Happy Anniversary

Today my husband and I celebrate 29 years of marriage.

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WOW!

Where did the time go? We blended two families together-6 kids! We are now 11 grandchildren, 3 great-grand children, and a significant number of significant others (all whom I am  glad to say we love dearly).  It was a great deal of hard work and sacrifices along the way…

but let me go back 29 years…

After dating for almost 2 years, we decided to plan a vacation with the kids. After much research we chose a houseboat on Lake Mead in Nevada. It sounded like a great idea! By this time we knew we were going to get married and in fact had matching wedding bands made. It had come down to settling on the specifics of a wedding. Lake Mead, if you don’t know, it  just outside of Las Vegas, Nevada-and as you probably do know is a hot spot for weddings. It wasn’t much of a leap at this point to decide to elope and allow the houseboat, with all of the kids to be our honeymoon.

Without saying a word to anyone, we made a plan. We didn’t even tell the kids until we were enroute for fear they would not be able to keep such a big secret.  At the time we worked in real estate so the only person who knew was the printer who in advance of the wedding printed up my new business cards. It was how we would spread the word to our co-workers. We told the kids to be sure to pack one nice outfit but due to the rush of last minute preparations I did not follow up on their chosen wardrobe. As a result, we were a bit of a rag-tag looking group for the wedding which did not matter in the slightest.  I grabbed the newest dress I had which my sister had given me for my birthday the month before.

Needless to say, most of preparations for this trip were focused on the things we would need for 7 days on the houseboat. We purchased 56-6 packs of soda (okay, a bit of overkill and math isn’t my best subject anyway),  blow up tubing and toys for the lake, sunscreen, food, games, and all of the expected things one might need in the middle of a lake in the brutal desert in mid August.

As we made our way on the just under 4 hour drive to Las Vegas we announced to the kids of our pending nuptials.  At this early stage in our relationship we were in no way the idea of a blended family but they took the news rather well we thought.  Perhaps they were just anxious to get to the vacation on the lake.  Who knows. There were no cell phones in those days so no worry of them tipping anyone off.  We would make the appropriate calls to family after the ceremony.

When we arrived in Las Vegas,  I settled the kids into our two hotel rooms at the Landmark Hotel (we almost cried years later when this hotel was imploded). Thommmee made arrangements including a limo to pick us up and take us to a cute wedding chapel-the limo ride a real treat for the kids!  Our group somehow managed to pull ourselves together and before we knew it we were standing before a minister reciting our wedding vows . There was no Elvis look-a-like or any other corny theme (well, just my cheesy fake flower bouquet).

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It was just simply a beautiful moment.

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  We were soon off then to a buffet dinner in a hotel I cannot even remember.

With a whirl of activity and before we knew it, we were honeymooning on a lake in confined quarters with a group of kids. I couldn’t have asked for more perfect honeymoon!  The kids still talk about what a great trip it was.

29 years ago already and it has been a beautiful journey. Of course that is not to say it was always easy or even fun, but it was our journey . When people see us with our family now there is not usually a mention of a blended family. We don’t consider them your kids or my kids but our kids-our family.  We believe that God has blessed us and brought us to where we are today. We are grateful, we are thankful.

At 25 years we renewed our marriage vows.

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It only gets better!

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Happy Anniversary to the most amazing husband-my husband-my Thommmee. Here is to the next 29 years!

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Day Trip: Joshua Tree National Park

We live in a great place. In less than an hour we can be at the Pacific Ocean, the mountains, or the desert. All of these places have their unique qualities and we enjoy most of them. It’s really a toss-up for us- between the ocean and the desert- depending on the season. The disadvantages are, you can always expect a crowd.

Yesterday we decided to take advantage of the spring flowers in the desert. With Joshua Tree National Park a mere 80 miles away, we packed a lunch and headed out first thing. By 9:00 we were in the park with mild temperatures and a sunny day before us.

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Joshua Tree National Park is named for the Joshua Trees found there. You won’t find them in all areas of the park as they are specific to elevations/conditions, but you can also find them in many parts of the Mojave Desert. They’re such interesting looking trees with almost outstretched arms which may be attributed to how they got their name. The lifting branches were thought to be the arms of Joshua leading to the Promised Land according to an old Mormon legend. It’s really hard to determine how old a Joshua tree is as they have no growth rings. These are protected trees in many areas. You will often find desert homes built around the trees to accommodate them. They can live, it is thought, up to a hundred and fifty years! The spiky and succulent leaves are not cactus but part of the agave family (information obtained through the Joshua Tree National Park official newspaper).

