Wednesday, December 16, 2015

A Christmas Poem

This will be my last post until the new year and it is one that is very close to my heart.  It's not meant to be sad or melancholy but just a gentle memory shared.  I had an older brother.  He was my hero, my protector, my best friend.  And even though he has been gone for close to 20 years, I still miss him.

I recently came across a poem he wrote when he was in high school. I had forgotten that I had saved it all these years.   It's the perfect Christmas poem.  In fact, I shared it in my Christmas letter this year.  He never gave it title. I just think of it as The Christmas Poem.

So here it is, my gift to all of you in memory of my big brother and in honor and thanksgiving to our Savior and Lord.  May each of you have a joy filled Christmas.


The Night was dark, one star shone bright
To guide three wise men with its light
A journey long, but they were strong
For they bore gold, frankincense, and myrrh
Below the light they found a site
And there the babe for whom they'd prayed
Upon their knees the wise men sat
And gave their gifts for they were glad.

Friday, December 11, 2015

Christmas Decorating

Like most everyone else, we are caught up with the busyness of the holiday season.  Shopping for gifts, getting the tree, sending Christmas cards and baking are among the necessary and, for the most part, pleasurable tasks that are occupying us at the moment.  One of the things I enjoy the most is decorating the house.  I know my husband just rolls his eyes as he and the boys take the time to "schlep" box after box up from the basement and then back down again after I have decided what I am going to use.  Everyone always admits though that the end result is something they look forward to every year and there would be many disappointed faces walking in the door if the tradition were to ever stop. I have actually cut back quite a bit the last few years but all my favorites are on still on display to share with family and friends who come to visit over the Christmas Season.


Some of my favorite pieces are my Victorian Rocking Horse and my wooden nutcrackers, both purchased more than 30 years ago when my oldest son was just a baby.  The Rocking Horse is actually a music box which when wound up plays "Joy to the World.  I think it fits right in with my love of carousel horses.

Somewhere over the years one of my soldiers lost his sword.  I have been tempted from time to time to replace them with some new and larger nutcrackers but I am pretty attached to these.

 Here they are displayed on my mantle.  I love the traditional Christmas colors of red and green, silver and gold, holly and poinsettias.  I did update to flameless candles; so much safer. 

Of course, you can't have a fireplace without Christmas Stockings.  These are just for show.  The real ones won't come out until Christmas Eve.

I made this Advent banner when I was first married, copied from one my mom's sister had made for her several years before.  It was one of my first Christmas decorations and at well over 40 years old it's become rather worn and tattered but it's the first thing, that even as adults, my children look for and hang up first every year.

Another early decoration were these little figures which belonged to my mother-in-law.  In our first year of marriage she told me to go through her Christmas things and pick out whatever I wanted to take home and keep.  Being newly married I felt like I was riffling through her things and so I only took a couple of ornaments and four little glass figurines.  She passed away with cancer about 2 years later and I am sorry now that I didn't take more for my husband's sake.  But we treasure these and find a place for them every year. 

I love my old world Santa with his big wood sleigh, both of which I have also had for 20 years or more. I love his red velvet cape.  All these years I have never had a reindeer.  I added this one to the scene last year.


Now we get to the reason for the season.  When I was first married I painted two nativity sets.  I gave one of them to my mother and kept one for myself.  My mom still has hers and places it up lovingly every year.  Unfortunately, after being stored in the basement for so many years my set was finally so cracked and crumbled that I had to replace it a couple of years ago.  I actually have two sets now.  I keep this one on the little bookcase in the entry to our house so it's the first thing you see as you walk in the door.  Underneath are some mini nativities that didn't quite fit in the picture.

That beautiful pine cone wreath was made for me by my mother's sister.  It's made from pine cones she collected herself when she and my uncle were traveling through the Northwest forests on camping trips.  I have had to hot glue it back together a couple of times and I added the poinsettias a few years back to freshen it up but I treasure it as one of the last gifts my aunt ever made for me before she passed away with cancer when my oldest son was eighteen months old.  


Here are my angels and my three wise men.  We will light the candles they are holding on Christmas Day.  The candles are made from beeswax and I get them from a little candle shop that is run by a small Greek Orthodox convent not too far from us.  In fact, I will be going up there to purchase more in just a couple of weeks.  


 Two years ago I went to the Bali Bazaar which is held every year to help support a Children's Home in Bali, Indonesia .  I shared about this here.   I ordered this beautiful hand carved wood nativity set and when the director to the home (who attends our church) went back to Bali she pick one up from one of the local wood carvers.  This was how I displayed it last year.  The lovely embroidered cloth (which I can now see was a little crooked) is a gift from my mother, brought back from a trip she made to Eastern Europe a few years ago.  

Then last Christmas, my Pastor made us this beautiful stable as a gift to go with my creche.  I love it and will treasure it as now it has become a reminder of a wonderful man who was pastor of our church for 16 years. He recently accepted a call to a church in another part of the country and will be greatly missed.  I added a couple of carved angels and this is how it looks this year with the stable.  I especially love how Joseph is holding the baby Jesus instead of leaving him in the manger.

As you can see, each piece in my Christmas collection has it's own story to tell which gives each a special place in my heart.  As I have said before, the things we surround ourselves with help others to see who we are and what we hold dear.  Each Christmas I am reminded of how I have been loved by others and how I express my love back to all who enter my home.  As I share this with you this Christmas I am wishing you much joy as you prepare your hearts and homes for the coming celebration of the birth of our Saviour and Lord Jesus Christ.  May you keep Christmas well.


