Friday, May 29, 2009

Random thoughts from the past week

We (Mum, Jeff, and I) went to a Memorial Day service at Gibbs Cemetery.
It sits in a quiet spot on Chehalem Mountain and is peaceful and serene.
Just like I want to be when I'm dead.
So yesterday I called to find out the price of plots.
For only $500, I can buy my semi-final resting place.
As soon as my CD matures next week, I'm going to hand over $1,000 to the cemetery guardians.
Jeff and me, together forever!
Whether he likes it or not.

It's a bargain at twice the price, don't you agree?
As a girl who has very strong opinions on what happens to me after I expire, this gives me great peace of mind.
I won't get into my views on embalming and coffins and all of the other strange traditions of Western culture.
You can thank me for that, if you like!

I wonder why Bethany's two youngest are such despots of destruction, experts of entropy, masters of mayhem.
I love alliteration!
But seriously, Josh and Natalie spend their entire lives getting into mischief.
I don't know how Bethany survives the day sometimes.
When her Facebook entry of the day reads, "I feel battered," you know there have been some dire goings-on in the Mitchell household.
Tonight she gets to go on a date with Dad.
Star Trek and Wolverine at the local drive-in.
That's me, feeling slightly put out.
But only slightly.
She REALLY needs a break from being Mom.

I've been very active this week, walking ferociously, riding my bike hither and yon, yoga class, working hard in my garden.
My curvaceous bod ought to be feeling somewhat diminished.
But it's not.
Maybe it has something to do with this very small bowl of Dreyers Slow Churned Rich and Creamy Limited Edition Drumstick Icecream that I'm eating as I write.
Ya think?

Annie had a garage sale today, getting ready to run away with her handsome soldier.
She's dumping the detritus of her single life.
Oops, more alliteration.
Can't help myself!
It was kind of cute to see the saleswoman in her.
I see why she gets the good sales jobs.
"Oh, that looks good on you, so much better than it looked on me!"
And she really means it.

Jon and Jenny and the boys leave for Peru on Monday.
Jenny is so excited, I've noticed that her Facebook entries are just a tad over-the-top!
I remember how I felt the first time I went back to New Zealand.
It had been about ten years and felt like forever.

Charlie is being ordained an Elder next weekend.
Jeff is flying down for the occasion.
I wish we could be around the "new and improved" Charlie more often.
We hope he makes it home for Annie's wedding.

Speaking of wedding, there's still lots to do on that front.
We have a photographer now.
I'm working on cake ideas.
Brilliant recipe for whipped cream frosting, anyone?

Jeff and I are escaping to the beach for July 4th weekend.
One week after The Wedding.
A lovely retreat to our favourite Rose Briar Inn, which puts on a killer breakfast.
A wee walk up the mountain to the Astoria Column.
Another walk all the way down the waterfront to the Red Lion Inn.
Suddenly, I don't care how much it costs.

Hope you have some things to look forward to.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

My Dad

In the spirit of Memorial Day, which seems to be lingering a bit this year, I thought I would post a slightly modified version of a speech that I gave in a speech class a few years ago. My Mum has been working on her stories for me and it's been bringing my Dad to my mind a lot. I count him as my hero.

My Dad, Herbert Thomas Wilson, known as Erbo to his family and Tom to his friends, was a happy person. It seems that he was always this way, as his teachers mentioned it in his report cards and his siblings always spoke of it when asked for their recollections of him. He was one of thirteen children born to poor parents in the city of Birmingham, England. He left school when he was fourteen and I believe he worked for a greengrocer, delivering groceries. Most of his meager paycheck was given to his mother to help support the family. He went on to become a plumber’s apprentice and that became his life’s occupation.
Because of his happy disposition, I suspect he was a favoured child. His sister says in her written memories of World War II, “Your Dad came home from school one day and said he was going to be evacuated to the country. He didn’t ask if he could go, he said he was going, and I don’t think the rest of us would have got away with that, because it meant he had to have new things to take with him. But he had a mind of his own, and off he went!” And his younger brother had this to say. “Erbo was the only one in the family to be evacuated. I think the rest of us kids in the family must have been expendable.”
Dad met his beloved wife, Elsie, when he was about seventeen. Once again, his brother tells the story best. “Erbo’s mates used to call for him to go dancing on a Saturday night. They would be all dressed up in their best clothes with their hair all plastered down with Brylcreem. They used to go to Barford Road School dance. That’s where (he met Elsie).”
Dad also was smart. He could build anything as long as he could get a good look at it. He used to get up at 5:30 every morning and get to work early to labour on his projects. He built wheat grinders, woodstoves, and even a tandem bike. He won prizes for his chrysanthemums, and his tomatoes were the best you’ve ever tasted.
Dad was always one who followed his dreams and he was forever looking for a better way of life. That led him to join the LDS Church when I was seven and later to move his family from England to New Zealand, without knowing much about the country or even where we would live. He was the only one of his siblings (merely eight of whom survived childhood) who ever left Birmingham. Can you imagine selling almost everything that you own, packing up the rest of your possessions, traveling on a ship for five weeks, and landing in a country where you knew no one? In the 1960’s, not the 1850’s! I call him and Mum my own pioneer stock!
Dad died at the young age of 49, shortly after retraining and working as a locksmith for just one year. I regard my Dad as the most intrepid person I have ever known, and his example inspires me to consider my own aspirations to be reachable. I was 50 years old before I became a music therapist, but my Dad taught me that we can all be pioneers in our own right; we all have the resources to follow our own dreams if we are just willing to make the requisite sacrifice.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Remember Memorial Day