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The park is partially located in the Mojave Desert and the Colorado Deserts.  Within the transitions of the two areas, there is great diversity of plants and species.

We entered the park through the Joshua Tree Visitor Center located outside the town of Joshua Tree.  The Joshua trees had already bloomed and were spent for the most part….

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… but not all of them thankfully.

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There were also many rock formations,  hikers, and rock climbers in this area of the park.

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( and me, just a visitor, not a hiker)

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As we begin the drive into the more Southern portion of the park, we came across a stop that seem to attract carloads of people.

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(Maybe it was the name?)

We also passed by such interesting places as Sheep Pass, Jumbo Rock, Split Rock,  Cap Rock, and Hall of Horrors. There were several campgrounds (all full) located throughout the park. Close to a military base in nearby 29 Palms, Palm Springs and other desert communities, including the many suburbs located near Los Angeles,  the park attracts many outdoor enthusiasts.

As we meandered our way from one end of the park to the other, we often stopped to take pictures of interesting rocks or plants that we came upon.

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At about halfway through the park we must have entered the Colorado Desert portion as the scenery changed considerably. There were fewer  rock formations with sprawling vistas and distant mountains instead.

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We then came across the Cholla Cactus Garden where miles and miles of these cactus grew.

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Next stop, the Ocotillo Patch.

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It was here we started to see a greater variety of plants…

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… and the desert blooms we had been searching for.

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We stopped for our picnic lunch near the Cottonwood Springs Visitor Center on our way out of the park. The majority of the flowers could be seen as you exit the park east of Indio. Along the highway there were Ocotillo and these gorgeous yellow flowers growing everywhere.

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It really was a great day trip. I love to be outdoors and see God’s handiwork up close and personal!

California Citrus State Historic Park

A few weeks ago on an unexpectedly sunny Sunday afternoon, (say that 3 times fast!) we decided to get outside and enjoy the day. We are not used to so many cloudy or rainy days around here.  We headed to Riverside to visit the Citrus  State Historic  Park. Having driven by this place a few times over the years, we really didn’t know much about it or what to expect.

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With only about a 30 minute drive we arrived in time for the (free) 12:00 tour. There were about 10 people in our group, consisting of all ages. Some were local and others were visiting from colder climates and enjoying the California sunshine. Bree was our volunteer docent / guide. She is a full time high school biology teacher by day. She was very knowledgeable and made the one hour walking tour very interesting.

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After giving us an empty  bag and a promise of free samples,  Bree gave us a brief history of the Citrus industry in Riverside, California. At one time this was the California Gold. Soon we headed off to the magnificent orange groves for a few citrus lessons up close and personal.

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Naturally there was one person there who just wanted to buck the system and seemed to perhaps think that because of her age the rules simply did not apply to her. Shockingly she was probably the oldest person in the group! Perhaps she felt her age entitled her to some special privileges such as picking up dropped fruit from the ground when we were specifically told not to. It is a state park after all, so we must know you are not allowed to take anything out of the park. I felt sympathy for our guide when she had to politely chastise this overzealous visitor.

Anyway, as we walked along a very smooth pathway we stopped at various trees for information about that specific type of tree. There were also many photo opportunities and since it was such a gorgeous day we took advantage of it.

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The palm trees were added to distinguish the dirt roads within the grove.

As we stopped at each tree she educated us on the type of fruit, its history, and other  citrus related information.  She  occasionally, but carefully (to not harm either the fruit or the tree), cut a piece of fruit for each of us to take home. We came home with lemons, grapefruit, navel oranges, tangelos, and blood oranges just to name a few. Who knew there was so many varieties? The grove works closely with the University of California at Riverside in the development and education  of new and existing varieties of citrus. This would include disease resistance as well as trees specifically for grafting to produce the new varieties. I did not know that a citrus tree does not generally grow from a seed but from a graft. Some trees are specifically grown just for this purpose.

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Not just dropped fruit-a tree specifically for grafting.

 We had a picturesque and easy walk  around the grove.

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Notice the smudge-pot in the lower left of the picture. These were heated with oil to keep fruit from freezing years ago. Now, water is used. Much more environmentally friendly.

