Sunday, December 21, 2014

Rebounding into the Light

Today may be the shortest day of the year, but I'm thinking it's still gonna be another long one---activity-wise.

Coming wide awake at 4 a.m. will do that, ya know.  Even at that early hour, I was happy to bounce out of bed and take on another busy day. 

Yesterday's activities extended from around 4:30 a.m. to almost 11 p.m., which is definitely past my bedtime, but sometimes those long days during the short day season mean better quality sleep.  

That was happily the case for last night.  After a morning of getting everything in order around the house, I drove to Spokane---with lovely Christmas music cranked up high---did some shopping and then went to the airport to meet Annie.  

From there, she took over the driving, and we made a trip home to do some quick present wrapping and the chores, then headed back to town to watch the girls' basketball games.

The Lady Bulldogs, coming off from a short night of their own after a triple overtime victory in Bonners Ferry, looked a little exhausted when they started their game against West Valley. In fact, the score span at first was pretty dismal, but those girls clawed their way back and avoided a repeat of the night before with a win with the first final buzzer. 

That leaves them with a 7-4 record and a chance to take a break after a grueling early-season schedule.  Congratulations, Lady Bulldogs.

From Les Rogers Gym at the high school, we moved over to the middle school and watched a portion of the JV B game where Swiss Miss was playing.  Now, those young ladies have fought an uphill battle this season with only one player with any previous basketball experience ever.

But, by golly, they're progressing, and, better yet, they're scoring points.  It's fun to watch a team improve so much.  Laura was thrilled with the game's outcome.  They didn't win, but she said it was their best ever. 

Annie and I left early to get back to Colburn to watch the ZAGS at the Battle in Seattle. They won, but let's just say it wasn't vintage pretty ZAGS play.  Willie showed up toward the end of the game and said some games are just like that. 

It's definitely time for a break for all athletic teams, I'm sure.  

Anyway, we finally arrived home well after 10 p.m., but it was a fun Saturday.  Today I'm departing from the Christmas crunch (mine is almost completed) and taking off with a couple of fun friends on a scenic outing.  More about that tomorrow.

I'm looking forward to this break from the holiday grind, especially because we three have some catching up to do. 

Willie, Debbie and Laura leave for Boise today, and I'm thinking we may have some family coming in tonight. 

When this shortest day of the year ends, we can celebrate because we'll be climbing back into the light. 

So, all is good.  Soon, our abbreviated daylight on this Sunday will begin, so I'll do my best to take advantage of spending as much time outside as possible. 

I've enjoyed ending the postings the past few days with seasonal favorites, so here's one of my favorite all-time vocalists performing a favorite piece along with famed cellist Yo-Yo Ma.  Hope you like it.  

Happy Sunday. 

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Angels in Our Lives

Today marks the 30th anniversary of a dramatic enlightenment in my life.  Until Dec. 20, 1984, I had not yet fully realized that we have so many angels walking around on this Earth performing the kind of work that God would like us humans to do. 

Let's just say that day was one of my lifetime epiphanies and that every day since, I have continued to appreciate the many angels we have in our midst.

They do not always announce their presence, but their presence can be noted through the multitude of kind, caring and thoughtful acts they bestow upon other living beings in our world. 

Heck, we may even find some angelic bones in our own bodies from time to time whenever we are driven by some unknown force to perform our own random or planned acts of kindness. 

Well, the angels showed up for us in big numbers on that wintry Thursday 30 years ago.  

I've told the story 29 times before, but I'll keep it short this time. 

Cold winter day.  Bill is in Louisiana for his father's funeral.  It's the last full day before school lets out before vacation.  

Willie, Annie and I are happily driving down Boyer.  We turn on to Baldy Road.  Suddenly, I see the giant flames. 

Almost instantly, I realize those flames are coming from our home.  Seemingly, an eternity passes while I try to direct that red Ford pickup down icy Baldy Road and then north to Great Northern Road.

