could even see the tall buildings of Downtown Sacramento, well over an hour away.  The Littles gathered wildflowers in small mounds, free to pick as many as they liked, while Guy and I pointed out familiar sights from our surprising new vantage point.  Soon, the sun began it's slow but steady dip below the horizon, the deep pumpkin colored orb creeping away behind a low purple cloud that hugged the horizon, until it went from a slice, to a sliver, to a vanishing glowing speck.  We paused for a comforting breath and sigh, and then sort of reverently gathered ourselves, our wild flowers and walking sticks, and headed for the trail.




As we headed back down the trail, I was surprised at how suddenly the path had dimmed.  Guy and I pretended we were sure we would get back before dark, just to extend the children's fading bravery a few minutes more.  But it was a farce.  Before we were halfway home, we were struggling, and by the time we could see the distant lights of our windows across the creek, we could no longer see our own feet.  Jonah and Natalie went from questions, to whimpers, to tears.  I started to sing silly songs, and it helped for a bit, until Guy mentioned a little too loudly that because of the dark he maybe wasn't quite sure of the way to the shrub-encrusted path across the creek.  Tears became morose wails that we were NEVER going to find out way home, EVER, and we were for SURE going to be lost in the woods all night, and maybe get gobbled up by a bear and diiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiie! 

The moon began to come over the ridge, and though only a quarter, threw just enough light to completely freak the kidlets out, and we were still a ways from the house.  I tried to convince them that the moon was kindly lighting our way, and look!  We could see our own shadows!

More wails!

"It's scary!  I hate this!  Are there bears?"

Tess, much to the relief of all, finally located the hidden trail leading to the house.  Jonah bellowed that he was NEVER going to hike to the lookout again...ever!  We stumbled down the hillside and bumbled across the creek.  The last 100 yards before the house, it's path well worn by the kids own feet, gave The Little's the security to open up and tell us how they REALLY felt.  I'll spare you.

I'll admit that the house felt very warm and inviting when we opened the door.  I sat with Jonah boy and Nano on the couch and listened to the epic story of our near demise.  Then I got up to make quesadillas and cocoa, which heals all wounds.

*****

I wish I could say the rest of the night got better. 
 Not so much.  
Other stuff happened that night that is unblogable, 
and some things can't be fixed with cocoa and cheese, but that's parenting.






Friday, May 18, 2018

It's Personal


Tonight we made our last journey through the swiftly shifting springtime-green turning summer-gold hills, on our way home from Adam's last track meet.  I know I have posted a lot about these meets, but there is something sort of sad and sweet about the whole thing, and it steps me away from my daily chores of cooking and laundry, and makes me sit still and focus very hard on just one thing; this child.  Even if only for a few seconds.

Adam is the first of our 3 oldest, very introverted children to step out of the shadows for the sake of a thrill, despite the necessary annoyance of a crowd.  A few years back he told us that he doesn't actually like running...he likes winning!  I was blown away by the news.  Who would work for all of those hours, week-in and week-out, for that chance, at the risk of a fall, injury and a tenth-of-a-second defeat?  I have rolled it around in my mind a dozen ways, but it still doesn't compute.

In fact, there is one aspect that I have never understood about runners, or anyone who competes in a sport where one tenth - or one one-hundredth, no less - of a second could mean the difference between success and the loss of a dream.  When I make art, I spend as much time as I need, as much as it takes, to get the end result that I want (or until I'm sick of it and hide it in a cupboard).  In some cases (embarrassingly) that has taken years.  But once the art is done, I know... I KNOW... exactly what I am getting.  Even when I sing in front of an audience, I get about 3 minutes to try to squeak out my best effort.  If it were up to a dozen or so seconds of my performance, right next to 7 other singers singing their hearts out... well, my comparison is falling apart here, but you get the idea.  Imagine, everything you care about, all that you've worked for, coming down to a few moments in time.

This race, though, was different.  It was .18 seconds different, but not in the way that wins any medals.  As Adam crossed the finish line in 6th place, passing a boy who, were it not for the fact that he lay on the ground, would have pushed Adam to 7th, my usual chant of "Go son!  First place!" was replaced with "Not last!  Please not last!"  He crossed the finish with two others in tow, and then turned to look at the timing board. 

"Hands in the air!"  Ellie cheered, "That means he PR-ed!"

Translation:  Adam has two moves after he crosses the finish line.  The first is his reaction to his placing, smiles, maybe a jump or a high-five, perhaps a head hung low.  The second is reserved for the special moment when he sees that he has achieved his PR, his Personal Record, the very best he has ever done.

And tonight, that was 16.77 seconds.
And he is joyful
and proud, 
and we are so happy for him.
Because you can't be disappointed when you have done
 your hands-in-the-air, 
very best.


And the bottom line is, out of all the kids at 43 schools from 20 counties, 
my kid was SIXTH.

That means, in the zombie apocalypse,
 Adam will DEFINITELY be just fine.  

*****

(Ellie made Adam a cookie bouquet, 
because that is what awesome sisters do
for a brother who could outrun a zombie horde.)



Friday, May 11, 2018

A Handful of Pearls


Adam did his very, very best.  
His best took second place in both his events.
During warm ups we had noticed that Adam wasn't out there doing drills.  I told Guy he seemed subdued.  It turns out he was nursing a pulled muscle and was in pain.  

Ice, arnica, pain relief gel. 
Rest
 and then race.

He didn't mind the first "second place"; it was more or less expected.  
That 110 guy was lightning fast, and a humble-ish winner. 

 But the second race,
 *sigh*,
 and Thor;
his gloating, drop-to-the-ground victory celebration, 
 and the pulled muscle...

