Saturday, October 6, 2012


             The constant smell of smoke from the wildfires has been replaced by an aroma that is quite familiar in our rural area--the bouquet of wood stoves burning.  Because  we can, a large number of us heat our homes with wood heat.  For years now, the most familiar sounds of the new day--from October to early April anyway--are the sounds of Dad/Grandpa stoking up the stoves with wood.  The squeak of the stove door handle, the crack of the ax making kindling, the rustle of newspapers remind we grasshoppers that there's activity afoot.  While our ant labors away, we enjoy the luxury of lying in bed under our warm covers until we hear the crackle of the fire and Dad's "Time to get up."  Too cruel--that reminder that we all have promises to keep when the warmth filling the room is sometimes more of an invitation to snuggle down and go back to sleep. 
            We're ready for the little slower pace of Fall.  I've decorated the house:

Tom's fillings the wood bins with wood and other necessities:
We're adding to our food supply, and I've even finished a few quilts that could be used:
This quilt is one I've mentioned a time or two on my blog.  It's a birthday quilt for Tom.  I started it exactly a year ago and just completed the handquilting recently.  It's a beautiful quilt; I'm proud of it.
                                 You can see by the edge of our current comforter hanging below that new quilt that I've created a problem for myself..nothing in this bedroom matches the new quilt.  I need to re-decorate the bedroom....
                Vale is doing well with his driving.  Recently, on our way to school, we had this conversation:
                 Me:  (As I eased out past a stop sign to check traffic):  "You do know about stopping behind the white line, right?"
                 Vale: (Patiently):  "Yes, I do, Grandma."
                  Me:  "Did you know that once you've stopped, you can ease out a little further so you can get into a better position to turn as long as there's no traffic?"
                 Vale:  (A little less patiently): "Yes, I do, Grandma."
                  Me: (Slightly miffed):  "I don't know what you do know, Vale, so I try to give you some information."
                 Vale:  (With an impish chuckle):  "Grandma, I'm sixteen.  I know everything."

Life is good, says the Grasshopper Grandma.  Hope you're preparing too.  "They" say it's going to be a harsh winter.  Love to All.

Isn't it strange how princes and kings,
and clowns that caper in sawdust rings,
and common people, like you and me,
are builders for eternity?

Each is given a list of rules;
a shapeless mass; a bag of tools.
And each must fashion, ere life is flown,
A stumbling block, or a Stepping-Stone.

by R. Lee Sharpe


Sunday, September 30, 2012

Queen For A Day At the DMV

          I'm not prone to gushing.  My mother used to swoon and gush over Michael Landon of Bonanza fame, and my sister used to gush over a minor character, Gerald Lloyd "Kookie" Kookson III (played by Edd Byrnes), the rock and roll-loving, wisecracking, hair-combing, hipster and aspiring P.I. in a 50's tv show.
I, on the other hand, have always been more level-headed and not prone to such silliness...until a week ago.
             The setting was our local office of the Department of Motor Vehicles.  I was there to sign any paperwork and pay any fees for Vale's instruction permit.  I was exhausted and a bit disheveled from a day spent wrestling with a big heavy quilt.  The permit process proved arduous, since we aren't Vale's legal guardian.  A number of calls had to be made to Olympia to clear the permit.  I stood for as long as I could, but my arthritic knees gave me so much trouble I sat down.  The waiting room was full of people; sunlight was filtering through the window, and I was reading a rather scintillating account of what would happen to me, legally, if I happened to text and drive.  I felt a presence in front of me, a six foot plus stood Vale.  He didn't say anything but he had his elbow out--escort-style.  Once I put my hand through his arm, he proffered his other hand and assisted me across the room to the examiner's desk.  I could feel the eyes of all in the room, of their approval of this uncommon gesture on the part of a teenage boy.  Not a word was spoken as we crossed the room...a tribute to a young man whose mother has taught him the importance of treating a woman with respect.  I do believe I'm gushing.
                 I was asked to take an elderly lady from our church to her dental appointment.  Grr..grrrr...I had too much to do...but she needed my help.  I arrived punctually...I didn't want to leave any time for idle chit-chat.  Nothing doing...I had to come in and see her little home--a typical grandma's house filled to the brim with family photos and mementos, furniture of her parents,' her Raggedy Ann and Andy antique doll collection, her own original oil paintings, and her lovely garden.  We walked and talked, saw the dentist, drove around Hood River to places that brought back memories.  A sweet, gushy few hours with a lovely lady.

