Saturday, March 29, 2008

Where's Linda?

Not much blogging going on for a few days, while Sweetpea and her Mama are visiting. What a great time we're having. You can watch my 366 Photo Blog as I continue to post pictures of things we're doing.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Passing On Family Treasures

This is the week I've been waiting for! Sweetpea and her mama will be here in a few days, and my anticipation is growing by the hour. I've been preparing for their arrival for the past week or two -- refreshing "Grandma's toy box"; helping the Easter Bunny assemble a (late) Easter basket; taking care of a few extra chores, so I can spend every possible minute with them; investigating what toddler activities are available in the community; finishing up my "Over In The Meadow" book, so it'll be here waiting for Sweetpea; shopping for some foods that I know they'll enjoy; and freshening up the guest room for Kelsey.

And, in the process of rearranging some things in the guest room, I came across something I've had since Chris was in second grade. It is a bundle of primary-school lined paper, stapled together, with a faded construction paper cover, that reads:

They were Chris' second grade writing assignments, from his year in Mrs. Gollersrud's class, in Salem, Oregon. I sat down right then and read through the stories once again. What a treasure! And it will be my joy (as I've gradually done with some other of these sentimental keepsakes) to hand this over to Kelsey, while she's here. Knowing how she treasures her and Chris' family histories, I feel good about passing these things on for her safe-keeping.

(You may need to click on these pictures, to see them larger, so you can read them. By the way, "Romagons," which he mentions, was the name of a toy construction set; I don't think they are still sold.)

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Chris [krĭs]

-noun (proper)
1. a male given name, form of Christopher (Greek Christ-bearer).

2. firstborn son of Dan and Linda.
3. child with seemingly unlimited energy.
4. teen-ager able to charm his way into or out of almost any situation.
5. faithful, loving and mature husband to Kelsey.
6. devoted father to Sweetpea.

After several years of marriage, Dan and I were ready to start our family. I was a little bit impatient, thinking that once our decision had been made, it should happen immediately. But several long months crept by before I became pregnant. (Looking back, I realize that it was actually a brief wait, but at the time it seemed so long.) We were living in Juneau, then. I clearly remember one cold, winter night, during this time, when I was out on a trail near the airport, on my cross-country skis. I stood out there, all alone in the darkness, with the snow reflecting the moonlight, and prayed my heart out that God would bless us with a baby.

And He did.

Chris was born March 19, 1973, in the Bartlett Regional Hospital, which had opened its doors less than two years earlier. Dan and I had taken Lamaze classes in preparation for the birth, and Dan was by my side, coaching me throughout the entire labor, and taking notes on each contraction and the progress of the labor. He was not the very first, but one of the first fathers allowed into the delivery room at Bartlett, so was there to celebrate with me the doctor's pronouncement, "It's a boy! A BIG boy." Christopher Russell was the name we both agreed on for our 9 pound baby boy. Had the baby been a girl, we were considering either Erin or Megan.

Because he was our only child for those first three years, it was easy to continue our spontaneous lifestyle - picking up and going here or there at the drop of a hat. Chris was really adaptable, and seemed to enjoy this busy way of life. He had no problem going down for naps on a pallet on the floor at any home we were visiting.

Some of my favorite memories are the times I strapped Chris into the child seat, on the back of my bicycle, and rode with him to our favorite wild blueberry picking spot. Chris would pluck berries down low, while I picked up high; I remember listening for the "plink plink" sound of berries landing in his pail, which was how I kept track of him, even though my eyes were on the berries. We sang songs and carried on sweet mama/toddler conversations, as well, so that no mama bear and her cub would come upon us, unexpectedly, and challenge us for picking-rights.

Chris at 28 months, about the same age as Sweetpea is now.

Chris was very social, even at a young age. I loved the fact that he was not afraid of strangers, and made friends easily. But when I watched other toddlers cry and cling to their mothers when they were left in the care of a baby-sitter or Bible class teacher, there was a little part of me that almost wished he wouldn't quite so easily say "Bye-bye, Mama" in such situations. (As it turned out, it was the same when he left for college. With not much more than a "Bye Mom," he was gone!)

At age 14

If I were to pick a few words to describe Chris in his junior high and high school years they might be "busy," "likable," "clever," "impulsive" and "confident." School was easy for him, but he put only as much effort into studying as was needed to pass with acceptable grades. More important to him, at that age, were his friendships, his adventures and his projects. He was a perpetual motion machine, and just watching him was exhausting to those of us close to him.

Chris turns 35 today! And I couldn't be prouder of him. He's a thoughtful and dedicated husband to Kelsey, and an amazingly good father to Sweetpea. And to my joy, he has lived his life in harmony with his name -- Christopher (Christ-bearer).

Happy birthday, Chris! I hope you enjoy your authentic Newberg Coffee Cottage roasted coffee beans.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Drifting Along With the Tumbling Tumbleweeds

Although Albuquerque is known for its year-round nice weather, it isn't Heaven! And a day like today is indisputable proof of that! Springtime is here, and with it come occasional sandstorms, like we are experiencing today.

Leaving church, we headed west to Corrales where we had plans to meet friends for lunch. It was an ugly trip, with huge gusts of wind; reddish brown sand, snaking across the road; and dense air, the same color as the sand, obscuring even the nearby scenery. Dan tried his best to dodge the tumbleweeds that danced across the road from south to north . I found myself humming an old song made famous by The Sons of the Pioneers (I'm showing my age, aren't I?). The beginning of the song went something like this:
I'm a roaming cowboy riding all day long,
Tumbleweeds around me sing their lonely song.
Nights underneath the prairie moon,
I ride along and sing this tune.