Sunday, December 6, 2015

California Here We Come - San Francisco Embarcadero, Take 2

In my last post I accidentally left you languishing on "The Rock," better know as Alcatraz Island.  We were surprised at just how close the island is to the city.  We learned that there were times, like New Years Eve for example, when the inmates could listen from their cells and hear the voices of people celebrating in the city across the water. 

I was standing right outside the prison when I took these.  It was a cloudy day with some drizzle so they aren't as clear as I would have liked but you can see the city skyline with Bay Bridge coming across from one side and Golden Gate from the other.

Once we were back at the ferry dock we walked on down the Embarcadero past the tail end of a Veterans Day Parade (yes, we were so happy to see that even in ultra liberal San Francisco there are those who take time to honor our veterans) until we reached Pier 39 on the wharf.

We walked all the way out to the end of the pier where we could see out over the bay.

And of course, stop to see the sea lions.

 We completed our busy morning with lunch at the Hard Rock Cafe on the wharf.  Yes, we are only half way through our day but now it's time to rest and enjoy a relaxing meal.  There is still more to see and share but it will have to wait for another day.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

California Here We Come - San Francisco Embarcadero

  Usually when The Inspector and I go on road trips we tend to avoid big cities and San Francisco would have been no exception.  However, we all really wanted to see the famous prison on Alcatraz Island, popularly know in movies and books as The Rock.
In order to make one of the first boats of the day we had to leave early in the morning before breakfast was served.  Nourishment to start this day was donuts picked up the night before at a local market.

Crossing over the bay bridge from Oakland we arrive at the ferry terminal located on the waterfront.

Once we were on board the ferry, it was just a short trip across the water to the prison.  It was a bit overcast and chilly so we were glad we had brought along our jackets.

The island is now run by the National Park Service and has become a popular place to tour.

The cell block is pretty forbidding, it looks even more so up close.  Most inmates brought here stayed an average of about 5 years.

A typical cell was 5x9 feet.  Fortunately for the inmates, each one got his own cell and they were allowed a few personal items.

Below you can see the youngest standing inside a cell used for solitary.  It was larger than the average cell but since an inmate would have stayed in this cell 24 hours a day that wouldn't have been much compensation.  Standing on the inside looking out feels very claustrophobic.

This post is not complete and was posted by mistake.  I don't know how to take it off without deleting the entire thing so I  took off the photos I hadn't commented on yet.  Maybe I will be adding more to it at another time or else just moving on to another day.   So now it looks like I am going to be leaving you languishing in a prison cell.  Not the upbeat note I was planning for.
Has anyone else ever done this? 

Saturday, November 28, 2015

California Here We Come - Northern California

Four days before Thanksgiving we returned from a family road trip that took us down the west coast from Seattle to San Diego and back.  Spanning 17 days we traveled just under 3,000 miles making stops in three different cities and visiting 4 different amusement parks as well as numerous points of interest along the way.  We also had the opportunity to connect with family and friends we hadn't seen in a while.

This was the first time I had ever taken time off from school to do something like this but after the past sad and difficult year our children really wanted us to take some time to do something fun with them and to create some new and happy memories.  So at the end of the first week of November the Inspector and I hopped in our car to caravan down the coast with our two sons and daughter-in-law. Because this is a family trip I will be sharing more pictures of my children than I usually do as most of my photos are of them.

That first day we left right after work and drove 6 hours into central Oregon then got up early the following day heading for the California border, destination San Francisco.  California Here We Come!

Weed is one of the first towns you come to when you cross the border over the Siskiyou pass from Oregon to California.

Oldest son is on the right with his wife.  Youngest son is in the middle.

You can see Mount Shasta in the background.

  Driving through Northern California we saw one of the largest land marks in the area, Mount Shasta.  Standing 14,179 feet high, it's the 2nd largest volcano in the 700 mile long Cascade Mountain Range.  It's last recorded eruption took place in the 1790's.   As you get closer to it you can see that it has more than one cone.



As with any mountain that suddenly rises out of the clouds in the distance, Shasta seems to give off a sense of sacredness. The Native Americans have their legends.  We know that it is not the mountain that is sacred but the hands that created it.   Indeed as I look at it I am reminded of Moses going up the mountain to commune with God in Exodus.  When he came down from the mountain his countenance had change for he had been in the presence of Yahweh.

As we left Mount Shasta behind we came upon Shasta Lake.  Here you can really see the effects of the 4 year long drought.  The water level is down about 140 feet.  Interestingly enough, it seems that a number of old building sites have been found, which would indicate that the water levels have been this low before.

I also noticed that the among the fall color on the hillside the evergreen trees had a pale gray cast to them rather than the rich verdant green of pine trees.  I wonder if that is another sign of the water shortage.

Below are some views of Mount Shasta from the other side as we were making our return trip home.  We were very fortunate both coming and going that there was no snow and so the passes were dry and clear.  Our timing was great as a snow storm hit the area the day after we arrived back home. 

Don't you think it looks more like a volcano from this angle? Hopefully it will be a very long time before it erupts again.
When next we meet we will have made it to the city of San Francisco.  See you then.