The flames reach higher to the sky as we approach the driveway.  People are there in the late afternoon darkness, doing whatever they can to save what's left of our house.  

A sheriff's deputy asks me questions.  Tears roll down my face, and something comes out of my mouth to satisfy the deputy's concerns. 

With Annie standing with me, I turn around, looking for Willie.  He sits in his tree house in the big willow tree, staring at that fire with big brown, troubled and fearful eyes. 

Our home is gone and almost everything in it, except the freezer.  To this day, I don't know how Eddie Nordgaarden and other neighbors removed it from the house. 

These helpful neighbors are the first angels.  

Throughout the next couple of days, the angels come in droves or do their work in our behalf behind the scenes.  

From that day forth, a singular, horrific event has changed us forever, as we witness destructive flames followed by the light of love, generosity and thoughtfulness like we have never experienced before. 

Yes, angels do exist all around us, every day, reminding us, often in small but significant ways and in a world that seems so overrun with evil, that goodness is alive and well.  

These giving acts just doesn't always make the headlines, yet they do find a permanent residence in one's heart, never to be forgotten. 

On this day, we Love family members always remember, and we also take extra care in hopes that another Dec. 20th will end without any incidents like that day 30 years ago. 

And, this day always reminds me of how much I appreciate the many angels who have come into my life, both on Earth and on High. 

Thank you, Angels.  

Happy Saturday . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . and GO ZAGS! and Sandpoint Bulldogs.  What a victory for the girls last night in that triple overtime!

Friday, December 19, 2014

Fun in the Christmas Tree Forest

Bill brought home a Christmas tree yesterday.  He picked it up at Algoma---Peck's Farm Store.  It's a Grand Fir, but the really good news is that it came from Gold Creek.

Turns out it grew up in Albertsonville where Dennis Warren, who brings us gravel, lives.  Bill said Mr. Peck told him that Dennis brings him five trees a day, which means they're as fresh as a tree can get. 

The tree was more than seven feet tall, much too large for the little space available by our sliding glass door. 

It can be sawed off to any length, Bill said.  That's when I noticed that its trunk was perfectly straight and that any length would still mean a beautiful, well-shaped tree. 

After giving some time for the tree to dry, I brought in the stand and a saw.  This morning I happily announced to Bill that not one cuss word was uttered during the whole process of cutting the tree to size, inserting it in the stand and decorating.  That has to be a first for my career with Christmas trees.  

Like all the annual aspects of the Christmas season, many of our Lovestead tree ornaments have special significance, while others have been in the collection for the past 30 years, and I'm not sure how they got added.  

Still closer looks, once the tree is decorated and the lights are shining, elicit smiles and remembrance.  

Not sure who gave us this one, but I love it, especially the intricate apparel work. 

This old feller probably came on a bouquet of flowers.  Whatever the case, he's found a home and must have come down a chimney or two in his day with all that soot around his eye. 

My dear friend and relative by dog (specifically Border Collie) Jean sent me a couple of ornaments this past year, along with several bird feeders.  She knew the BC ornaments would melt my heart.  She was so right. 

Pictures don't lie.  You hung the ornament upside down, Marianne.  Oh well, it's still pretty to an ol gal who could have used her cheaters while decorating the tree.  Bill's twin sister Margaret sent me this beautiful butter knife last Christmas.  Too nice to put on the table, so it goes on the tree. 

This little guy is just plain cute, and he'll sit just about anywhere on any limb. 

More BC Nation beauty. 

I've created about three things in my life with fabric that actually aren't too ugly.  One year I made a prototype for these ornaments and gave several away but kept one.  Even my mother , the artist, highly approved. 

This little surferette will always remind me of good times spent with Annie and Bill in Paradise.  Thank you, Annie. 

And, of course, every year there's LOVE. 

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Thursday Throwbacks and Grace

It's Thursday.  It's snowed a couple of inches overnight, and Christmas is coming soon, so I found a few throwback photos to post this morning. 

My, those triplets have grown, and, no, there's not THAT much snow on the manure spreader, but what we do have is the most we've seen this season.  