The second "second" killed him.

After Guy and I got home at the end of this very long day, we talked about how Adam has been all season.  Really, almost every race in high school track experience, but especially this year, baring "the fall", he has been in first place.  But as far as the league is concerned, 
a second today means Second. Period.

As we talked about Adam's string of wins over the last five years, sprinkled with a scant few losses, it reminded me of a string of natural pearls.  Pearls are not perfect.  Some are more lovely than others.  Even within the same oyster, one pearl may be nearly flawless, while another nearby is merely simple and even unimpressive.  They are only compared to one another when placed side by side, and the line up is usually somewhat arbitrary.  What if they were cut from the string, and held in a cupped hand, all together in no certain order?  In that hand, those most beautiful, flawless ones are glorious, simply because they are.

*****

Isn't it interesting how we look at life so linearly.  We take each win or loss in the order they are fed to us by the conveyor belt of life.  Isn't it sad that, if after a string of mostly successes, we are not quite able to quite reach that high once more in the final moments, we feel we have failed?

I was blessed to learn the gift of taking life out of line when little Nano was born.  As a childbirth doula who has valued the gift of natural birth very highly, it was beyond challenging, after a cesarean and four home births, to have endured another cesarean under general anesthesia.  Me, - the woman who put all of her energy into making sure a mother's birth was the sacred experience she desired, that the first precious bonding moments between her and her newborn were always private and uninterrupted-  I was unconscious for the first half hour of Natalie's life.  My most idyllic birth, ironically, was Adam's.  My second. Talk about out of order.

It took some time before I realized this simple truth.  We own all of our lessons; all of our joys, all of our losses, and all of our victories, no matter what order they come in. 

***** 
Adam came home a bit ago, and I was surprised by the lilt in his step.  When we asked him how he was doing, his answer came simple and pure.

"I'm good, I'm really good."

We talked for almost an hour, and learned that Thor is suspected of cheating, but since it was not seen by officials, he was not disqualified.  Instead of being disappointed, Adam felt better.  He said, "Its like you and Dad said, I did my very best, and I ran a clean, honest race."
No regrets.

He sees his achievements, his hard work and dedication, and the value of each on their own merits.  He is proud of his work ethic, and glad for the friends he has made and the coaches who have taught him so much.  When he looks back, he sees all the good, even in the losses.

A beautiful handful of pearls.

Thursday, May 10, 2018

The dude can fly


This amazing boy is so dedicated, so focused, so... fast.  It's not just because he's my boy.  I mean, he is, and I am as proud as a mama could be, but also... this dude can FLY! 

Earlier this season Adam took a misstep.  It started in the first race when he felt like he could have pushed harder, could have given it just that much more.  So in his second race he pulled out all the stops.  ALL OF THEM.  The 300 hurdles race is 3/4 of a lap, with 8 hurdles spread along the track.  Adam had a lead over the next two runners, but not by much.  As he flew at the last hurdle with all he had, something made him leap just a moment too soon, and with that early jump came an early landing, just inches before he cleared the hurdle.  His leg came down against the hurdle, and he entangled for a moment in it before spilling over the top and pounding into the ground.  He rolled on the ground just feet away from the finish line, and, as the runners just behind him overtook first and second place, Adam saw how close he was to the line.  He rolled again, crossing the finish line on the ground, in a very disappointing third place.  The fourth place runner had to literally jump one more hurdle; Adam. I burst into mother-tears.

And with that, Adam lost to his rival, a boy we call Thor, due to his Superhero-like looks and long blond hair.  Thor gloated in an over-the-top celebration dance, only feet away from where Adam still lay on the ground.  Guy was a timer on the finish line, and ran to make sure Adam was not badly hurt.  Adam caught his breath bent over, then stood and accepted a hug from his dad, which brought out his own tears, but I think that only his dad and I knew.  To those outside that embrace, it might just have looked like loving support.

Adam came to me next, at my trusty post by the fence at the finish line.  He slumped himself into my arms, and with a trembling voice, said, "I had it, Mom.  It was mine, and I blew it."  My heart broke a thousand times.

He approached the next race with trepidation.  The fall had gotten under his skin, and it showed in a second-place finish.  Over the next few weeks, he gained back his confidence and worked on his weaknesses, and took several first place wins in his two events.  Which brings us to yesterday. 

Yesterday Adam ran in the league trials and took first place in the 300 and second in the 110 (not a disappointment, because the boy who took first has rockets for feet).  But his greatest thrill was the fact that the boy who took second in the 300 was none other than Thor.

*****

Finals are tomorrow.  
Adam will be going up against Thor 
at least one more time.

Let's hope he can fly.


Saturday, May 5, 2018

A Simple Means of Disposal


A note to my readers:  Today you will fall into two camps; The "I-Nevers" and the "We Had One of Those".  Hence, this post will be received in two COMPLETELY different frameworks.  You I-Nevers (of which I am, also) will be shocked and appalled.  Disgusted, perhaps.  You W.H.O.O.T.s (We Had One of Those) will think I am making a mountain out of a slightly smelly molehill.  You will try to tell me not to worry.  You will say YOU never had any problems with yours  (Oh, but wait! a whole bunch MORE of you will say you did have trouble once in a while.  Which is it, people?!)

So here we go.

Once upon a time, cave men decided pooping in their cave was not especially lovely.  Maybe it was the smell, maybe the flies, maybe seeing little Tronk Jr. walking around with a cave-truffle in his fist was losing it's charm.  In any case, one day a cave mom, we'll call her Grunka, said, "From now on, everybody poops outside!"  Of course, to Tronk and Tronk Jr, that meant 2 feet from the cave entrance.  Grunka then clarified, "Away from the cave.  And for good measure, bury it!"

