Birthdays

Do you hate birthdays? Enjoy them?  While some people plan elaborate parties others prefer to let them pass quietly by. Not our family! We make a big deal out of birthdays for every person-every year.

It’s exhausting!

I was ten years old in 1960 when our parents  decided to load up the station wagon and move five kids, across country from Maryland to California. A moving truck took some of our belongs and Dad hauled a rented moving trailer behind the car. With dreams of starting fresh, they headed out some 3,000, miles for a new life in The Land of Milk and Honey (became known as The Golden State in 1968).

In the days before seatbelts were required (or in fact used much) we were able to spread out and claim our favorite spots for a trip that would take three weeks! Perhaps it was because we had never really vacationed before that our parents made this long journey an adventure. Most days we settled into a Holiday Inn with a pool and spent the late afternoon and evening swimming in a “real” pool! No more blow up or soft sided pools for us!  We must have eaten out some but supporting a family of seven on my dad’s income alone must have been difficult. (Surely there was an ice chest full of Kool-Aid and bologna sandwiches, but I actually do not remember). Dad worked  six days a week and  typical of the times, Mom was a stay at home mother. Thinking back I cannot imagine how they afforded this trip or how difficult it must have been to uproot five kids under ten years old.  I only remember the adventure we had! To see such sights a the Mississippi River, (even Mexico), or the desert of the Southwest was a dream come true for kids who had never ventured far from home. Sure, we had seen the great sights of Washington DC but a real road trip-it was a chance of a lifetime to be sure.

I was never really clear why they decided to leave behind their brothers and sisters, a large number of cousins, lifelong friends, and even a few grandparents. They would simply tell us that they always dreamed of living in California. This didn’t make a great deal of sense since our mom was miserable for the first few years and  Dad really missed his siblings. In those days long distance phone calls were expensive and it was not as easy to reach out to those left behind. Perhaps that is why they made such a fuss over birthdays and with it began the tradition of the

Birthday Party.

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To be sure, they couldn’t have known how it would spiral out of control in the coming years but for our little California family it was everything. Soon another sister came along and now there were eight of us.

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With only two of us sharing the same birthday month, that left seven months in which to celebrate. December with no birthdays allowed us to focus on Christmas and in November, with no birthdays, Thanksgiving was our big event. Easter seldom interfered with any birthdays so we pretty much had a celebration about every month. We did not  invite friends to these birthdays. It was all about family! We had a special dinner followed by your favorite cake (which Mom always baked) and ice cream. Presents were always a part of the festivities. With little to spare (I am sure) our wonderful parents managed to provide a very special celebration. It was never about the extravagance of the gifts but always more about the giving.

In late 1970, things changed, I got married! Now a new person was added to the birthday rotation. The following year we had a daughter and another birthday to celebrate. Two years later another daughter until  there were soon four little ones. I know some of their fondest memories are the birthday celebrations at grandma and grandpa’s house. Adding to the numbers was a slow process and many of the dynamics in the family changed. A brother and sister were married for awhile, eventually a nephew was born, another sister married. And still the birthday parties continued-for every person, every year. Naturally I took over many of the celebrations at my home, my parents added a pool to theirs. Usually it was grandma and grandpa’s house. Dad just loved having his family at his table. The kids loved the pool. We all pitched in.

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As the size of the family increased so did the number of birthday parties. In 1997 Dad died. It really was his love of family and celebrating that kept this in motion  We began to make some changes. My sisters and I established the…

Annual Sister’s Birthday.

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(hamming it up at the Sister’s Birthday party)

  The brothers had a joint party in the spring.  More grandkids and spouses were added.

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(hey, this is supposed to be a happy occasion!)

My son moved out of state with his daughter.  Birthday parties were combined. Then Mom was gone. Still the parties continued. A grandson joined the military and moved away.  Great grandkids slowly arrived.  People had jobs and families to deal with. The kids pitched in and organized and had parties in their homes.  We had beach birthday parties, pool parties, camping parties,  pizza parties, and barbeques.

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Sure, some people couldn’t make it to every party but that didn’t stop us. You can’t change tradition…

…or can you?

Over the last years or so, some of the adult kids have said no to having a traditional party. Occasionally they will opt for small affair of some sort.

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At first I resisted. After all, these were my kids but… here we were some 56 years later. Thommmee and I seldom miss a party. I am tired. A few years ago I told the kids I was done with the party planning business. Invite us and we will come. At first this worked well. They jumped to the challenge.