All too soon we were taken back to the main building and gift shop. On the patio our education continued along with slices of the various fruits.

20170129_132221.jpgI grew up in Riverside and spent most of my life driving around orange groves. I really did not think beyond the beauty of the trees and the groves themselves. It was just the way it was. Sometimes we don’t miss something until it is gone.

There are almost 400 acres of citrus trees in the park.

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A small Museum, gift shop, and outbuildings which are available for rent to host events make up the remainder of the park. For a mere $5 entrance you are able to spend an enjoyable afternoon and actually have something to take home with you! Perfect for history buffs, the curious, or for a local outing.  With the Cara Cara oranges being our absolute favorite, we stopped at a roadside stand and purchased a bag.

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Sometimes when you take a moment to look around your own community it is  amazing what points of interest you might stumble across. I highly recommend this to Southern California locals or visitors. Although orange groves were very commonplace throughout the areas here, eventually it was decided that the real money was in the real estate and  many thousands of acres throughout Southern California were plowed over in the name of progress. Now, homes fill the landscape. I suppose this is something that happens all over as we get away from a more natural environment to a more commercial or industrial environment. I’m so grateful for state and national parks in that preserve uniqueness and beauty.

What are your favorite protected parks?

Life is a journey…

Like many people, I have the best of intentions of eating right and exercising more. Like many people, I often do not meet my goals-in fact too often throw the diet and bathroom scale out the window! I want to be healthier, I follow blogs and Instagram that offer marvelously healthy recipes, visit websites that attempt to encourage and motivate and like many people have a gym membership that is currently being ignored and a bike that is gathering dust at the side of the house.

WHY????

Oh, I have bad knees, a busy schedule, birthday parties to attend and…well…frankly I have many other excuses too!  I’ll do well for a few weeks at a time but before I know it I am pretty much back to where I started. Maybe not all the way back but far enough.

One day I was catching up on blog posts and came across a posting that caught my eye at Blue Jangmi. She was participating in a Whole Food Challenge. The idea of the challenge is to remove specific items from you diet for 30 days, restart your metabolism,  and change the way you think about food.  When you reintroduce items you can possibly determine if certain foods are causing you problems.  You can then eliminate these foods from your diet. Also, after 30 days, you will have (hopefully) broken your bad food habits and maybe then you can begin healthier eating habits-right? Sounded good. I chuckled and commented to her that although it sounded nice, I just didn’t have 30 days in my life where I could avoid eating certain things and so good luck to her.  She kindly replied letting me know that there was never a perfect time to do something that was important for yourself.

…And I couldn’t stop thinking about it!
…And I decided to do it!

I didn’t talk about my decision very much because, frankly, I didn’t know if I could really do it. What started out to just be a personal challenge with some hopes of success turned into a meaningful journey. I committed to the September 2016 Whole 30 Challenge.

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I relied on Instagram for most of my information, motivation, and encouragement. I began to follow other people who were participating in the challenge and before long not only was I using some of their recipes but I was posting some of my own. I began to experiment and try new foods. Instead of just zucchini and yellow squash I tried acorn, butternut, and spaghetti squash. I learned to drink my coffee black, to forgo artificial sweeteners, to create a pumpkin chill that  was husband approved,  and make scrambled eggs with grated sweet potatoes (who knew you could do so many things with sweet potatoes???)

I read product labels for hidden sugars and started using something called coconut aminos instead of soy sauce to enhance the taste of some foods. I stared making my own ghee (a clarified butter) instead of actual butter. Full fat coconut milk and avocados became a part of my diet. No more wine with dinner (for 30 days anyway) or bread…but somehow I didn’t really miss it all much. (well, maybe the creamer in my coffee)

In a short while I noticed changes in the way my clothes were fitting. Since you’re giving up your relationship with food and your scale, I was not supposed to weigh or measure myself the entire 30 days.

Did I actually feel better you might ask? Well, yes and no. I was sleeping better but my joints still hurt. I didn’t have any specific food issues previously so I couldn’t judge changes in that way. I seemed to have more energy and I was not hungry between meals. My favorite meal of the day was dessert and I didn’t ( and don’t) even miss that!! Apples seemed to satisfy my sweet tooth most of the time.

I did feel a sense of accomplishment when I completed the entire 30 days.