Fast forward several million years, when Somebody said, "I know what we can do with all the poop! Let's bury a big tank just upwind of the house.  It won't hold much, but that's okay, we will count on the magic of nature to "break down" the "solids"  (read "eat" and "poop").  And then once every few years someone will come along and suck the muck out of the thing.  Done and Done.  It will be awesome."

Somebody's Wife said, "Fine for the "solids", but if I do laundry, wash dishes and bathe a few kids, that thing is gonna overflow."

"Not to worry!"  said Somebody, "That's all part of the plan!  See, we'll get these LOOOONG pipes with holes all up and down them, and we will bury them in the ground!  The "excess liquid" will just drain off under the yard underground."

Somebody's Wife looked skeptical.  Um, is he really saying we let the poo-water drain off into the yard?  she asked herself.  Under the yard, he would have corrected.  Same difference, she would have grimaced.

There was some ridiculous blah-blah about microorganisms cleaning the runoff up before it heads out into the world.  But all she hears is "underground poo-water pond".

And thus, my dear I-Nevers, was born what is still known today as "The Septic System".  You can describe it in fancier terms, and produce all the science to explain why burying a poop-tank in the yard works well, and why draining poo-water into the yard is not problematic, but all I hear is cave-man talk.

*****
When we were looking at this house as potential buyers, I didn't bat an eye when they said the house had a "septic system".  I had heard those words my whole life, and it was like the ol' grocery store choice of paper or plastic; baring any ethical concerns, it's just a different way of doing things.

Well, it gets a little more involved once you become the proud owner of a subterranean poop-tank. First, you can't see it, because some bozo BURIED IT.  You get a little hand drawn map of where it supposedly is, more-or-less, kinda-sorta located.  Because everyone knows that approximations are the hall mark of excellent planning.

Then you go online to learn about it.

First, you learn that though a poop-tank only needs to be pumped out every 3-5 years with "normal" use.  Not bad I guess, til you stumble on a chart that says, oh, no darling, not 3-5 years!  You are a family of  nine, so try every 14 months.

Next, you learn that you have to budget your water usage.  Yes, the little germ-ies like to eat the fecal nibblets that come down the pike, but they can only handle so much water at a time.  Yes, ma'ams and sirs, they get full tummies.  Too much water (even the nice sort-of clean stuff like laundry and shower water) can overwhelm the system and stop the process, causing it to... GUM UP WITH BLACK SLIME!  In other words, poo-water stays poo-water.  AAAANNNNDDD... if the "Leach Field" (that's the underground poo-water pond) gets overwhelmed, the water begins to surface, converting the field into a poo-water marsh.  Good times.

(Que peppy music:)

Time for a little math lesson!...
9 people x 1-10 minute shower each at 2 gallons a minute = 180 gallons of water
2 loads of laundry a day at 13 gallons of water per load = 26 gallons of water
2 loads of dishes at 4 gallons a load, plus another 2 gallons for rinsing = 10 gallons of water
9 pairs of hands being washed (hopefully!) after every potty break, averaging 6 visits per day = 13+ gallons of water
54 potty daily breaks at 4 gallons a flush with these old toilets = 216 gallons
Food prep and sundry uses, I don't know, maybe 5-10 gallons a day?

That's about 450 gallons of water a day, folks!!!!

Now, we are gross, so I only bathe the Littles about twice (which means once) a week or when they are crusty, and in the summer let the creek do the rest.  A few of us don't shower EVERY day, and one or two un-named souls have to be forced into the shower at gunpoint, BUT, those who do shower seldom keep it under 10 minutes.  So knock the shower number in half, that still puts us in the range of 350 gallons a day.

 Last, and my absolute most favorite, we read that the Leach Field must be kept clear of vegetation.  Roots can go down and crawl through the holes in the pipes, blocking them up (OR the black slime can also clog it in reaction to the roots; which is great cuz' it's always nice to have more than one choice for how your system will fail).  The awesome water, upon reaching the pipes and finding them impassable, decides to call it a day and head back home, YOUR home.  It finds the lowest toilet, tub or shower, and creates a whole new marsh, right there, in your house.  That's right.  Poo-Water-Opolis.

*****
We are blessed with awesome friends who do not want us to have a bog in our yard, much less the whole downstairs.  In the fall, sweet and hard working Kathy and Wayne came with junior workers in tow to help us clear the leach field.  Clearing a leach field means removing about 60 trees and a dozen holly bushes (think spiky and stubborn), sizes Charlie-Brown-Tree to Smack-You-In-The-Face tall.  They are awesome, we  are grateful, and hopefully,

hopefully...

our poo water will never decide
 to come back home.





Saturday, April 28, 2018

Affiliation

Y.S. Eco Bee FarmsPropolis 1000
You might notice that for the first time in 9 years I have placed ads on my blog.  In an effort to help my family financially, I am bravely stepping out into the internet to explore the possibilities of doing what I love and having it help fill our needs by adding a few affiliate ads.  Any purchase made by folks who click on a link on my blog will earn a little commission for my family.  Not too shabby.

I tried this once before, several years back, when monetizing first became a thing.  I set up my links and excitedly went back to my home page to view the new look.  But the ads that had been posted were of products I don't support or use, and would never endorse.  It was the shortest lived ad campaign ever.  I deleted the ad widget immediately.

Things have changed.  I can now choose the exact products that I myself use and totally trust.  You will see our family's favorite herbs, children's products and other items I have ordered and loved.  Many will be from Amazon because since moving to the boondocks, Amazon has become a lifeline... our very own supply-plane-on-the-Alaskan-fronteer ("De plen! De plen!"), our personal Wells Fargo Wagon ("Yesth it could be...sthomthin' sthpecial, justh for me!!!").  Also, chocolate by mail, am I right?