This is an okay snow because Christmas is coming and because it does not disrupt the usual daily chores.  

No shoveling required.  Barn doors open easily.  It was still easy to push the full cart to the manure pile. 

Plus, it's pretty outside.  Our bareness and blahness of the past two days has made it a bit difficult to get into the proper Christmas spirit.

Now, however, those colorful lights on the deck seem to twinkle a whole lot more with the snow than they did yesterday. 

And, I replaced the usual Irish music on my computer with Christmas CD's this morning. First I listened to Mannheim Steamroller's 25th Anniversary Collection.

When that ran out, I slid the Three Tenors Christmas CD into the slot.  When it was time to head outside for chores, the tenors were singing "Amazing Grace."  

When I arrived at the barn and opened the door, Joan Baez was singing "Amazing Grace." I assumed there must be a message in that morning parallel.  

Yeah, I'm often a wretch, and, yes, surely it would take some pretty amazing grace to change that.  

I am getting a little blind but happily am still seeing well enough to embrace beauty wherever it exists. 

There have been enough dangers, toils and snares, and I figure there may be many, many more before this flesh and heart shall fail and mortal life shall cease. 

For the most part, I do believe---maybe a bit in my own way---but there is definitely belief within this old soul. I can also proudly say that grace has led me on many a time. 

And, for the most part, life is filled with joy and peace. 

Lots to think about these days during this season.  Lots of moments of wistfulness, especially erupting whenever those beautiful tunes are playing and when those little twinkle lights are sparkling. 

I think one of the true joys of this season exists within the Throwback Thursdays or whatever moment when we journey back to those special times which always seemed more innocent (like those little darlings above) and so sweet like the image I saw this morning of my siblings enjoying a big laugh in my parents' living room during a Christmas past. 

I also saw a couple of photos of my mother squeezing some cool whip onto a pumpkin pie, and, yes, I did cry but in a sweet way, knowing her spirit and that of our dad do reside "there" for at least the next 9000-plus years, bright shining as the sun. 

Yes, "Amazing Grace," already heard twice this morning by two giant musical talents, has its messages for us to interpret as we wish and to guide us as we move on through our day. 

Plus, it's a mighty pretty song.  So, I'll leave you this morning with my crazy thoughts and with hopes that you'll have a little amazing grace within your day.  

By the way, that little darling up above in the pink blouse?  Her name is Grace, and she's pretty amazing too!

Happy Thursday.  Hope you enjoy this Celtic Thunder rendition of "Amazing Grace." 

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Hearting Home

"Now you have to get a Christmas tree," Annie told me Monday after giving me the ornament above, which she purchased at Hilo Hatti's in Honolulu. 

I actually had wavered about getting a tree with so few days left before Christmas, but it's easy to forget sometimes how much home and the symbolic aspects associated with every season of coming home mean to those who travel to share the season with us.

Yes, Annie, that ornament will be hanging on a Christmas tree when you come home Saturday.  And, yes, I heart Hawaii.

I don't think anyone will spank me when I say that I heart home much more than anyplace else on Earth, even Ireland.

This morning I'm hearting many aspects of our return to the Lovestead yesterday. 

To prepare for Annie's homecoming Saturday, we needed to stop at Co-Op to get some new extension cords after some of our collection suffered a major blow-out this past summer. 

I also picked up some more peanuts because Elisabeth told me that Mr. Jay had hung around in our absence.  

Our trip to Co-Op gave us the first sense of hearting home as we enjoyed some wonderful conversations with Nancy and Michelle who work the counters at the country store. 

Then, on to Selle, into the driveway and a dramatically quiet walk to the garage door.  I don't usually knock at our closed garage door, but it seemed like a fun thing to do yesterday. 

I knew that 12 legs with two wagging tails and one mini Aussie wiggling dock stood on the other side. 

I opened the door, and we were met with a greeting made in Heaven. Kiwi, Kea and Foster embraced us, cried, wiggled and generally let us know they were happy to see us.