I lost 11 pounds and a week later I was down 15 pounds. By November down 20 pounds. Now don’t get me wrong, I have a ways to go. The funny thing is I rather like maintaining this paleo-ish eating style. As we entered into the holiday season I knew there were many eating opportunities/challenges before me  and I took advantage of some (and maybe many?)  But… I needed to remember one of my favorite quotes:

Failing to plan is planning to fail.

So I planned and tried to make choices that worked for me.

During this time, one of my daughters  was busy jumping out of airplanes and challenging herself. She bought a motorcycle. She was learning to make changes in different ways  Her thoughts were if she can do this she can do anything!!  She was an inspiration to me! Anything is possible….

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I am happy to announce she eloped this past weekend!

(talk about moving out of your comfort zone!)

While I had no plans of jumping out of an airplane, don’t like motorcycles,  and happily married to Thommee for almost 29 years, I was excited to see where this journey might take me.

A January Whole 30 Challenge began this month and I jumped back on board.

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I felt the tune-up would help keep me on track after the holidays. It is going great. I will complete this challenge on January 30. I plan to continue on a somewhat Paleo diet. I love zipping up my jeans and tying my shoelaces. While my path might be somewhat modified, I found many people and supporters making this a life mission. They inspire me too! I am in awe of their dedication to good health but I don’t think it will happen for me in quite the same way. We all need to find our own journey and what works for us, right?  It is amazing what a few changes and attitude can make…and we can always learn and grow.

If you would like to review my journey, check out my Instagram. If you are curious about this Whole 30 program, just click on the link.

Any obstacles you are facing these days?

Happy 2017

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Computers and Life

As you may recall, our computer has been acting up for some time. I have come to realize that a new computer will be moving up on the priority list fairly soon. It’s hard to make that decision when you’re faced with completing a new kitchen floor that is halfway finished, preparing for a Thanksgiving road trip for a 90th year birthday celebration for Thommmee’s mom, and then of course Christmas is right around the corner. We’ve been limping along between two ailing laptops for a while now. Both of them have their own quirks and problems. I have spent hours on the phone with our internet service provider trying to resolve some of the issues but….the bottom line is, we need a new computer.

I recently commented that the public library have computers available at no charge but somehow….. the inconvenience of trotting down there is, well frankly… inconvenient!  I do rely on my fancy little smartphone for most things but for blogging it just doesn’t cut it. It makes a person wonder how we got along without such necessities for so long, dosen’t it? Games,  email,  searching,  blogging….. If you are a blogger it’s rather important,  I think.

Life offers highs and lows and in actuality this is not the end of the world. I have certainly been blessed with more ups than downs so my complaint is really just a moment of voiced inconvenience. Sometimes it is the frustrations of ordinary life that get the best of us!

Silly,  huh?

Mail and the written word

I was recently searching  the stores for a simple address book.  I was surprised to find the selection so limited if available at all!!  While browsing  a major chain bookstore,  a young employee observed my struggle and offered to help. When I told her what I was searching for she patiently explained to me that the store didn’t really have much of a selection of these (apparently obsolete) items. She kept her phone numbers in her phone. “Oh,” I commented, then asked “what if your phone was lost or crashed?”  She smugly explained that she had a computer backup, app, or  cloud for such emergences. When I asked her if she also kept addresses in these places she gave me a blank look. There was no understanding in her world that an address was something to hold on to when, after all, she could simply text the person for an address. Once you had  been to their home you would simply remember where they live!  Duh!  Maybe she would call her mother for the address as my kids do…which was the point of purchasing these address books in the first place! I was tired of my kids calling for addresses every Christmas, baby shower, or even an occasional thank you note. They knew that mom had a address book with all of these address carefully recorded (or at least an envelope with a return address in hopes of being added).

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What this young woman, and probably many others fail to realize, is the joy that comes from getting a hand written note or card in the mail. I know many people don’t bother to check their mail regularly anymore. Why bother? Bills are paid online, pay checks, tax returns, and other such sources of incoming or outgoing monies are handled electronically these days. Our lives are so busy that many have forgotten the joy of receiving a piece of personal mail-much less taking the time to sit down a write a note or letter to anyone.

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I remember the joy my kids experienced growing up when a birthday or Valentine or any special occasion card came in the mail addressed to them. My mother was particularity diligent in sending cards and the kids anticipated receiving mail as a result.  I have tried to do this for our grandkids but cannot seem to keep up as well as she did. We also mail them post cards occasionally when we are traveling as I recall how much pleasure my kids experienced with this simple sign of acknowledgement.