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(looks like a forest fire!)

They made quarterly birthday events but then… slowly… something strange happened…. some birthdays went ‘semi’ celebrated (at least in any formal way). Sure, we still dropped by with a gift and good wishes or mailed birthday and gift cards. The younger kids were still being celebrated. I closed my eyes and

just let it all happen.

We go when called and never forget (no not one) birthday. My siblings and I still celebrate-so far. As for the big  Sisters  Annual Birthday…? I don’t know. We lost a sister last year and another is planning to move away. That leaves just two. We haven’t yet decided what to do. My brother is off on his own adventure and we don’t know his plans. Yes, the other brother will have a party at the end of the month.

The loving tribute started by my parents has now come full circle, I think. It is, perhaps, time for new traditions to be established. We were taught the value of a loving  family and that it is more blessed to give than to receive. Hopefully these values will continue to be passed on.  I am so grateful for these many years together and many celebrations.  At times it has been difficult to embrace the changes. I am ready to let go. Its funny to me that the kids will not allow me to miss my birthday celebration while refusing to have one of their own.  Despite celebrating with my sisters they always insisted on having some special celebration with me. I always  feel a bit strange about this. Maybe it is their way of giving to me what they received all of these years, or because they love me, or simply it brings them pleasure. Whatever the reason I am going to lovingly accept their gift this year with no fuss-simply gratitude.

Birthdays will somehow always remain a very special part of our family.

Thanks Mom and Dad. You were the Best!

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(I bet they are smiling)

 

 

 

Missing Person Update…..

 

Our prayers have been answered!

I received so much support when I posted about my missing brother. I appreciate each and every one of you so much. Thank you. I am happy to report that that contact was made late today.

Although we have few details, we are full of joy and gratitude. Two weeks ago we posted our missing person plea on Facebook and someone responded! He was spotted about 100 miles from home by a friend of his. She called and let us know that she had talked to him and that he is alright. No specific information was given.

That can be a discussion for another day.

Today, we just want to thank God, our family, friends, and everyone for their encouragement and love. I  know that not all missing person ordeals have a happy ending. I do not even know how our story will play out but…

I do know that prayer works!

(and so does Facebook!)

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Missing People

We have probably all seen the posters of missing persons or watched a TV program showcasing a particular missing person, or a newscast with a tragic story of a missing child or high profile story of a coed. Did you know that in the United States alone there are as many as 90, 000 people that might be missing at any given time? (source USA Today).

I was shocked to find such  statistics! Many of these missing persons are found but how did they go missing in the first place?  Children are abducted for many reasons. We can all agree that this is heartbreaking for both the child and the family beyond belief and understanding. In this post I will not even try to discuss the very sensitive and sad story of the  more than 8 million children that go missing worldwide each year. No country is immune to this tragedy.   I will instead focus on adults that are missing…

most specifically…

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…my brother who went missing on March 20, 2016.

Of the many missing persons in the US, almost 60, 000 are adults and  more than half of them are male. Adults go missing for a variety of reasons such as accidents, suicide, mental health issues, suspicious circumstances, and sometimes deliberately.

Wow!

This is much more difficult than I thought. I planned to write an interesting overview on this subject full of stats and such but…

I just can’t.

We have done the normal things-filed a police report, checked hospitals, phoned, Facebook, drove around, prayed, asked for prayers, checked with friends…..the problem is…is he a deliberate disappearance like some family members think? Would he really leave us hanging like this? Is it time to plaster his face on milk cartons and telephone poles? Would he really allow us to worry?  We are a very close family! Is he grieving at the loss of our sister last November? He is a long distance truck driver-is he working? Is he on the road?  Has he chosen to live under a bridge or in a park?  It is said no news is good news. We just want to know. Some think if we crank up the search we will paint him into the proverbial corner. If he left deliberately… is he just too embarrassed to make contact?  He has  previously “disappeared” for a day or two at a time…but not this long.

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Come home Jimmy.

We miss you.

We love you.

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Zion National Park

This past week we had a opportunity to spend half a day in Zion National Park. Sadly, a few hours is not enough to really to explore all that this park has to offer. Having any time at all here leaves you hungry to explore more of Zion and the other wonders that Utah has to offer.

As Utah’s oldest and most popular national park, Zion is located in Southern Utah, about 163 miles north of Las Vegas, Nevada. The quaint little town of Springdale is the somewhat official starting place to begin a visit. There you can board a tram for entry into the park, spend the night in one of the lodges, stop for a meal or drink in one of the cute cafes or restaurants, or visit one of the many rock and gem stores found there.