                We are now surrounded by wildfires.  Our local weather report usually includes a statement like:  DUE TO WILDFIRES...THE AIR QUALITY IS HAZARDOUS TO UNHEALTHY IN SEVERAL AREAS .  Schoolchildren can't go outside for recess, and the air is always smoky.  Fortunately for our family, the polluted air hasn't been a problem, but others are reporting respiratory problems.  There are uncontained fires in Trout Lake which is north of us and directly across the river in Hood River, Oregon.


            Tom continues to work on the painting and caulking, and he's now the trainer of a student driver. It's bringing back so many fun memories. I too have been enlisted in the ride-alongs, since I'm Vale's usual chauffer. Vale confided to his grandpa: "I drive really slow because I scare Grandma half to death. I can feel her gripping on the arms." Indeed.
             I continue to sew, chauffer, do genealogy, etc.  Life, in our corner or the world, is calm and serene, in spite of the chaos all around us.  And, I am queen...
Love, Mom

Wherever you go, no matter what the weather, always bring your own sunshine.

 Anthony J. D'Angel

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Being of Service...

                  At our house, we have an evening family prayer; we've had this custom for most of our marriage.  We kneel as a family around a long bench we call the "prayer bench."  Even the dog joins in.  Our most constant prayer these days is a prayer of thanks that our life is so filled with the blessings and tender mercies that God has blessed us with; it never seems to be about problems in our immediate family.  Fortunately for us, life is calm at the moment. 
               Tom is a news junkie and loves all of the hoopla of the current political season, so his early evenings are spent in front of the tv or computer devouring all the polls, insights, commentaries, etc.  Once dinner dishes are done, I join him for our new past-time: watching old movies on Netflix.  We've re-discovered old favorite tv series from our past--Columbo, Magnum PI, Rockford Files, Alfred Hitchcock Presents, classic movies, a new-for-us genre--British murder mystery series, History Channel specials, and our usual favorites on prime time programming.  Vale, a si-fi fan, turns up his nose at our choices and stretches out downstairs to watch his own favorites.
                  Lest you believe that we are couch potatoes, here's what we do during the day:

                 Tom is a man with a mission always!!  He feels old age creeping up on him--that time when he will only be able to spend 2 or 3 hours a day outside (or inside) working on projects rather than the usual 6 to 8 hours now.  Last week, he sat at the table with me and said,"I am going to do something that I know you won't like, but I'm going to do it anyway.  Would you like to go stay with your sister while I do it?"  It was this:

Yes, he is on a rickety ladder twenty feet above the ground.  That's the rock wall you see along the edge of the picture.  I didn't go to my sisters, but I did hide in the house.  I admit that painting the trim and eaves did improve and winterize the house,but...His reason for not enlisting Vale's help...I'm saving him for another project. 

             I'm re-decorating my living room.  The old couches had need of new covers, so I made them. 
                Probably you've noticed that our house looks a lot like yours.  The top couch is my spot...a sewing project readily available.  (You may recognize the project I'm working on--I've been handquilting that quilt for almost a year.  The quilts hanging on the bannisters are quilts my mother made for two of my children when they were young.)  The bottom couch is Tom's spot.  You catch a little glimpse of his footstool which has his line-up of remotes and his scriptures.  We're such creatures of habit.  I also made two and a half quilts for a community service project.  I didn't get pictures of the two baby quilts, but this is the half-done quilt.  I cringed when I saw this donated quilt top--probably given to our Relief Society in the seventies--a hod-podge of 8 or 9" squares of all colors of polyester material but mostly dark.  Ugh.  As you can tell by my couch covers--I love color!!  In spite of a herculean effort, I didn't finish the quilt in time, it will go somewhere else.  (My son, Tom, took one look at this "ugly" quilt and exclaimed, "I LOVE that quilt.  It reminds me of Grandma."  It does, indeed; my mother made us several polyester quilts which wore and wore themselves out with all our cuddling in them, especially on wintery nights.)