These heroes are dead. They died for liberty - they died for us. They are at rest. They sleep in the land they made free, under the flag they rendered stainless, under the solemn pines, the sad hemlocks, the tearful willows, and the embracing vines. They sleep beneath the shadows of the clouds, careless alike of sunshine or of storm, each in the windowless Place of Rest. Earth may run red with other wars - they are at peace. In the midst of battle, in the roar of conflict, they found the serenity of death. I have one sentiment for soldiers living and dead: cheers for the living; tears for the dead.
~Robert G. Ingersoll

It doesn't feel quite apropos to say "Happy Memorial Day."

Charlie is a serious observer of the holiday and requires the same of his family.
He always asks, "Are you guys going to a service?"
In that vein, here is a photographic tribute to those who have served and given their all so that the rest of us could live in freedom.
The photos were taken on the boys' trip to Washington D.C.

My military guys. Marines, Coast Guard, and Army ROTC.

Now go find a memorial service near you.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Thursday, May 21, 2009

The unsung birthday

I don't mind getting older.
Really I don't!
I love the grandparenting,
the disposable income,
the peace that usually prevails in our home,
the joyful chaos that reigns when grandchildren visit,
the ability to come and go as I please,
the people my children are becoming,
the wisdom and perspective that come from experience,
the freedom to dress weirdly if I choose,
friends who know me and still love me,
and many other gifts that come with age.

What I do mind is the decrepitude of the body that follows the advancing years.
I resent the inexplicable pains that sneak up unannounced,
the pounds that creep onto my body no matter how much I fight them,
and multiple body parts (which shall remain nameless) that sag.

Luckily, the list of complaints is much shorter than the list of blessings.
I hope it remains that way for many years to come.

I requested that there be no party or cake for my birthday, as we have been inundated with both lately and still have Tommy's party this Monday.
Everyone was very obedient.
Would you like to see my presents?

Lovely African daisies and sweet potato vine from Mum.

Persian violet from Jon and Jenny.

A sweet-smelling gardenia from Bethany, which I will attempt to not kill.

I asked for flowers, can you tell?

A beautiful picture of the Portland temple from Jeff,
which now fills the only empty spot on my walls.
The photo does not do it justice.

Possum hat, gloves and truffles from my sister, Anne.
White Corningware dishes from my friend Barb, who is also trying to give up the plastic habit. The Lindor truffles that filled them are long gone!
Crocheted slippers from my friend, Brenda.
Relaxing bath milk and foot scrubber from Annie.

A phone call from Charlie, who remembered all on his own.
For that, there is no photo.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Growing things

I have become a fan of violas.
Their colours are so bright they are almost iridescent.
They will no doubt fade in the heat of summer, but they have been spectacular through our changeable spring.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Recital Time

Recital tonight for my piano students.
Our church building (the usual venue) is totally closed down for renovations, so we had it at the Newberg Christian Church.
It was very nice of them to let me use the space.
We were in the lobby.
Three little old ladies were sitting in easy chairs when we arrived.
They stayed for the recital.
And helped themselves to brownies afterward.
I said, "You're lucky, you got entertainment AND refreshments tonight!"

