The shirt was my Father’s Day present (see below). And the pie to the life is strawberry-rhubarb (from the garden).
The shirt was my Father’s Day present (see below). And the pie to the life is strawberry-rhubarb (from the garden).
Kelly came home for the weekend. She and Lorena have big plans that have to do with shopping. She saw some fashiony thing she just has to have at the Country Cousin restaurant so they are going to head out to find it. Fortunately, I have plenty of work to do on my sickle cell disease project so I cannot go.
The only down side to having Kelly here is that Kiwi has been acting out. We are not sure whether it is because she is so excited to see Kelly or because she sees Kelly diluting the attention she gets when no one is visiting. At any rate, Lorena had to put her in timeout. I have to say, it surely does not seem like that helped much.
Lorena’s father, Grandpa Lauro died just three years ago on June 10, 2017. We think of him often. Last Saturday, Lorena’s brother Tio Lauro went to the town and house where Grandma Conchita was born and raised to help some other members of the family clean it up because no one lives there anymore. They found a lot of great old photographs and this is one of them. The picture was taken on November 13, 1965, the day of Grandpa Lauro’s and Grandma Conchita’s wedding. The lady to the left of Grandma Conchita is her mother Leonor. She is signing as witness to the wedding. We just love this picture. We had never seen it before and wanted to save it for posterity.
We went to our friends’, Bob’s and Gena’s house after church today for lunch. The highlight of the lunch was the Camellia flower Bob and Gena’s daughter, Bonnie, put in Lorena’s hair. The Rhododendrons and a bunch of other flowers were in bloom at their house and Bob picked a beautiful bouquet for the table. Other friends came over (Jack, Norm and Linda) were there. It was truly an odd and wonderful sensation when I realized I was the most liberal guy in the group and those who know me know that is a pretty unusual situation.
We sat at the table after dinner (pork loin, asparagus from the garden, an amazing green salad, string beans, and strawberry rhubarb cobbler for dessert–amazing) and talked for an hour, then went into the living room to talk some more. We did not leave for our Sunday afternoon nap until after 4:30 PM. That is how it should be on a Sunday afternoon. We hope we can host some of that kind of thing at our house sometime soon.
This is Olivia. We call her our niece, but we serve the role of (in common parlance) her God parents. She has always been quite a precocious child. This picture was taken on a ski trip we took with her family. Olivia’ dad, Al, told her to go tell the big guy to help her get something out of the car. The name stuck. To this day, I am “the big guy” to Olivia. We saw the beautiful Olivia last week at a church convention in Arizona. She is in high school now, even more precocious and has turned into quite the fashion plate. We hope to see more of her now that we are on the west coast. She and Lorena are negotiating with Olivia’s parents to arrange for to come up from California for a visit with us and with Kelly.
Our friends, Bob and Gena took a trip we really want to replicate or at least a copy very closely someday. They took the train from Centralia to Seattle and then on down to the airport where they caught a plane to Atlanta to spend a few days with family there. They followed that up with a drive through the Blue Ridge Mountains to Raleigh to pick up all the stuff that has been in storage since we moved out of our house there to help take care of failing and slowing-down parents in Oregon and Texas. We are very grateful to Bob and Gena. The reality is that I just met them face-to-face one time a few months back at Starbucks just because they were kind enough to invite a newcomer from church for a cup of coffee. They are friends of friends and family, retired and kind enough to take a long trip back to the East Coast to pick up all the stuff we did not move out of our house to bring it out to Centralia. It is STILL way too much stuff even though we threw away a lot.
These are the two pictures that have me envious–the train pictures. Lorena and I really want to take advantage of the fact that we live in a town with an Amtrak station that goes to Seattle and Portland–both of them places we want to go. The flew to Atlanta–a great town where I lived for less than a year, but even that was enough to give me a great love for that town and the friends I made there.
After the drive to Raleigh, they looked at our storage unit and thought they could do the whole thing with a 20 foot truck. They were glad they stuck with the 26 foot truck because they barely had enough room for their luggage–a sad reminder that we have too much stuff by at least 13 feet. We are going to work on that. The good news though, is that a lot of the stuff they are bringing is books and furniture for the porch and other places that we need sorely after living a low-rent existence in apartments for two plus full years. There is a definite up side to all that (no lawn mowing, appliance fixing or property taxes), but we are ready to have our own house.