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But…what about adults? Don’t we like to receive personal mail as well? If you are thumbing through your recent batch of mail-bills, advertisements, and whatever, don’t you usually stop when you find a hand addressed letter or card from someone you know? Aren’t you likely to take a moment to open it, spend a few minutes reading it? Might we feel a moment of happiness that someone we know took time from their busy schedules to write to us? I know I felt that way recently when I received a thoughtful note from fellow blogger, Marlene at insearchofitall.

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Of course I love my emails, Instagram, internet searches, (not a fan of Facebook these days), my smartphone, texting, and good old fashioned chatting  but can’t deny the pleasure I feel when receiving or writing a note to someone I care about. If you haven’t tried it lately I encourage you to do so. Just imagine the joy the recipient of your efforts will feel next time they head to their mailbox!

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Proud to be an American….

 

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I can’t listen to (much less sing) patriotic music without getting all choked up. Perhaps you too feel that way about your favorite patriotic songs either as an American or of your own home country. I think it is great to be proud of our heritage!

There is no time in the United States like the 4th of July (American Independence Day) to appreciate our patriotic music.  Some of our most beloved songs have been around for some time while others are more recent. Regardless, they still fill our hearts with pride and bring a tear to most eyes.

Some of our most well known and popular songs are:

America The Beautiful-sometimes called the national hymn of the United States. It was adapted by a poem written in 1983 by Katharine Lee Bates.

My Country ‘Tis of Thee (also known as America) was written in  1832 by Samuel F. Smith. It was his desire to create a National Hymn for the Untied States.

The Star Spangled Banner-our National Anthem. Written by Frances Scott Key in 1814, it officially became our national anthem in 1931.

God Bless the USA-sometimes referred to the  ‘unofficial National Anthem’ was written by Lee Greenwood in 1983.

This Land is Your Land-written by folk singer Woody Guthrie in 1940.

God Bless America-an American patriotic song written by Irving Berlin in 1938.

From the mountains…

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…to the prairies…

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…to the oceans …

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God Bless America

Cross at Groom, Texas

Many thanks to all who served!

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(my dad-his final resting place at Arlington National Cemetery)

Thommmee and his father-both proudly served as US Marines.

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(combined over 45 years of service!)

I am…

Proud to Be An American.

What is your favorite patriotic song?

Summer, Sewing, & Retirement

Every once in awhile I need an attitude adjustment. This retirement thing is a work in progress. Even after 2 1/2 years I can easily fall into lazy habits, get off track, cringe when I jump on the scale, and well…basically I need to refocus! Not that I am not busy but I sometimes have found myself being busy with the business of being busy.

Huh????

Last week is a perfect example. On Monday I was at the hospital all day waiting for the arrival of our newest great-granddaughter. Very exciting! I was the on call labor coach in case the young parents needed reinforcements. I have been front and center for four of my own (of course), my sister, and four grandchildren. For six others I have impatiently sat in the waiting room. I have completed 3 Lamaze classes, read countless books, and offered too many hours to count of advice by phone, visits to nervous moms, and had more than most of sleepless nights in this miracle of babies, pregnancy, and babies being born. So there was no place I would have rather been!!

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I mean, is she perfect or what????

It was also the weekend visit of one of my oldest and dearest friends, a baby shower of her second grandchild, and a visit from our oldest grandson, home from almost two years away. During the week I met a sister for lunch, had my brother staying with us (and thrilled to have him back),  met a friend for coffee and another dear friend for our usual swimming meet up. Church, household stuff, Bible study, and oh yeah…Thommmee-the most patient and understanding husband on the planet needed some attention too.

Anyway, I realized that all of this business was causing me to stress a bit and I wasn’t enjoying the moments with all of the scheduling. I was talking too much about what I still had to do (how special did that make the person I was with feel?) so….readjusting and focusing on my friends and family became priority. Fortunately, these wonderful people love me as is and were most patient with me. I have to say, I treasure each and everyone of them!

Once I realized what I was doing I reminded myself to do what I love, make Thommmee a top priority, and slow down a bit. After all, retirement does not need a checklist!

What does that have to do with sewing you might ask? One of the things I love is sewing. My newest project is making these Sprocket Pillows.