From the minute I walked inside the house until I visited the barn, except for the pile of mail and newspapers, the scenes appeared if we had never left home. 

The house was immaculate, a fire simmered in the wood stove----the place looked untouched.  Barn stalls were clean and ready for horses to come in. In the pasture, Lefty and Lily gave us an extra special look of recognition. 

Festus looked up at me in his usual lounging spot on the front deck and purred.  Festus does well at purring. 

A few minutes later after throwing some peanuts on the board at the bird feeder, I saw that Elisabeth, our farmsitter, had added an extra touch in her meticulous care of our home during our absence.  

A second jay of the stellar variety flew immediately to the board, snatched a peanut and flew back to a spruce limb to consume it. 

Wow, this lady is the farmsitter from Heaven, I thought.   I had asked her to put out the peanuts as often as possible because I wanted Mr. Jay to stay, and, by golly, she attracted yet another of those demanding but beautiful birds to the feeder.

I have to sing great praises for Elisabeth, and I sang her a few with a text shortly after we arrived home.

"I love them as if they were my own," she wrote back in regard to the animals.  It doesn't get any better than that when you leave your home and your beloveds in the care of someone else.  

And, it was apparent that during our eight-day absence, Elisabeth loved the animals and the place as if it were her own.

That care led to a wonderful homecoming for us, and we are so grateful to this lady who saw to it that we could leave home virtually without a care in the world.  

Yes, Hawaii was a great and fun adventure, but I must end this Wednesday morning with Dorothy's famous saying, "There's no place like home . . . there's NO place like home."  

Thank you, Elisabeth, and thanks to all who enjoyed our adventure vicariously through the wonders of technology.  It was truly fun to share.  

Happy Wednesday, and back to the Christmas decorating so that when Annie comes on Saturday, she'll feel the same way about home as we do.  

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Short Night

When you touch down in Seattle from Honolulu after 10 p.m. and you have to leave the motel at Sea-Tac by 6 a.m. for the last flight home, there's not a lot of time or mental capacity for creativity.

So, I'm taking a non-creative and lazy approach this morning and saying that "Slight Detour" will take a slight break today.  

We'll soon be back at Seattle Airport, then Spokane, home by noon and back into a normal routine, so all should be back to normal by tomorrow. 

Thanks for your patience.  I did notice a feeling briskness in the air when we left the terminal last night and came to our motel.  We'll adjust to that too.

How 'bout those ZAGS!

Back at it tomorrow. Happy Tuesday.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Last Day in Paradise

This was not in Paradise; instead this was at halftime of yesterday's Seattle Seahawks--San Francisco 49'ers football game.  And, I am very proud to say the lady on the right is my first cousin Patti Skelton-McGougan, executive director of the Youth Eastside Services in Bellevue, WA.  Patti received the Century Link-Seattle Seahawks 2014 Service Award. She even made the Mega-screen at the stadium.  Patti, all your relatives are so proud of you.

Our last day on Oahu was highlighted by a trip to the westernmost point of the island.  We hiked and jeeped to the spot, and once we reached it, we were rewarded with yet another gorgileous view and two snoozing monk seals.  The flora and fauna and the albatross sea birds lying on their nests added to the experience.  We saw other visitors walking, biking and jeeping and just plain enjoying the brisk and blowing ocean air.  The hike took us through an area near where the TV series "Lost" was filmed.   It was a very windy day, so much so that the World surfing competition was again postponed. The day ended with another awesome sunset and a delicious dinner at LeiLei's just down the sidewalk from our condo. It has been a wonderful experience here in Hawaii, and, of course, it all happened too fast.  Still, that is good because it will be fun to review the memories.  Thanks to Annie for figuring out all the logistics of this wonderful vacation.  Back to Seattle tonight and home tomorrow morning.  Aloha from Oahu, and thanks to all here on the island who added to our experience. Enjoy the photos below.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Seen on Oahu

Kite surfers off a very windy stretch of beach on the west end of the North Shore.  We stopped at several beaches yesterday afternoon, but did not see too many people in the water, except these folks who could enjoy the water with a little extra help.