And for all this we are thankful to Bob and Gena for their efforts to help new friends above and beyond the call of duty. I hope I get to do that some day.
It is hard to overstate the importance of the little home church with whom we met every Sunday morning for worship and every Wednesday evening for Bible study. The Wednesday meeting was a little smaller with a group 9-10 regulars; the others from Sunday go to a different Bible study. Wednesdays, we meet at our little apartment every other week while another couple, Gary and Debbie, had it at their house the rest of the time. Which ever place we met, everyone would stick around after the study, sometimes and hour and even more, just to talk and be together.
This Sunday we had an incredible going away potluck (those Texas church potlucks are really something) at the Al and Jill’s home where we meet on Sunday mornings. Last night we might at Gary and Debbie’s place for our last regular Bible study meeting. Gary and I are both fanatical fans of Angel Food cake, so Debbie made one for us and Jill made her mother-in-law’s famous caramel topping. We all shared this same beautiful table for an evening after meeting when Grandma Conchita and remember that night fondly.
THEN, they gave us gifts–a beautiful photograph (from Gary’s Nikon) of the group the meets on Sunday, a great little saying board, “FRIEND–Many people will walk in and out of your life, but only true friends will leave footprints in your heart,” a huge box of the special, low calorie popcorn introduced to us by Debbie (I doubt if it makes it all the way to Washington) and a HUGE box of Ghirardelli Intense Dark Cherry Tango chocolate squares (we love them, but could never find them anywhere–we honestly think Debbie was buying and hoarding them all to give to us–we are grateful and doubt they will make it all the way to Washington either).
This group of people is family to us in the very best sense of the word. Of all that took place during our time in Texas, our meetings with these people will be what we remember and cherish the most.
Cousin Trisha, the government school teacher, heaped abuse on me for writing so much about the one true taco shop in Lewisville, Texas. I think it is because she is feeling either envious or guilty, but, in the spirit of living up to her unfounded accusations (unfounded because there is no way one can give too many accolades to the one true taco shop in Lewisville, TX), we went there twice this weekend with eight new people who had never been there before. Unbelievably, EVERYONE ate carne asada tacos and a fresh churro for dessert. We felt NO guilt whatsoever. In fact, we truly believed we enriched ALL of these peoples’ lives.
The picture to the left is our dear friend Eric P. Notice the smile on his face. He had just finished eating those tacos. We are wildly grateful for his visit and for the one from the Chet, Kayleen and Malia yesterday, not only because of the tacos, but because it was just great to be with them all again. It was so good, we reserved the place for a “going to Washington” party in a couple of weeks.
I can only remember one time when I went to my grandparent’s ramshackle cabin on the beach near Florence, Oregon. I might have been there more, but would have been too little to remember. For the older cousin and their then young parents as well as my parents, Grandpa Milo and Grandma Sarah it was a magical place. I know it was not spectacularly beautiful nor situated on the best location on the indescribably beautiful Oregon coast, but I do know that it played a huge role as a family gathering place for my grandparents and the families of all ten of their children.
The cabin was sold decades ago, but it is a frequent topic of conversation whenever the cousin’s get together. We younger cousins are a little bit envious of the memories of the older cousins, but revel in the obvious joy of their memories. My cousin Merle and his wife Carolyn and daughter Trisha were out there a few days ago. Trisha texted me this poignant image of Merle on the beach contemplating it all.
I always try to put up a picture of the kids on their birthdays. I missed yesterday, but Kelly sent a picture of herself with her friend at colleague at her new job. The both dressed in blue and black and I have to say it it looks great on both of them. She claims they did not coordinate with each other, but even the shade of blue matches. It seems a little suspicious to me. Kelly had to give a big presentation to her company’s board of directors, the CEO and the VP of Marketing (her boss) of the marketing research she has worked on since she arrived at the new job about six months ago. Then she went to a Marketing conference and, for her birthday celebration, out with her girlfriends. We did not here much about it yesterday because she was so busy–that is a good thing. She seems to be in a very good place where she can learn, hang out with friends and figure out next steps.
Happy Birthday Kelly!
Christian took this picture on Saturday during a walk to Devil’s Bridge near Sedona, AZ. It certainly is a beautiful place. After our Bible study last Wednesday, one of our friends showed us the pictures he took of his hike down to the bottom of the Grand Canyon and back. It was an eight mile hike down which took six hours and a six mile hike back up which took eight hours. Ever since I saw it for the first time on the trip to take Christian to college, I thought it would be a great thing to do some day.