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(for a niece)

They are so fun to make and a great way to use up scraps of fabric.

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(given to a granddaughter)

I am giving them away as fast as I make them.

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(another granddaughter)

I am not offering a tutorial as I was not able to obtain permission from the website where I found them (besides her tutorial is so fantastic). You can find instructions at cluckclucksew with a template included.

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(my friends grandson-nursery colors black, white, and gray!)

They are simple, fairly quick, and come in two sizes.

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We are leaving in a few days for a trip. It will include a visit along the California coast. Our itinerary open and flexible. Brother is back to work, baby and new parents are doing fine (we saw them yesterday). The grads have graduated, no birthdays, and the diet is out the window anyway.  No sewing next week but, that is alright.

I am ready for some quiet and time with Thommmee.

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Books and Reading

 

Oh where oh where have I been??

READING!!

After a rather long break from reading I am finally back at it. If you have followed my blog for any time, you might recall that I was in a somewhat state of despair because, after a lifetime love affair of reading, I was suddenly unable to focus on a book. I lamented how frustrated I felt and many of you offered encouragement and support that it was a phase and would pass.  You were so right!

Not much of anything is accomplished these days with my nose stuck in a book!! I felt it only fair to share a few of the titles that have kept me so busy and away from my blog. Not being a book reviewer, it is with reluctance I offer my opinions… but here goes!

I first started out listening to a few books through Amazon Audible. My first try was a huge success with A Man Called Ove by Swedish author, Fredrick Backman. This is the story of a cantankerous old man and his life after the death of his wife. He has his own peculiar biases and opinions which are challenged in a humorous and engaging way. This was an absolutely wonderful book and the narrator was a perfect match.

On a roll now, I moved on to a tender story of two sister separated during the Berlin Blitz of World War II. Secrets of a Charmed Life by Susan Meissner was touching, thoughtful, and held my interest throughout. Great book!. I am currently listening to another of her books  A Fall of Marigolds. This is an interesting story of a nurse working on Ellis Island in 1911. The history of the time period is quite fascinating but now I am now only listening to audio books while I am at the gym (and sadly this is not often enough to keep me motivated in the story).

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Encouraged, I began to haunt the public library for new titles and authors. What a surprise to find new titles can be found through their online search catalogue. Links provide reviews from the editor and actual readers which certainly helps in the selection process. Books can even be reserved online! A text message is sent when the book is available so I simply walk into the library to find my requests waiting for me. Books can be renewed online after I receive a text alert that the due date is approaching! How convenient is that???

The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton is a marvelous read! It is the story encompassing three generations from Australia to England. This mystery and the lives of the women it chronicles will keep you turning pages well into the night!

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Next, Prayers for Sale by Sandra Dallas caught my eye. I found this book on a Pintrest list of all places. Set in Colorado during the Great Depression, it is an lovely fictional history told by an 86 year old mountain woman. The story expands as she mentors a young woman new to the area. Watching the friendship develop is a reminder how special woman friends are in our lives. Do you also treasure your woman friends?

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Our women’s Bible study is reading Twelve Extraordinary Women by John MacArthur. This book gives new insight to some of the Bible’s most interesting women such as Eve, Sarah, and Rahab. If you have any interest in learning more about some fascinating women during Biblical times, this is a great book.

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Next was I Belong to No One by fellow blogger Gwen Wilson (garrulousgwendoline). She has written an intimate portrait of her younger life growing up in rural Australia during the 1970’s.  What courage she has shown by sharing her story with others. It was hard to wrap my head around the girl in the book with the Gwen I have come to know through our mutual blogs. I was deeply reminded that although we are influenced by our personal journeys, history, social prejudices, and mores,  it is what we do with those experiences that shape our future.  This book truly  shows that we have a choice to overcome obstacles at any point in our lives! Thank you for sharing your story, Gwen!

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Currently I am reading Still Alice by Lisa Genova. This book gives an insight into the life of an Alzheimer’s victim and her family. You may be more familiar with the movie staring  Julianne Moore who, in 2015,  received an Academy Award as well as a Golden Globe for her portrayal of Alice. Since I had not seen this movie and was only aware of the subject matter, I was surprised to find how much I like this book. Had it not been loaned to me I may not have ever picked it up.

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 So…

…this is what has been keeping me busy.

Do you have any recommendations for me?

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)