I hope those few dear readers that I have (you know who you are; the ones who click on my new post within minutes of my having posted it) will not feel betrayed or disappointed.  It's a brave new world, and I need to find a way to work from home.  I'll tell you briefly what I like about some of the products now and then.  So, tune out here, if you like!
****
  So I often share my love of honey bee propolis with my friends.  I use YS Organics Bee Propolis.  Bees create and coat the inside of their hive with this "bee glue" to combat viral, fungal and bacterial growth.  I know bee products like pollen, propolis and honey are being used in other countries to prevent diabetic amputations, and to fight anti-biotic resistant bacteria.  A good start already.

I was born with Gilbert's Syndrome, which makes my bilirubin count high and my immunity low.  I get sick a lot, or used to.  One day when we were all dying of the black plague, I called my midwife to warn her.  "No biggie, I'll just load up on my propolis."  She said.  She taught me about it, and I tried it.  I counted each time I began to feel yucky and then subsequently did not have to take to my sickbed for a week.  After 17 illnesses were skipped, I quit counting, convinced that - for me, at least - this stuff worked.

*SCARY DON'T-SUE-ME DISCLAIMER*  I am no doctor, so  IF you decide to try it, use with caution, follow directions and don't use if you allergic to bees.

I like to take mine with some zinc and vitamin C.  I call it my Magic Elixir.

*****

That wasn't so bad, was it?  This ad thing will be an experiment.  If I don't like it, I will stop again.  Also, if I become ridiculously wealthy and loose my earthy connection to my poor Irish roots, then of course, full stop.  We can't let that happen.

Monday, April 23, 2018

Yes, We're Open!

The very first time we drove down the winding lane and the long, tree shrouded driveway that led to our someday-house, it was only to see if the commute for Guy would be tolerable, if the house was too far away from civilization, and if we could even "see" ourselves living there.  It was late, after sunset, and the wooded lane was sinking into darkness.  Natalie wept, "Dis is scawy, I don't yike it here."  The little voice in my heart-head that protects my children from all harm decided right then and there, if this place scares my baby, we can't possibly consider it.

But somehow that first of first impressions disappeared when I saw the place in the daylight; green slopes and mossy boulders, pines and oaks and deer trails. As possibilities solidified into plans, we began telling people about our new house and I found myself saying, "Well, it's an hour away from Sac, in the woods, but we can be to Walgreens in 20 minutes, and to the nearest little market in about five."  I had to prove to myself, by way of convincing others, that moving this far away from what was familiar was somehow a safe and, dare I say, good idea.  It's like pretending to enjoy green beans so your kid'll try 'em; oldest trick in the book, in reverse.

One of my big worries was that there would be nothing to do here once we settled in.  I pictured Little House on the Prairie, listenin' to Pa' play the fiddle on Saturday nights.  I was looking at harmonicas and wool long-johns on Amazon, and whittling tutorials on Youtube. 
Boy, was I wrong.

I am just amazed at how much happens here.  I think when we lived in the city, we were so surrounded by hustle and bustle that it felt busy.  Sure, we did an occasional gallery hop, or attended a summer concert in the park, but since moving here we have enjoyed so many new experiences.  Small town life is slower, it's true, but it takes itself seriously, and folks are dedicated to their hometown pride in a new and unexpected way.  Shop keepers tell you about their secret swimming hole ("Shhh, don't tell anyone.  This is for locals only," the owner of the antique store had said.  *GRIN*, she called us locals!), neighbors wave as they drive by, and yes, some places will even offer to carry a tab for you.  There are parades of all sorts, and car shows, and craft fairs, and golly, Winthrop, sometimes I feel like I'm in The Music Man.  No joke.

One of our new explorations has been to pick a town (there are about 10 in the area) and stroll the main street (not on Monday... or Tuesday... or sometimes-but-not-always Wednesday, and certainly not after 5pm, or 4 maybe.  Or lunchtime...)

...and wander through shops.  We don't make a day of it, doing a whole street in one go.  We just do a few shops at a time.  Ancient hand-hewn stone buildings that used to be banks or jails are now antique stores or boutiques.  One Monday (oops, we hadn't got the No Mondays memo yet) we took the kids to Jackson to wander down main street, a particular gem/bone/Native American shop in mind, only to find it closed, of course.  Wandering along we looked through picture windows and remarked, "Wow, cool!  We'll have to try to come back to this one..."

I whispered to Guy that I knew there was a candy shop down the way a bit.  He gave me a nod, and we headed there in hopes of an OPEN sign. 

Yay!  Bless you, Train Town Candies!


We told the kids they could get an ice cream or a bit of (slightly pricy though worth it for the ambiance) candy.  It was hard to choose!



The shop keeper told us that this used to be a toy store, specializing in wooden trains, balsa-wood plane kits and other unusual toys and puzzles.  He has every kind of cookie cutter you could possibly Ever Need.  But once the Walmart moved in a few miles up the road, he almost went out of business.  He and his family began making fudge and selling candy to try to stay afloat.  It must be working.  I've been in there three times since our first visit, and there is always a little crowd.


Well, a big crowd, if you include us!


The big boys, busy with big-boy responsibilities, don't usually join us in our wanderings.  I wish they would.  I love marching into a store with all six of my kiddos.

*****  

I told Guy the other day that I am really starting to like it here.  It only took a year.  To be fair though, my new responsibilities have taken time to get the hang of.  Just like an old train, I started out slow and took a while to get my rhythm.  

I think I can.

I think I can.