Today is Kelly’s birthday. We wish we could be with her today, but will have to be happy with a future dinner to help her celebrate when we move out there in May.
Lorena is at the airport right now, waiting to return home from a very good stay with Christian. Of course Christian was slammed with work–he had to respond to reviewers on a paper he wants to publish, prepare for a technical presentation for his Network Information Theory class, etc., etc. But at least now he is slammed with a shiny clean apartment, food in the pantry, rotated tires and all those other little details of which Lorena is queen.
For her part, Lorena truly loves the palm and citrus trees, the blooming flowers and the incredible, February, Tempe weather. It really is nice here in the Dallas area right now, but not nearly as nice as Phoenix as if that were even possible. We will start the serious push to get organized for the move starting next week. The rest of this week we do not plan to do much because life is going to get very rushed, very soon.
For posterity and comparison, photos of Kiwi and Christian in their natural habitats.
Lorena arrived in Tempe now and Christian is taking her to lunch. She is sending me all kinds of meaninglessful pictures a couple of examples of which I present right here. The badge at the left was the cause of lots and lots of grief for the whole family. We are truly glad that this was not the occasion for Christian’s first stint of jury duty. I hope he gets to do it someday, but today is not the day. The picture on the right is Christian’s new Pixel cellphone from Google that he put in his handy car holder Mom got for him in December. She got one for me, too, and I see that it is handy enough, I really need to install it and start using it.
I dropped Lorena off at the airport at 5 AM this morning to go spend a week with Christian in Phoenix. They have a great time when they get together. It seems like every time Christian turns around there is another road block that seems insurmountable. This morning, he goes in to serve jury duty. And it is not just jury duty, it is grand jury duty. That means if he gets picked he will be stuck there for four months. He is scheduled to move to Boston in a couple of months in his first pass working for MIT. I hope they let him out of it because if they do not, it means he will almost certainly have to stay in his program for an additional year due to classes they only give once per year, missed research opportunities and the need to drop all his classes for this semester which is half way complete. I surely hope he does not get saddled with this burden.
Update: Woo-hoo! Christian dodged the jury duty bullet. He told the judge he was in classes that were only given once every two years (true) and he had an internship in Boston at MIT Lincoln Labs that started half way through the four month jury duty term (true) and the judge said, “Goodbye.”
I have been reflecting on it quite a bit lately and it seems kind of weird that both of our kids have been on their own and paying their own way for over two and a half years now. For our part, we have been in upheaval since they left North Carolina for graduate school in late June of 2014. We have moved three times (once to Oregon, once to Texas and once in Texas) and we are about to move again. I am currently on my third employer with a couple of contract jobs on the side. It seems they are the ones who are stable right now. I thought that was what parents were supposed to do, but it has pretty much been the nature of my kind of skill set to have to switch around a bunch.
We are about to move a fourth time in May if all the stars align and hope that stability thing starts to set in. I have a job and contract opportunities that could very well, God willing, take me to retirement without having to move again. At the same time, it is very, very nice to have kids who are sticking to long term, worth goals, working hard and staying on track when that is something that is hard to do in one’s early twenties, especially in this day and age. We are pretty much death on that pride thing–probably because we (read I) struggle with it, but I do feel very fortunate to have kids such as these.
Lorena and I went to the funeral of a man we really did not know yesterday. It was truly a wonderful funeral of a kind and wonderful man. In form, it was very different from the memorial service held for Grandpa Milo and Grandma Sarah. Yesterday’s funeral was more of a traditional funeral that followed a form to which we are accustomed although there were some wonderful personal accounts at the beginning of the funeral that were different than most we have attended. Grandpa Milo’s and Grandma Sarah’s broke that form significantly, partly to accommodate the varying needs and desires of the family and friends in attendance, but also to remember two fairly non-traditional people instead of one with a familiar, but significantly less than traditional ceremony.