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We chose to drive into the park as we had big plans for a picnic after some exploring.

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Once inside you will need to park your vehicle and board one of the trams that run throughout Zion.

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The trams reduce the pollution and congestion within the park. At no cost to the rider, you can hop on or off at one of the many stops. They stop at such interesting places like The Grotto and Court of the Patriarchs. Running about every 15 minutes there is really no disadvantage to this arrangement. In fact, you can get a nice overview and scenic overload from the tram.  Load up your bike, picnic, or hiking gear to head out for an extraordinary day!

Zion is extremely popular with hikers. To really appreciate all of the beautify and diversity found here one might need to explore beyond the visitor center and tram stops. Destinations such as Emerald Pool Trails and Angels Landing called to us but with our limited time and my agility, we had to carefully choose where to spend our time. We decided on The Narrows  which is perhaps one of the most familiar and popular hikes. (A great place if you are in Zion during a hot summer day). We departed the shuttle at The Temple of Sinawava and hiked the 2.5 mile (round trip) Riverside Trail  along the Virgin River to the entrance of The Narrows. Once you begin the hike through the narrows, the water can be ankle deep and even  chest high in some places. I was pretty impressed with myself that I was able to make the hike at all! The trail is nicely paved and even-which makes it wheelchair accessible! Many of the people we passed along the way were prepared for the water. They had hiking sticks, backpacks,  water-proof pants, or water-proof leggings. People of all ages were prepared for the water adventure.

Along the trail we were able to appreciate the hanging gardens…

…plants that seemed to grow right out of a rock wall.

The trail meandered along The Virgin River.

We observed the Weeping Rocks…

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…where water seems to seep from the rocks.

The majestic views were breath taking.

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The canyons were wide and the skies were blue.

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After our hike and the 90 minute tram ride, we headed back to the visitor center and our awaiting picnic.  A few years ago we were able to hike the Timber Creek Overlook Trail which is located in the most northern part of Zion.

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Located in higher elevations, the scenery is as beautiful. There is a five mile scenic drive that rises above the majestic canyons and the red rocks of the Kolob Canyons. It was merely by chance that we discovered this often forgotten area of Zion. When traveling through Utah to another destination, we took a chance to stop here not realizing that  Kolob Canyon is somewhat separate from the main part of Zion but should not be missed!

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With many of Utah’s National Parks yet to explore, we have  Bryce, Arches, Canyonlands, and Capital Reef on our list of places to visit. We do love the outdoors and are already planning our next adventure!

Death Valley-Super Bloom

A special treat is happening in the Death Valley……spring flowers! With only an average annual rainfall of 2 inches a year, this season, the park got  3 inches of rain so far! Three rare storms in the first two weeks of October was enough to cause millions of dormant wildflower seeds to spring forth.

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Our yearly camping trip to Death Valley Nation Park is at Thanksgiving so the chance to visit this past weekend during the super bloom was a special treat. The roads, campgrounds, hotels, and just about everywhere we went was full of enthralled spectators. Never before had we experienced such unique splendor. Death Valley, despite its name, is such a beautiful place anytime of the year. Although barren of many plants, trees, and shrubs, the diversity and beauty of the park is not to be missed. It is this diversity that makes this park so incredibly appealing-from the salt flats to the sand dunes, the mountain tops  to the badlands, and the sunrises to the sunsets. It is a land of extremes.

We were going to see Death Valley in the spring and during the extraordinary blooming of spring flowers!  Out the door at 3:30AM we arrived full of anticipation and excited to explore. We spent two days driving around the park with many stops along the way.

This is some of the highlights of our trip.

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Desert Gold

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Deep Purple Phacelia

(If touched can cause a rash)

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More than 20 species of wildflower bloom in the park at various elevations.

We saw these at a higher elevation but I don’t know their name.

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The Desert Five-Spot

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The Gravel Ghost

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(see how seems to float from the very interesting leaves hugging the ground?)

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The Charcoal Kilns. No flowers but a group of young people making a video!

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Badwater Basin. 282 feet below sea level. That is not snow in the background…

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…it is a salt flat.

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This was a shrub growing among the Desert Gold flowers.

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On a normal trip the landscape would look more like this…

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…instead of this!