Tuesday, April 17, 2018

What makes me smile


This.

This makes me smile.

Every stinkin' time.

I don't get excited about a whole lot of technology.  Most of the stuff the kids use kinda' bugs me.  But this here weirdo filter smacks a smile on my pout almost as wide as, well, Ellie's.

It's on my phone's home screen.  
It makes me giggle right out loud sometimes. 
 Out of nowhere.  
I turn on my phone and just...
well...

 look at it! 
Tell me you're not smiling!


*****
Are you a naturally happy person?  I'm not.

  I guess there is fruit that is naturally sweet and other that is just super healthy.  And then there are lemons.  And bread fruit.  Oh, and durian.  I'm not that bad (If you've never had durian, just rub your hand in your armpit and then lick it.  That, my friends, just tasted better than durian).

I'm not sour, really, or nasty.  Bland, maybe.  

One day on my mission my companion and I were walking FOR-E-VAH on a long country road in the Costa Rica heat.  Our supposed destination was much further than we had been lead to believe, and this was back in the day before everyone carried a designer rain barrel full of water everywhere.  

We were parched!  No, way more dry than that.  Crazy dry.  Sahara-mirage-in-the-dessert dry.  Just before the hallucinations set in, we saw a grove of huge trees hanging with some sort of giant citrus fruit.  They were a glowing yellow, and as big as a grapefruit.  We didn't know what they were, and we didn't care.  We ran to the trees and grabbed a low-hanging potential-water-bomb.

I ripped into the flesh with my nails and was blasted by the most intense lemon smell I'd ever experienced.  My dry mouth pointlessly tried watering, but those weird "sour sensors" in the back of my jaw, you know, the ones that make you cringe when you see a baby suck on a pickle (the ones that are tingling right now as you read this), wouldn't give my throat the satisfaction.  I paused, wondering if I could possibly get through the face-punch of acid that was about to come, all for the sake of moisture.  My desperate fingers found the pith to be about an inch thick, and after a struggle, I finally held a much smaller orb of the palest yellow in my hand.  

My eyes watered at the Pledge-like aroma as I pulled off a translucent wedge, and both bravely and desperately, popped it into my mouth, bracing myself for the explosion of eye-squinting and shuddering.

Nothing.

Well, almost nothing.  The slightly dry membrane held what could be likened to very, very watered-down, warm lemonade.  It was so simple and bland that it was perplexing.  My sensory system felt lied to.  Either my nose was broken or my tongue was. 

But otherwise, it sort of did it's job.  Attacking the tree, we downed 3 or 4 apiece, and though we didn't feel quenched, we were held over till we finally reached the next house on the eternal road.  As still-thirsty young missionaries, we were bold, of course, and fearlessly knocked on the ancient wooden door. 

A squat little woman with a bowlegged walk and a dear smile met us at the door.  She wore a print skirt and a different print blouse.  A towel-turned-apron held on for dear life around her plump middle, and exhausted, dusty flats clung to her feet, her ashy, foot skin bulging in complaint. We skipped right over our usual introductions, and asked very frankly, "Pardon, Senora, could you please gift us some water?"  (Yes, that is how you say it in Costa Rica.  Isn't that lovely?).  Her surprise at seeing two American girls a foot taller than she on her porch, with no other motive but thirst, called out the old mother in her, and she did what all good mothers do; she took us to her kitchen.

We sat in a cool-ish, red tile-floored, whitewashed kitchen at a large, plank table, very unlike any place I had seen in my 5 months in the country.  We were presented with two mismatched glasses of, ironically, lemonade.  Sweet and tart, it teased us for having enjoyed the bland water balls in the orchard.  A painfully thin old fellow sat quietly on a chair near the stove, his sun-faded clothes drapped loosely on his leathered skin, and listened as we visited with the little old mother.
And that is all I remember.

All but one thing... we told her of our impromptu harvest (and apologized for taking fruit from what we learned were her trees), and shared our confusion over the strange fruit.

"Limon Dulce!" she told us... sweet lemon.  That's what we had eaten.
The name seemed oddly wrong, but yes, I guess they had been sweet... ever so slightly.  I was just glad I hadn't known the name before tasting them.

*****
So I guess bland isn't a terrible thing.  It's a beginning point, at least.  I'd love to be a cheery strawberry, bright and bold.  Who doesn't smile when they see a strawberry?  Or a peach, just pushing it's way to the front of the happy little fruit parade with is kitten fuzz and it's humorous booty.  You can't have a peach-juice-dripping chin and take yourself too seriously.  Even the banana, though bordering on silly, seems like the comedian of fruit.  It's even shaped like a smile.  But alas, though it will never shine from a well lit stack in a grocery store, a limon dulce will bring comfort in it's own weird, neither particularly spectacular nor disappointing way.  It does the job, though it might need encouragement to bring out a smile.

Encouragement... 
like that funny face
 at the top of the page.




Sunday, February 25, 2018

Knowing Blair


It came like most bad news comes, in a random moment on an otherwise nothing-special day, turning it into one of those days on a short list of days in your life that remake your personal history.

First was the call that something was wrong, and 12 hours later, Blair was gone.  His day had begun like most, with breakfast and busy tasks, and then he sat down on the sofa and his sweet little heart stopped.  

 I don't know why I have suddenly begun calling him Blair.  For 23 years and 2 months he has been "Dad".  I started calling him Dad when Guy and I became engaged.  It was an easy shift.  Blair was a cheerful, spunky little guy with boundless energy.  He had lots of stories, and always met me with a smile and a hug.  I actually got to know him in little doses in the halls of the church over a few years.  I knew him a long time before I fell in love with his son.  I remember just at the beginning of my relationship with Guy, before we were even sweeties, Blair and I stood chatting in the hall at church when Guy came up and casually joined in.  His familiarity with Blair sort of surprised me, until I realized this was his son.  Bonus points for Guy.  Great genes.