It's been years since I had an ensemble recital.
Now I remember why.
It's a crazy amount of work.
But immense fun.
We had student duets.
A trio of little girls played "Jesus Loves me."
Siblings played together.
A Grandma accompanied her three grandchildren.
And a Mom and young son played together.
Kenzie played with Auntie Annie.
For a grand finale, most of the students took part in a rhythm ensemble, a la "Stomp." Every student performed a different rhythm using their name and body percussion. It was terrific!

I think I'll keep my job a bit longer.

Sunday, May 17, 2009


I LOVE watering cans.
So do my grandkids.
They will water everything in sight until I declare that WATERING IS DONE for the day.
Here they are on Friday, doing just that.

Daniel disdains watering cans when the hose is available.

Green growing thing of the day: Yukon Gold potatoes.

I scream for ......?

We finally took the Screamer out yesterday.
Dusty from lack of use.
Why is it called the Screamer?
Well, that's its name.
It's also what I become when we crash and bite the dust.
Which hopefully won't happen ever again!

It was a gorgeous, sunny morning, with a bit of a windchill.
The plan was to ride 6 miles out to the Mustard Seed.
And back again.
Without crashing.

The Mustard Seed is an organic farm co-op that we are going to do this summer, so the plan is to ride out there, put in some work hours, then ride home again with a load of fresh produce.
The ride is supposed to get easier every week as we get stronger and skinnier.
Sounds idyllic, doesn't it?

Yesterday was the test run.

The ride seemed to be REALLY hard work.
We couldn't even get any momentum on the downhill bits, which are our speciality.
After 3 or 4 miles, we had to walk the last 50 yards or so to the top of the worst hill.
We were discouraged.
Then Jeff, who was pushing the bike, looked down.
The granny brake was about 80% engaged!
It's the only thing over which I have any control, other than how hard I pedal.
I can slow the bike down if we go scary fast on the down side of a hill.

Jeff disengaged the brake.
Things went much better after that!

Here we are upon returning home.
Looking a little too well-fed.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Blessings counted

Today, I made a toy bag for some animals I bought on clearance at Freddies.
They are made by Schleich, a German company.
In China.
The toys are good quality and were still fairly expensive, even on clearance.
I decided I would send them to my new grandson.
I opened the cardboard package.....
...and found this!

Every little paw was securely fastened to the base of the box with multiple ties and further fortified with plastic doodads.
I've heard that it done is to prevent theft, but this was ridiculous!
So, I painstakingly unraveled every tie, silently cursing the gods of toy packaging as my fingers struggled to do the job.
Only to find that every animal had the ties wrapped even more securely still around each paw.

It took me over fifteen minutes to free the animals from their bondage.

A few minutes into the task, I started to think about the person who spent all day putting the ties on the animals.
Some little person in China who did this for a living.
And about how little I had of which to complain.

I have never liked that poem about the guy who complained about sore feet until he saw a man with no feet.
It seemed disrespectful to the man with no feet.
I mean, who is HE supposed to look at in order to feel gratitude?
It seems a superficial way to encourage a grateful heart, comparing oneself to another who is less blessed.
But today, I thought about how blessed I am, in spite of the crap!

I have a house that is comfortable, cosy, and paid for.
My kids are all finding their way in the world, in a relatively sane manner.
Jeff has a good job, even if it is stressful.
I love my work and I don't have to do it if I don't want to.
The sun is shining and yesterday it rained.
We are debt-free.
My vegetable garden is finished and thriving.
I have friends that care about me.
My Mum is healthy enough to visit and she weeds and cleans!
My grandkids live close by, for now.
My car runs.
Even if it doesn't, I have enough money to fix it.
And an honest mechanic.
My freezer and pantry (and Jeff's closet and the spare room) are full of food.
I live in America, which is, for the time being, still a free country.
I have the church and gospel principles to guide me and comfort me when I do have troubles.
I have my trusty bike to ride around town when the weather is delightful and the mood strikes.
My garden is full of flowers.
I can almost keep up with my walking friends on the hills.
And every week I get a little better at it.

Shall I go on?


You go make your own list.

Plant of the day

One of my lovely hostas.
Not yet slug eaten or wilted.

Those pink walls

In defense of my living room, this:

Those pink walls were an aberration that lasted for too long,
mostly because of my reluctance to admit that I had made a
I grew to HATE THEM.

I finally got the gumption to redo everything.

And now my living room can go on the list of

Now, if I could just figure out what to do with my kitchen.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

The Bloomin' Garden, Revisited, Again

My garden is blooming rampantly right now, except for the roses, which are working on a lovely case of the dreaded black spot.