 Our second night  we were sent packing with 45-60 mph winds… which collapsed our tent….so…we slept in the car! Not the best way to end our trip but worth every minute to have been able to enjoy such a rare sight.

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A day earlier than planned we soon found our way home. I wouldn’t have wanted to miss it though!

Boys and Girls

Isn’t it interesting how families seem to have more boys than girls, more daughters than sons, or more guys than gals? In our blended family we have 4 girls and 2 boys, 4 grandsons and 7 granddaughters, 1 great granddaughter and 2 more on the way (due in April and May). Thommmee is 1 of  5 brothers and 2 sisters, I am 1 of 4 sisters and 2 brothers.

In our more local/ immediate family we seem be surrounded by girls. As a result, I spend time with the girls in efforts of cooking, sewing, shopping, etc. We all spend time together camping, vacationing, playing games, barbequing,  beach trips, and a multitude of birthday parties. When it comes to doing ‘guy’ things, however, I have often felt that I fell short. I recently decided to make more of an effort to participate in some of the things that they enjoy. Surprisingly (or not) we actually ended up having a really good time.

A few weekends ago my 16 year old grandson and I made plans to attend an outdoors/sportsman event near me.  We were both really excited to spend this time together but honestly I was a bit apprehensive that I would disappoint him or he would be bored hanging out with grandma. Although we are very close and enjoy a very special bond, we are usually a part of a group since he has become a teenager. He lives about 30 miles away and this would also be his first trip managing the congested Southern California freeways by himself. On a Friday afternoon he headed my way as soon as he got out of school and arrived at my house about 3:30. I had decided to just go with whatever I would normally do so we quickly got busy making strawberry jam. Now, I realize this might not be a 16 year old boy’s idea of fun but I figured it was still hanging out with grandma so…. It was fun and he learned a thing or two about making jam.  Since it was Valentine’s Day weekend, we took a jar of fresh jam and decorated it for him to give to his girlfriend ( along with his other special mementos).

While I cleaned up, he went outside with Poppa (Thommmee) to barbeque some steaks and veggies. I made potatoes and garlic bread.  After dinner we settled down to play some board games and cards. We baked brownies. We talked. We laughed.  Eventually Poppa was ready for bed but we sat up and talked well past my  bedtime. We really shared with each other and I will treasure that evening forever.

Early the next morning the three of us were up laughing and talking over pancakes and bacon (which is enough to make anyone happy-right?) We didn’t invite Poppa or anyone else to go along on this trip so the two of us headed off to the event. Now, I don’t know what I expected, maybe a bunch of dudes in overalls chewing tobacco or some other foolish notions of what hunters, gun carrying survivalists might look like (sorry if I offended anyone here-I am somewhat a sheltered urban raised girl ). Anyway, it was mostly men (hey ladies, the ultimate place to meet a guy maybe?), normal looking people, a few women, and even a few families. Nonetheless, I am fairly certain I was the only proud grandma accompanied by her handsome 16 year old grandson. We had a great time but for me this was a one time event (just the show not the grandson).

Encouraged by this adventure, the following weekend I offered to take Thommmee to the Gold and Treasure show at the Fairplex (formally know as the LA Fairgrounds). He loves to watch all of those treasure hunting, prospecting, gold digging type shows so he was all in! (maybe this is where I got that stereo-type idea of the outdoorsmen?) They were selling all types of  machines, gizmos,  and every sort of prospecting gear you could imagine. They even sold dirt and a dirt of the month club membership so you could pan for gold in the privacy of your own home…really? Again, mostly men but more women and families at this event…..normal people! I think get these ideas from the shows Thommmee watches. They must pick extremes types to keep the shows interesting.

OK. I tried. I love the outdoors. If you read my blog you know I love to camp, I sleep in a tent and cook outdoors. These two weekends were a bit of a stretch for me but these men  appreciated my willingness to try something new and I got to spend time with these great guys.  I am not complaining at all. Next weekend our church is having a ladies afternoon tea which I will be attending. Not sure this is a fit for me either. I like my jeans, sneakers and bracelets. Perhaps I am someplace in between but I would like to keep an open mind.

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Super Bowl Sunday and a day at the beach

Some people love football. Some people don’t. I don’t. Thommmee does. When faced with what to do on game day, he went to watch the big game with our daughter. She does. I picked up the 4 of the grandkids (they don’t) and we headed to the beach.

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It happened to be a beautiful day in Southern California.

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This was so much more fun than watching a football game.

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