And now, after 23 years in this family, a proud member of the Holman clan, I thought I knew Blair.  But I didn't. 

Guy and I were given the opportunity to help with Blair's Eulogy.  We were sent a few paragraphs prepared by Blair's brother, Doyle.  And to be honest with you, Blair himself pretty much wrote the rest.  Guy found Blair's life history that,, sadly, we had not gotten around to reading yet.  Gosh, I wish I had.  In reading it, I had so many questions.  I learned so much.  I had NO IDEA what an amazing person this tiny man was.  A-MA-ZING.

And I want to share him with all of you.

This was Blair.
But to me, 
he was Dad.

*****

The Eulogy of Blair C Holman - Given by Doyle Holman at Blair’s Funeral on February 12th, 2018

Blair C Holman was born January 27, 1931 in Sugar City, Madison County, Idaho, the second of eight children, to Darwin Rider and Ethel Ellen Gardner Holman.  He was blessed on May 3, 1931 and baptized on May 6, 1939.  His siblings were: his older brother Max, Lueen, myself, Larry, Deanna, Viola and little Brenda, who passed away at age three.  As a family we were sealed to our parents on September 25, 1946.

Blair attended elementary school in Sugar City and went to Sugar Salem High School, where he was Junior class president, the 1949 Student Body President, and competed on the debate team.  I remember the box full of topics he had prepared, so that when called up to debate a subject, he was always ready.  As the school served a large farming community, Blair was a proud “Beetdigger”.  During High School, he played many sports, including track, baseball and basketball, sometimes running directly from one practice to the next.  But he really shined in football.  Yes, he was quite small in his #1 jersey, but he was featured in the newspapers for the amount of yardage he ran every time they gave him the ball.  When people couldn't understand how it was possible, he replied, “When you have those big tough farmers on the line and they open up a hole big enough to drive a mac truck through, it's easy to run up yardage.”   It didn’t hurt that he only weighed 115 lbs and could slip between the other players easily. They won the sixth district championship two years in a row, once with a score of 378 to 59!  That year the students danced down main street in celebration.  Blair lettered in both football and track, and was the fastest runner on the track team his senior year.  But little known to most, he was also in the Thespian Club, and acted and was on the crew of a few plays and even an opera, and for a spell even took up the saxophone.  He was a true Renaissance Man.

As a youth, Blair was a hard worker.  He built a few muscles on his uncle’s farm weeding sugarbeets, and would sometimes help his father to finish his mail route after harsh winter storms.  He worked in the fields in the fall, and at the cheese factory in the summer.  Of that job, he said, “I didn’t date much during these summers because the smell of making cheese would get into your system and it was hard to get the smell out.  We didn’t have cologne to cover up the smell!”  One summer he worked herding turkeys on the sand dunes, where the boys lived in a tent and would take the turkeys out each morning to scrounge for crickets.  Blair reflected, “This was probably the worst job I did during my lifetime.”  Perhaps it was because the boys would gobble up their week’s worth of food too quickly, and he always felt hungry.  In high school, and at only 115 pounds, Blair worked as the potato bagger on the back of his uncle’s combine, bagging 2000 - 85 lb sacks of potatoes a day.  Usually a job for a grown man, after Blair undertook the task, it became common practice in their area for a youth to operate the bagger.  

Blair attended Ricks College in Rexburg for 3 semesters on a scholarship for prospective teachers, where he dove into sports once more, winning the 125 lb. wrestling and boxing championship.  He was endowed in the Idaho Falls Temple on January 3, 1951 in preparation to fulfill his mission call to The British Isles Mission, which included all of England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland.  He entered the Mission home in Salt Lake City and was set apart as a missionary by Spencer W. Kimball.  He had the amazing privilege of traveling to and from England aboard the famous luxury ship, The Queen Mary.   While on his mission, a sister in the ward where he was serving was organizing a choir, and insisted that Elder Holman join.  He tried to tell her that he couldn't sing, but she believed that everyone is capable of singing, so he went to the practice.  Fairly soon, she told him that he didn't have to be in the choir, after all!  Blair asked why she had insisted he be in the choir, and she replied that since he had legs like a canary, she thought he must sing like one, too.

Blair was drafted into the Army after his mission, and was stationed at Fort Lewis in Washington.  Though it was from 1953-1955 and during the Korean War, he counted it as a huge blessing that he was never sent to Korea.  In fact, he was one of three returned missionaries who were the only soldiers in their divisions not to be sent to fight. In his life history, Blair said, “The best thing that happened to me in the military was finding my sweetheart and wife of these many years”.  While stationed in Washington, Blair first saw a pretty, 16 year old redhead named Myrna at the Olympia Ward.  Some time later he asked Myrna out for a date to the stake dance in Tacoma, however on the way to her house, he got lost and arrived late.  Then after picking her up, the car broke down.  They ended up hitching a ride with a bus load of soldiers, and after the dance was over, Myrna had to get a ride home with someone else.  After all that, she still agreed to see him again.  It was, appropriately, at another dance, the Green and Gold ball in 1954, that Blair proposed to Myrna, and she accepted.

Blair and Myrna were married August 17, 1954 in the Idaho Falls Temple.  As Myrna was endowed at the same time, it made for a really long day!  Blair and Myrna had Kahri, the first of their five children when they had been married 5 years, and it was another 5 years before Kathi joined the family.   Both times they had already begun the process to adopt a child when they learned they were expecting.  Karen, Guy, and Greg followed in the next seven years.