I wanted to sample a fresh banana, so we stopped yesterday at a roadside fruit stand where a lady happily sold me two kinds of bananas grown on her farm.  The bigger variety is called an "ice cream" banana with a sweet flavor, while the other, she says, is more tart.  So far I've sampled the ice cream banana and it is very flavorful and good. I'm hoping Bill and Annie want some samples too, cuz I don't think I want to eat ALL those bananas by tomorrow.
Don't try to use the outdoor pool or the hot tub at Turtle Bay Resort Hotel if you're not a guest.  Well, you might get to enjoy a few minutes, but these folks can quickly spot the moochers.  

They're part of security staff, and they're called "aloha ambassador recreational officers."

Leialoha  and Aaron can be very nice, but they can also act as an effective enforcers when nonguests try to take advantage of the hotel.  

I was not trying to use the hotel facilities when I met them yesterday morning.  They were folding towels for guests using the hot tub and pool as I walked through their area.

So, we enjoyed a nice visit. 

You don't have to look hard to find these guys.  Kinda like the deer population in Selle.  They're everywhere, especially at the parks and beaches.  We stopped at a beach yesterday which was overrun with chickens and kitty cats and an occasional pigeon. 

Everyone seems to get along, and the cats appear to be very contented with their lot in life.

Waves rolling up to the shore like this one kept the swimming numbers to a minimum, but not the awe.
Annie's Hawaiian geocaching friends.

Annie and Bill visit with Judy, a geocacher and doctor from Honolulu.  We met at a state park yesterday for "cache in and trash out" along with a hike to Hawaii's oldest geocache. I started off on the hike but decided to turn back as we continued down a hillside on a very wet, slippery trail.  I worried more about what would happen to my camera than my body should I take a tumble, so walked back up to the trail head and enjoyed a nice visit with Judy's friend while the rest of the group continued on.


Some aspects of Oahu are beyond words, especially the sunsets.  We've had several periods of clouds and rain, which have not stopped our fun, but when the sun is shining or going to bed, there's nothing quite like it.  One more day of fun; then we head home.  So far, it's been a wonderful experience.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Big Waves, Beautiful Trails

A beautiful Friday meant fun in the sun, the sand on the Oahu's North Shore and along the trails at Kualoa Ranch for us yesterday. 

We watched world renowned surfers catch waves in Bonsai Bay during official competiton called the billabong Pipemasters.  

We watched and photographed photographers who were watching the surfers with their mega lenses.  

We learned some of the basics of surfing as daring athletes would swim out from shore and decide which waves were the best for riding and earning points.  The top four scores earned within a designated period of time determined the winners. 

Kelly Slater, a world famous legend among surfers, caught some good waves but not good enough to win his heats today.  He's the one in the photos above. 

Whenever surfing competitors came ashore, huge swarms of admiring fans swelled around them to take pictures of their wave-catching heroes.

From Bonsai Bay, we moved on to Kualoa Ranch, the setting for many movies (Jurassic Park and Godzilla) and TV shows (Lost).  

We listened to a short orientation about how to steer and stop our horses and to keep them from stealing bites of grass along the way and then plodded along our way up and down beautiful trails along hillsides and through beautiful valleys on the 4,000-plus acre working cattle ranch. 

Our guide, Janessa Greenleaf, provided interesting tidbits along the way about the bunkers established during WWII and the settings used for movies.  She opened and closed 23 gates during the two-hour ride. 

Horses didn't get too excited; after all, they're pros at transporting dudes.  We moved along in seemingly slow motion, but that was okay cuz the beauty deserved ample time to be appreciated. 

Twas another fun day in Hawaii. Tomorrow we head off on a geocaching adventure with Annie's caching friends.  

Full days.  Fun stuff.  

Happy Saturday.  GO ZAGS!!