             Vale has an incentive to work his heart out on homework this year--he turned 16.  This little gem is an incentive to keep his grades up, thus qualifying to drive it in sunny California in the summer.  Besides, a heavy academic load, Vale is busy with marching band and his role as Eugene in the school's presentation of "Grease."  He's also a backup dancer for a number or two.  In addition, he's learning to play the tenor sax for marching band, and he's dragging himself cheerfully out of bed for early morning Seminary. 
          Astro's trying hard to keep the squirrels, snakes, and deer...and the falling acorns at bay.  With hordes of deer coming down out of the burning mountains, he has his hands full!
We're well and happy, and we hope you are too!!  (The fires, by the way, have moved
up the mountain, and we aren't even getting smoke!).  Love from our corner of the world.  Mom
Whoever dreamed up Scrabble had an exaggerated idea of how many seven-letter words have five i's.
 ~Robert Brault

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Living in La La Land


               Our little valley is experiencing one of the worst wildfires in our history. We're used to wildfires but not like the one that is raging now. Over 400+ residents of the White Salmon area are under possible evacuation orders; some refuse to leave and are attempting to save homes and ranches that have been in their families for generations. Over 600 firemen from around the state are battling the blaze, which is believed to be arson-related. Today, Sunday, a second huge fire was started by a lightning strike, and campers and hikers are being evacuated from Mt. Adams. All of this excitement is about 5 miles as the crow flies from our home. Those of us in town are experiencing the heavily smoke-filled air, hearing the occasional siren, and listening at the post office and grocery store to our neighbors' war stories. But, we live in La La Land. We aren't in the fire's path and aren't really able to help with the physical labor that fighting a fire requires. School is still in session, and all businesses are open!! So strange.


Every day life goes on in La La Land.  A few weeks ago,  I watched the Peresiad Meteor Shower over Mt. Hood, all by myself, in my nightgown on my deck.  The guys in my house were Bah humbugs about the whole thing.  For me, that evening of star gazing was an affirmation of all that is great, mysterious and awesome in the vast universe.

Bingen still held its annual Huckleberry Festival in spite of or maybe because of.. the chaotic times.  Vale marched in the parade which had, perhaps, ten units.  Dad worked on the pergola, and I completed the two couch covers.  We all just kept on keeping on..and praying for the safety of the houses, animals, firefighters, and residents who were locked into a desperate struggle just a few miles from us.  It was all we could do.    Keep your chin up and keep on keeping on.  Love, Mom
“I have heard there are troubles of more than one kind. Some come from ahead and some come from behind. But I've bought a big bat. I'm all ready you see. Now my troubles are going to have troubles with me!” -Dr. Seuss

Sunday, August 26, 2012


           I spent some years of my life, in the 40's, living in a military housing complex with a plethora of kids, bikes, trikes, kids, and kids.  Moms in the complex finished up their morning work, grabbed their coffee mug, cigarettes and lighters, and headed for the neighbor's house for a chat.  I remember, as if it were yesterday, going with my mom to one of these tete-a-tetes.  Bored, I looked around the lady's house at lacy white curtains blowing softly in the breeze, a highly polished wood floor, and a baby bouncing in a Johnny-Jump-Up swing.  It was, to me, perfection.  Even as a five year old, I wanted that kind of life for myself.  Many years later, I had the lacy curtains, polished floors, and six children, and I wasn't quite so enamored!!  I felt that I'd lost "Me" somewhere in the equation of acquiring the perfect life.  I identified with Thoreau's "lives of quiet desperation."  I concluded that, in order, to find "Me" again, I had to set aside some time for myself, but when....?  One morning, at 3 am, I was up with a sick baby.  As I rocked him in the blessed silence of that early hour when the only sound was the ticking of the clock and his soft baby snores, I knew I'd found my "Me" time.  I'd found the time of day when, for the most part, I didn't need to be housekeeper, mom, wife, teacher, etc., I only had to be myself.  Arising at 3 in the morning has become a lifelong habit.  I've spent my "Me" time over the years sewing--xstitching, beading, crocheting, knitting, quilting, crafting, reading, indexing, researching, and writing.  I recommend the habit highly.  I've solved most of my own problems in those quiet hours before dawn through hundreds of quiet prayers.  Once I hear the stirrings of the family or the buzz of a distant alarm, I open my curtains with a sigh.  As the sun was coming up this morning, I was greeted with this sign that this is going to be a beautiful Sabbath day, no matter what the weather:

         On a lighter note, ur week has been filled with our projects: 
One row of the slats of the pergola is completed.  The other row will go up soon.  (As I was taking this picture, Astro sped off into the neglected orchard behind our house after five deer who were enjoying a morning fruit feast.  He nearly met an early demise when he wouldn't give up his determination to scare the deer off.  Papa Deer gave him a bit of a whack.  He's fine, but he decided to let the deer have the orchard; he'd lick his wounds on the couch.) 
 The "Wonky Pineapple" couch cover is completed.
Vale has arrived for his sophomore year in the Kennedy Boarding House.  Electronic gear is all set up, and his "man cave" is stocked.  Backpack is loaded with supplies.  The dunce hat is for his favorite teacher, Mr. Sankari, who Vale felt needed a dunce hat for a special corner of his classroom.
                  The view from my window is looking....upbeat and bright.  How about your view??  Love to All.  Mom

You can't help respecting anybody who can spell TUESDAY, even if he doesn't spell it right; but spelling isn't everything. There are days when spelling Tuesday simply doesn't count.”
― A.A. Milne

Saturday, August 18, 2012


          May to August with no blogs...hmmm...I just can't seem to keep up with this blog.  Here's why:
DAD'S SUMMER PROJECT:  Finishing the decks and trim on the house.  Still not finished, but it's looking beautiful.  He had planned to stop at putting on the railing; then decided on a pergola for the lower deck.  In addition to the decks, he's done yard work and stockpiled lots of wood for the winter.
MY SUMMER PROJECT:   Couch covers for the two living room couches. The one in the top picture is designed around a block called Courthouse Steps.  I'm learning to quilt large quilts on my own sewing machine.  Machine quilting is no easy skill to learn.  ALL of the fabric in this quilt is leftover strips from other projects. 

        The second quilt I call  Wonky Pineapples.  The blocks in Wonky Pineapples are made from fabric scraps as well.  To make the pineapples, I'm learning a quilting technique called Free Motion Quilting.  Some of my pineapples look like handgrenades; some like pumpkins; some almost resemble real pineapples.  Lots of fun.
          The "blurps" in our summer have been electronic!!  Dad describes me as the "techie" in the family, so you can guess that we struggle!!  Susan and Eric bought me a streaming device called a Roku, so that we could have Netflix on our tv.  Installing the Roku to our tv involved replacing our outdated gorge network setup, numerous calls to both our network provider and the Roku techs AND me crawling under the table in the sewing room about 20 times.  Now, however, we're old hands at this Netflix business.
         The second blurp involved my sewing machine and a very sweet tender mercy.  While I was working on a graduation quilt for one of the girls from church, my Pfaff broke down.  You can't be a reader of this blog without knowing that I count on my sewing machine, so you can imagine how devastated I was when our local repairman told me that he no longer worked on Pfaff machines.  In desperation, I borrowed one of the church machines to finish the quilt, and it BROKE.  There was nothing to do, but  take my machine to a Pfaff dealer in Portland.  In a telephone conversation to a tech in Portland, I learned to my dismay that there's a minimum charge of $160 to open the machine and do a diagnosis!!  On top of that would be the charge for the part replacement and the labor--estimated at $400 minimum.  Gulp.  However, it had to be done.  The repairman kept finding this and that wrong, and I kept praying that I could pay the bill.  In the end, he said with a grin, "Let's make it $50.  It's a slow day, and you're a nice lady."  Whew.