After leaving the army, Blair had begun work in the Banking and Loan industry, a field he would work in for 30 years. He attended the American Institute of Banking, where again he excelled, achieving all three certificates offered there with honors.  He went on to work as a teacher of Consumer Lending for the institute for several years. He attended many continuing education courses in the banking field, waking very early on Saturday mornings to complete his studies so that it would not interfere with his time with family.  He graduated, of course, with honors.  He eventually finished his associates degree at Citrus College in 1988.  

Blair was ordained a High Priest on May 29, 1962 by Alvin R. Dyer and later as a Bishop on September 17, 1967.  He was asked to preside as a Stake President on September 19, 1971 by Gordon B. Hinckley, and later as a counselor in the Arcadia Mission Presidency .  Blair was set apart as a Sealer in the Los Angeles Temple by Robert D. Hales, and later served as a sealer in the Redlands Temple, working almost 20 years in these assignments.  As a temple sealer, he had the opportunity to perform the marriages of two of his children and three of his grandchildren.  He was passionately committed to his temple service, and rarely missed a shift. At different points in his service in the church, Blair was also Elder’s Quorum President, Stake Clerk, Gospel Doctrine Teacher, High Councilman, and High Priest Group Leader.  But in all his church service, he felt that his 73 years as a home teacher was the most rewarding, and he always tried to achieve 100% of his visits.

I remember while Blair served as Stake President, the church was hosting  Know Your Religion Series, held at stake centers in the area.  I cannot tell you how many times as I attended one of these meetings, while waiting for the meeting to start, someone would mistake me for Blair.  I would have to immediately inform them that they were not talking to the Stake President and I was his brother!

Blair served for 2 years as a City Council member while he lived in Baldwin Park. He also established himself as a real estate broker, property developer, and in his later years as a commercial properties manager.  Blair retired from his job just this past December.  Somehow, amid all of this, he managed to serve for 27 years on the executive Board of the Boy Scouts of America San Gabriel Valley Council, serving 3 years as the Chairman of Scout-O-Rama. For his many years of dedicated service to the Boy Scouts, he was awarded one of the highest honors of scouting; The Silver Beaver.

Blair’s children remember his dedication to his career and his many callings, but they also have cherished memories of waking up on Saturday mornings to a box of fresh donuts and the croon of The Sons of the Pioneers singing Cool Water.  They remember family work time on Saturdays, usually followed by a trip to the movies, mini-golf or a restaurant.  Blair made sure the family gathered for games on Sunday nights, and always took his sweetheart out on dates each Friday evening.  Family vacations were important to Blair, and they traveled to most of the western states during these adventures.  On these trips, he always made sure to find a motel with a swimming pool, and if they arrived too late to go swimming, he would wake the children early the next morning, even in the freezing cold, so that they could swim.  Family Home Evening was a time when his children enjoyed his company uninterrupted by outside calls and responsibilities, full of games, music sung around the piano and lessons followed by treats.  His kids remember that after Family Home Evening, he sometimes sent them off to bed one by one playing, “Penny, Penny, Who’s Got the Penny”.

Blair loved puzzles, country western music, sports, running - at age 73 he was still running 3 miles a day-, huckleberry pie and listening to his sweetheart sing, and play the piano and organ.  He built a religious library of over 800 books.  But amid all this, he sums up his own life by saying he would never have been able to fulfill all of that he had “except for the great support of a loving wife.  She has shouldered the major responsibility for raising the children.  She has been the major influence in my life, and all that I am I owe to her...”

Blair is survived by myself, our three sisters Lueen, Deanna and Viola, his sweetheart, Myrna, his five children and their spouses, 19 of his 20 grandchildren, and seven great grandchildren, who will all miss him greatly.  He was a good man.

*****

I loved Dad. I will miss him very much.

Sunday, January 21, 2018

The Little Boy with the Cupboard


Jonah boy is an amazing little kid.  He is what I would love to have been at his age but probably wasn't.  He is gentle and kind, the type of boy who would give you the best seat or his last gummy worm.  He asks delightful questions, like "how long would it take if you could walk to the moon?" and "who invented bubblegum?".  He will try new foods, pack lunch for his little sister, and go along with it when you try to make a game out of cleaning his room, even though he knows what you are up to.  I don't even know about half of the times little Nano has cried about a hurt or disappointment, because he comforts her himself (only moments ago, they both came in crying.  She was sad about not watching a movie with grandpa, and Jonah had called her to him to comfort her, whereupon she accidentally bonked his lip with her melon head, and given him a bloody lip).  He is a tender and artistic child.  Every night he draws scads and scads of amazing pictures before bed with the discipline of an Olympian.  The boy inspires me.

Also, he still likes to cuddle.  He's the whole package.

Jonah and I have been reading books together, but up until recently he seemed only vaguely interested.  Then we began the book The Indian in the Cupboard, the tale of a young boy who is given a magic cupboard that would make small plastic toys come to life.  Suddenly, my own boy came alive.  He couldn't wait for us to read each night.  Every evening he would get himself and his sissy ready for bed quickly so that we could read together.

As Christmas approached, I got the idea to create a cupboard for him like the one in the book, complete with a little bronze key. Of his three gifts, Needful, Joyful and Meaningful, this would certainly be his Meaningful gift.  I put the word out on Facebook and in just one day, had the offer of a perfect little cabinet, free.  "I just put it out by the trash last night.  I'll go bring it back in," the poster said.  One night while reading our book, I asked Jonah what he would do if he had a magic cabinet like the one in the story.  He thoughtfully told me about the different things he would bring to life, and those he would not, because it would not be kind or safe.  Next, I asked him my most important question... "what color do you think the cupboard was?"