See them tumbling down
Pledging their love to the ground
Lonely but free I'll be found
Drifting along with the tumbling tumbleweeds.
The Sons of the Pioneers made it sound almost romantic, but trust me, there was nothing romantic about today's storm that blew sand into Dan's eyes and beneath his contacts; turned my chewing gum into a gritty mass; and attacked my sinuses, leaving me with a headache.

I'm looking forward to tomorrow, hoping for a return to the "Land of Enchantment."

[Kelsey and Gloria - don't let this post deter either of you from your planned visits to our fair city. I'll put in a special request for good weather while you're here. ]

Friday, March 14, 2008

Those Little Ones

I recently started teaching the two- and three-year-old Bible class on Sunday mornings. It's a small class, with anywhere from one to four little ones there on any particular Sunday. This age group is my favorite one to teach. They are so adorable I can hardly stand it!

A couple weeks ago, I read to them a little picture book about being quiet and listening when someone is praying. Toward the end of the book there was a picture of a little boy, sitting on a small wooden chair, with his head bowed. "What do you think this little boy is doing?" I asked, in hopes that the lesson had made an impact. Victoria was ready with an answer, though not the one I was fishing for. "He's sitting in time-out," she said, with a pouty little look.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Daylight Savings

Those of you who know me well know that I often complain about the arrival of Daylight Savings Time. It seems I'm off-kilter the entire summer, until, once again, we return to "normal" time. Perhaps this is all in my head.

Anyway, Sunday evening, when we were leaving church, Dan said, "This is why I like Daylight Savings." What he meant was that it was still daylight as we were driving home, and the mountain, moodily shrouded in clouds and still wearing a few patches of winter snow, was lit up with the last rays of the sun. So, as we stopped at the end of the little road that leads from the church building to the main street, I rolled down the car window and snapped this picture . . . looking east from our church building. The brown, dormant desert grasses will soon be turning a sage green.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

The Boxes in My Brain

A long time ago, in what I think of as my "Japanese years," I read a little about the Japanese philosophy of wa (group unity, peace, wholeness). Most of it, though interesting, seemed useless to me. But one thing struck me as useful, and has become "mine." It was the concept of putting tasks, chores or responsibilities into imaginative "boxes" in my head.

Today I thought I'd go look that concept up on the internet to refresh my understanding of it. Although I found a huge body of reading on the philosophy of wa, I couldn't find that box concept anywhere! Maybe I made it up!? No matter. It works for me.

Here's how it goes. When life gets hectic, and there seems to be more to accomplish than I have time for, I put every major task into its own imaginary box. Then I put that same task on my calendar, for instance, "weed the back yard" could go on Thursday afternoon. Once it's on the calendar, I close the box and don't look at it again; I just store that box on a "shelf" in my mind. Once I've boxed up and scheduled each task, I use my calendar to find out which box to open each day. I don't worry at all about the other tasks; in fact, I can completely ignore them, for they are silently waiting to be taken from the shelf at their specified times.

I can imagine that you - my friends, family and faithful readers - are thinking, "She's gone daffy on us!" But what this system of thinking does is unclutter my mind. I only have to think about one thing - the task in the open box - while being confident that the other things won't be forgotten, since they are safely stored and scheduled for another time.

I think Jesus would approve of this mental exercise. It seems to be right in line with what he said (Matthew 6:34): "So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own."

And now, it's time to go box up a gaggle of tasks that I want to accomplish before Kelsey and Sweetpea come to visit me in not too many days.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Happy Birthday, Kelsey

Yesterday was Kelsey’s birthday. Kelsey, for those who don’t know, is my daughter-in-law; the wife of my older son, Chris; and the mother of my granddaughter, "Sweetpea". Later this week will also be Chris and Kelsey’s tenth anniversary.

Ten years ago, when we came to Abilene for the wedding, we hardly knew Kelsey. She was very young and seemed a little timid. I wondered, at that time, if she had the personality to hold her own in a relationship with my son, who had always been a risk-taker and an adventurer, with strong opinions and an abundance of self-confidence.

I watched – from afar, since we have never lived very close to them – as these two grew from newly weds into a strong, unified couple. My early concerns were quickly relieved. I began to see that Kelsey, in her quiet way, had strength of character and moral convictions that Chris respected and honored. And I saw, with some amazement, my son’s brashness of youth soften around the edges because of the love he had for Kelsey.

Chris and Kelsey were married eight years before Sweetpea came along. Sweetpea has been a blessing to the entire family. But sometimes I get so wrapped up in bragging about the child that I neglect to brag on her parents, who are doing an outstanding job at bringing her up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.

Although I’ve always been fond of Kelsey, my love and appreciation for her have grown in leaps and bounds since Sweetpea's birth. When I see the pure joy she exhibits in mothering Sweetpea, and when I see her consistently put into practice the balanced and well-thought-out philosophy on child-rearing that she and Chris share, I am proud of and thankful for the huge part she plays in our family.

Kelsey will be coming, with Sweetpea, to visit us in a few weeks. She is going to considerable inconvenience to make this visit happen. It’s just one of the many examples I could tell you of her thoughtfulness and her high regard for family.

There are times when I think Kelsey has wisdom beyond her years, when it comes to being a wife and mother. I’ve said it before, but if I had hunted for the perfect wife for Chris, I couldn’t have found a better complement to his nature than Kelsey.

Happy birthday, Kelsey. I hope you know, with assurance, that both Dan and I love and value you.