If you hadn't noticed, I've been having a difficult time thinking of INTERESTING TOPICS ON WHICH TO BLOG.

So, for the next few days I will present, for your excitement, pictures of "Things that bloom in Sue's garden."


Here is the first, taken in the almost-dark tonight when I first had the idea.
Bleeding hearts with drops of rain.

Or this one, taken in the dark, with my other camera?

I don't know, I'm not very happy with either of them.

My Dad used to say that a bad workman always blames his tools.
Do I need a better camera, or photography lessons?
In my defense, it was dark and raining.

See you tomorrow.

I'm sure no one cares but me, but here is a morning picture.
I think I'm giving up on trying to capture bleeding hearts on camera.

Mothers and Daughters

I love this photo of Bethany and Natalie.

What is it about mothers and their daughters?
My Mum says that Natalie looks just like me as a baby.
It's true.
She is also the only one of Bethany's children that look like her.
You can really see it in this picture.

And the older I get, the more (they say) I look like my Mum.
Except my face is more round.
For obvious reasons.

So, the ONLY photo I can find of Elsie and Sue right now is this one, from Christmas a couple of years ago.
Should be good for a laugh!

I'm shuddering at the pink wall.

Whatever was I thinking?

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Cool It

I love this book.
I also love this planet.
But I refuse to be swept up in all of the environmental hysteria that is promoted by media and Hollywood types and, dare I say it, liberals.
This book is the least hysterical, most rational consideration of the topic of global warming that I have come across.
I am now about to plagiarize the Google Book summary:

A startling book that reshapes the debate about global warming and offers a moderate approach to meeting its challenges.

Bjorn Lomborg argues that many of the elaborate and expensive actions now being considered—the Kyoto Protocol, for example—have a staggering potential cost of hundreds of billions of dollars, but, ultimately, will have little impact on the world's temperature. He suggests that rather than institutionalizing these programs to “cool” the earth's temperature 100 years from now, we should focus our resources on some of the world's most pressing immediate concerns, such as: fighting malaria and HIV/AIDS, and maintaining a safe, fresh water supply. And he considers why and how this debate has developed an atmosphere in which dissenters are immediately demonized.

Bjorn Lomberg has been named on numerous "most influential" lists and is a political scientist and statistician. Almost half of this book is dedicated to source citations. His arguments make so much common sense, no matter where you stand on the issue. If you care at all about this big blue planet, I highly recommend you check this book out of your local library. It is thoroughly readable; the section on Polar bears alone is worth the effort.

Tell them your friend Sue sent you.

P.S. I just discovered that you can preview the book (as in "read almost the whole thing) here.

You're welcome.

The Weekend is here

Charlie has gone back to Camp Pendleton.
With Jeff's truck, which is now Charlie's truck.
It's pimped out to the max.
If one could call a Chevy S10 4-cylinder "pimped out"!
It has a new stereo, cool bullet hole decals on the rear, and all kinds of nifty organizers on the inside.
Still no air conditioning.

Daniel spent Tuesday night here and the boys got some bonding time.

Jeff is home from New England.
The airline lost his bag.
Then they found it.
It got here this afternoon.
Jeff cleaned out the shed today.
He ate out three times a day while he was gone and put on at least 5 lbs.

Mum has been weeding in the raspberry patch.

She's wearing my "Marine's Mom" cap.

Joshua slept over last night.
He fell asleep on the way here and didn't wake up until 9 o'clock this morning.
I love this boy.
Have I mentioned that before?
Here he is on the computer

and eating some gluten-free oatmeal cookies made by Joshua and Nana this morning.

I, as blogger, do not have to post embarrassing photos of myself.

So that's all there is.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Jeff's kisses

No, not that one.
He's out of town on the East Coast somewhere.

Little Jeff.

His birthday party was on Sunday.
Jenny is a real party girl.
The theme was Sesame Street, complete with Cookie Monster cake

and Sponge Bob pinata.

Sponge Bob, you say?
Yes, well, Jenny dumpster dove at the local elementary school and came up with three damaged SBob pinatas. A little repair work later and, viola, one serviceable pinata.
My kind of girl.
Except the body was a cardboard box and took FOREVER to break.

Anyway, kisses from little Jeff are always multidimensional.
Think, slobbery lips and runny nose.
He gives them obediently when directed by his Mama.
Here are a few of us sharing the love.
And the germs.

After seeing this photo, I've decided it's time for a haircut.
Or something.

A good time was had by all.

Some more than others.