"White!" he said, as though it was a fact.


In the evenings after the Littles went to bed, I worked on the cupboard, sanding, painting and then distressing it to make it look old and well loved.  I ordered a sweet little bronze lock with a skeleton key, because as anyone who has read the book will know, the key is almost another character in the story.



 Next, I set out on a quest to find a little plastic Indian for "Little Bear", hopefully like the one in our story.  I looked high and low online and in stores, but had no luck.   They don't make cowboy and Indian toys anymore, because of the disrespect it implies.  But having read the book, that treats the Native American culture with great care, I knew Jonah would play lovingly and respectfully with the little toy, if one could be found.

On the night I waited for the family to arrive to the Christmas light parade route, I had wandered the shops, enjoying the hustle and bustle of Christmas shoppers, and the carols that were the perfect sound track for the moment.  I wandered into an antique shop with toys crowding the the shelves and  sought out the shop keeper.

"I'm looking for a little plastic Indian figure, like they made in the 70's."  He glanced off into space at some memory of a hiding place, held up one finger, and then with a nod of the head that told me to follow, turned and dashed off toward the back of the store, weaving between the shoppers.  I followed and arrived to the stairs where he stopped and stooped down over a little set of wooden drawers.  He pulled open a small, ancient drawer and retrieved a plastic bag, promptly dumping its contents out onto the bottom step of the wooden staircase.  "Ten dollars for the bag," He called as he buzzed around looking in other corners for other possible options as I sorted out the little figures.

There I found him, cast in shiny red plastic, a bow and arrow poised at the ready; the Little Bear I had been searching for.  I examined the other figures in the bag and chose a well worn horse to go along with him.  "I'll give you twice what they're worth if you'll let me just buy these two," I said, smiling.


"How 'bout three bucks?" he nodded, returning the smile.

"It's a deal!" I said, feeling ridiculously proud over my little accomplishment.  I layed $3 on the pile of antique books on the desk by the register and tucked my treasures into my sweater pocket.

Wanting this cupboard to be about far more than the one book we were reading together, I thought back to our last book, Charlotte's Web.  A pig.  I needed a sweet little pig.  You would think a pig would be a much easier acquisition, but without dropping ten bucks on a whole barnyard cast, with a fat sow, her teats heavy with milk, no pig could be found.

Asking around, a fellow at church gave me a ray of hope.  "Go to Tractor Supply," he said confidently (as though I would know what and where the heck that was!), "Up at the front, by the register.  They'll have one."

So I did.

And they did.

I was so tickled!  I held my little pink pig, admiring the carefully painted face and teat-less belly, as one would hold a little bird fallen from a nest.  I had to tell the cashier of my conquest.  In typical Amador Counrty fashion, she beamed and shared my cheer.



The lock finally came in the mail, and I worked away on Christmas eve to drill out and install the lock, but heartbreakingly both screwheads broke off before they were completely in, leaving the posts jutting out from the wood.  Having no other screws to use, I grabbed glue and tried to fix the lock in place, at least temporarily for Christmas morning, until I could get new screws.  I kicked myself for not having finished the cupboard sooner, feeling heavy with failure.




The next morning I rushed ahead of the children to the living-room, feigning that I needed to put on the tree lights and light the fire.  I knelt down by the cupboard which I had hidden beside the couch, and tried the key in the lock.  It was stuck.  I fought with the lock for a moment, and then opened the cupboard to find the hasty glue job still wet.  The lock fell off in my hand.  Defeated, but knowing that Christmas must go on, I hid the cupboard again and called the children to come see their stockings.

Christmas unfolded (or unwrapped) as most do, until the moment we gave the "Meaningful" gifts to each child.  Ellie loved her new recipe book, and Tessa her horse sculpture, but I worried that Jonah's gift would be a disappointment.  I brought out his gift, set in a large bag under tissue, and sat it in front of him.  His eyes were huge as he only half-listened to me explain that I would need to fix something on his gift.  He pulled away the tissue and I helped him lift the cupboard out of the bag.  After a little moment of confusion, his face melted into a huge smile of surprise! "It's from our book!"  He beamed, opening the door to reveal three little bundles on the top shelf.  Carefully, he unwrapped the first.


"Little Bear!"  He glowed, reaching for the second tissue bundle.  "I know who this is!" he proclaimed, only to stop short as he opened the horse.  "Oh, I thought it would be Boone." he hesitated  (Oh, no!  I hadn't thought like a 7 year old!  Of course he would expect the other character in the book to be there!).  "It's Little Bear's horse.  So that means this is..." his little hands worked on the tissue of the last small bundle.

"Whaaa...?!  A pig?" he blurted.

"Not A pig.  Wilber." I said, then jokingly added, "He's Some Pig!"

A look of realization came across his face as I put words to what he was beginning to understand.  "This is a special place to put a little memory from each book we read together."

He didn't miss a beat.  "We need a Dribble!" he said, naming the turtle in the book we had just begun, having finished The Indian in the Cupboard only days before.


He got it.  And he loves it.  And it was indeed Meaningful,  for both of us.

 ****

We went back to the antique store after Christmas.  Jonah couldn't let go of the idea of having a Boone to keep Little Bear company.  Luckily, he agreed that the trapper we found amongst the little plastic figures would have to do, as no cowboys could be found.



I am sculpting him a little green turtle for Dribble.  Who knew it would be so hard to buy just one pond turtle?

 (but if you want to know where to get sea turtles by the dozen, gim'me a call)

We are reading Where the Red Fern Grows now, and I am now on the prowl for a pair of Redbone Coonhounds.  

I think I may have started something here.