       Enjoy these Dog Days of Summer.  Hope all are well and happy.  We are.
Love, Mom
Listen to your heart. Even though it's on your left side, it will always be right! :)

Sunday, May 27, 2012


           It’s a beautiful day in the Gorge. 69 degrees with a slight breeze. A far cry from the heavy rain/windstorm we had last night.  I'm skipping Church this morning to keep an eye on Vale.  He's had a cold/sinus/allergy problem for several weeks, and yesterday, he was a lot worse than he's been and felt even worse this morning.  I was ready to take him to the ER for a prescription of anti-biotics, but he seems better this afternoon  Still, I felt I should be around just in case!!  I've heard numerous complaints this season:  "I've never had allergies until now."
Dad has spent a lot of time in the yard this spring. Most of his efforts have been to trim back our many trees which were damaged in the ice and snow this winter. We can see that we’ve lost one or two bushes/shrubs but no trees. 
See the lilac bush by the shed?  It has a triumphant tale to tell.  We've had the bush for about ten years, and it's never been more than about the height of the wall, and it's produced exactly one bloom each year.  I think the experiences of some of the other bushes who've been trimmed way down to their underwear taught the little lilac bush that he'd better do something or he may suffer extinction.  So he's shot himself right up there.  Hope he continues and starts a family--I've always wanted lots of lilac bushes.

In addition, as soon as there was one moderately "good" day, Dad loaded his truck with his saws and awls, his compadre, Astro, and his Gene Autry cd and headed for the woods.  To my delight, his trips to the woods are in full view of our friends the Kings and the Matosiches, so I don't worry about him quite as much.  In addition, he's bought several cords of wood from the Boy Scouts. There's more wood behind the tree.  Now he has to split all of it.  Since Vale won't be here for Scout camp, he hasn't been in on the woodcutting project.  When the Scouts came to deliver the first cord, Dad sent the entire troop in to the house to roust Vale out to unload the pickup.  They were quite impressed with Vale's new man cave.
   The picture's a bit dark.  The black head in the middle is Vale with his headset.  On his right is Uncle Garth's old recliner which is where Vale usually sits.  On his left is all of his "stuff...clarinet, guitar, game cds, etc.  It's a touch life Vale leads.  If you look right in the center of the other picture, you'll see Vale.  He's in Concert Choir.  .
As for me, in addition to being Vale's chauffeur and taskmaster and the housekeeper, I'm into my usual:  genealogy, indexing, and quilting.  On the genealogy front, I discovered Mark and Debbie's mother's genealogical line.  Turns out there's a lot of blue blood running through those veins; they're descendants of the kings and queens of France and Spain.  For Indexing, I'm working on the 1940 Census.  Indexing is a job of processing the original sheets into the computer, which has been interesting and quite informative, as well as dull.  For 2 or 3 days now, I've been doing a neighborhood in Brooklyn which is full of surnames from many Eastern European countries.  I indexed the family of Samuel Cohen, whose son is Isidore Cohen.  I knew Isidore Cohen was a famous name, and, sure enough, he was a well-known chamber musician and violinist with the Julliard Quartet.  I also indexed a family in Bremerton.  The father in the family was Merton Wells, who was in his 80's when we knew him.  The ward was so desperate for Scoutmasters that Mert was still a Scoutmaster when Mark joined.  When Mark got ready for his first hike, we simply couldn't afford a backpack for him, so Mert brought his over for Mark.  It was his WWI pack made of canvas and boards!  As a mom new to Scouting, I dutifully packed every single item on Mark's list into the pack.  The list for the overnight campout included a set of winter clothing even though it was July and enough packaged meals to last for a week!  As Mark got ready, I was trying unsuccessfully to hoist the monstrosity onto his tiny back.  I could hear Mark yelling, "Julie, please quit pushing down on the pack!!"  Fortunately, one of the other Scoutmasters heard of our plight and brought us a different pack.  However, I've never forgotten Mert's kindness on that occasion.  I'm also still quilting.  I'm still working on Tom's quilt, which I mentioned in an earlier blog.  Half of the queen-sized quilt has been hand-quilted.  I'm also making quilted couch covers for our old couches.  They are designed, one top is finished, and I have 27 blocks out of 64 done on another, so I'm cooking along.

We are always concerned about all of you and wish we heard more from you, but we know how busy your lives are.  Both of us have become hard of hearing.  It makes for lots of jokes between us, but it is also a challenge.  We often don't hear the phone even though we're home.  If you call, and you don't receive an answer, try again.

Love from here to each of you.  Mom

“When you wake up in the morning, Pooh," said Piglet at last, "what's the first thing you say to yourself?"

"What's for breakfast?" said Pooh. "What do you say, Piglet?"

"I say, I wonder what's going to happen exciting today?" said Piglet.
Pooh nodded thoughtfully.  "It's the same thing," he said.