All that being said, both events were beautifully done with Christ as the focus even in those elements of the celebration that addressed the secular elements of the departed. I think that is a testament to the way all of them led their lives, focused on helping others as driven by their devotion to Jesus. In the end, that is all good and that is the point. This morning I read I Corinthians 1 where Paul gave an admonishment to some who counted themselves as having been baptized by one or another of the apostles rather than counting themselves as followers of Christ. I think that reading was very timely and the precise reason why both of the funerals were celebrations of successfully lead lives; all of those lives were focused on Christ and none other. Let this be a reminder to me.
Lorena, Kelly, Christian and I had time to spend together as a nuclear family while we were out in the Pacific Northwest for Grandpa Milo’s and Grandma Sarah’s funeral. We all agreed that in spite of all the hiccups that occurred (really bad weather, cancellation and change of venue at the last minute, etc.), it was the best service of its kind we ever attended. I am sure a lot of that has to do with the fact that it is our parents and grandparents who were the objects of the whole event, but that does not diminish the joy we experienced in celebrating their lives with dear, dear friends and family.
The photos with this post are of the kids when we had some time just to sit together and talk about life. Even though we are all at a different place now that the kids are off at college and working, we have decided we need to make more time for these kinds of getting together. We want to include our friends in that getting together, too. At these kinds of events it surely seems like all pettiness falls away. We will be contacting all the people who made all this possible over the next week or two to let them know how much they are appreciated.
One gift we received in all this is that we have the opportunity to attend another such event in Dallas this weekend. It is for a man not dissimilar to Grandpa Milo–bigger than life with a lot of love for “the least of these.” I think I learned a lot about how to be a friend at times like this from those who were there for us during these last days. I want to express a special thanks to my siblings who worked very, very hard to make things work well between all us siblings and with the larger, very diverse community. They and a group of close friends (you know who you are) really were the ones that made all this just work and I am grateful for you all.
It seemed appropriate to everyone that there should be at least a modicum of chaos surrounding Grandpa Milo’s and Grandma Sarah’s funeral. Sunday afternoon before the memorial service on Monday, Milwaukie High School called us to let us know that with only 19 hours notice, they decided to close the school and cancel our event. We briefly considered rescheduling because people had flown and drove in from all over the western U.S. Aunt Jean and Uncle Jerry came through with a beautiful venue in Oregon City, the Unitarian Universalist Congregation at Willamette Falls facility which turned out to be much more well suited for our purposes than the original venue: fabulous acoustics for congregational singing, a well tuned grand piano, a kitchen with an eating area for the potluck, easier parking, etc., etc., etc.
The weather was great, but the driving conditions were not exactly optimal. The picture at the top left shows the Sunset Freeway which was mostly clear, but many of the side streets were very much iced over and difficult to navigate. Nevertheless, the event went on and it was absolutely beautiful. I am more proud of my siblings and the community surrounding Grandpa Milo and Grandma Sarah than you can possibly imagine. In spite of all the challenges, probably about 250 showed up for the event and it went off without a hitch. It was exactly the send-off we all wanted and would have made them both proud. It was really stunning how everyone helped out, especially the ministers who preached, the piano player who played beautifully, the church members who handled all the setting up, tearing down and serving at the potluck and, of course, my siblings and their families who went to great pains to deal with a gazillion unforeseen obstacles and details. Just thank you to them all.
Lorena and I left Portland around midnight last night and arrived in Dallas just in time for me to go to work yesterday morning. The brief respite from the nasty weather/driving conditions ended today with a horrendous ice storm in the Portland area. I stayed awake long enough to get through the work day then crashed for the night as soon as I got home. I woke this morning with a feeling of gratitude for a loving community that helped us bury our parents in a dignified and respectful way, but with a celebration that would have made Grandpa Milo and Grandma Sarah proud.
The weather is monumentally bad all over the Pacific Northwest. Kelly was scheduled to work in Oregon today for her job and just stay there after work today until the funeral. Lorena, Christian and I plan to fly to Seattle today, then drive down to Portland to start helping with all the upcoming events tomorrow. Since the weather did not cooperate and allow Kelly to go to Oregon yesterday, she will meet us in Seattle tonight and drive down to Portland with us. That is a very good thing. I will be nice to have a couple of meals and a night together as a family before we say good bye to Grandpa Milo and Grandma Sarah. Christian took the picture in this post through the window at his gate at the PHX airport with his new Google Pixel phone. To say the conditions were not optimal would be a wild understatement. So far the camera and optical system seem to be crazy good for a cell phone. I hope he remembered to pack his new Fuji camera, too.