Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Rearview Mirror

As the calendar year draws to a close, we are accustomed to looking forward to the year ahead. We make resolutions and hope that the coming months will bring all we are hoping for in our lives. And of course, we believe the turn of the page can bring new and better times.

But what about the year that is ending? What did we plan for this past year? What did we hope that 2008 would bring? What resolutions did we make? Did we keep them? How are our lives different today?

Caitlin Mathews, in her book The Celtic Spirit, recommends that this is a time for a summation of the past year’s achievements and mistakes in order to have a sense of the year’s shape. It’s helpful to wind the year backward, retracing steps from December back to January. Consider the following questions:

1) What was the major theme of each month?
2) Which events made the greatest impression on my life?
3) What did I achieve?
4) What mistakes do I regret?

Then look at the year as a whole:

1) What is the overall pattern?
2) What has the year meant?
3) What seeds were sown that affect me now?
4) What wisdom have I learned?
5) What do I need to change?

This seems a fit activity for December 31st, the Eve of the New Year. My family likes to stay home on this night of revelry, safe and off the street out of the path of drunken drivers. It is a time of peaceful introspection and reexamination of our lives. And a time of joy when we are thankful for the blessings of the past year and gratitude that we are here to enjoy
the one to come.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Cabin Fever

This is a concept I don’t get. I love my home. I love being home in my home, especially now with the holiday ambience. For me…staying home is a pleasure not a punishment. There isn’t anything I need or want bad enough to feel deprived if I can’t get out. I can walk to the store if I am out of something (I went for dog food the other morning). But I don’t drive for pleasure. Or shop for pleasure. Or feel compelled to always be doing something. So what are people so hell bent on doing that they can’t relax at home for a day or two without going psycho?

After many many years of having to haul out in all kinds of weather to get to a job that paid the rent, I am deeply grateful for retirement and electronic technology. I never have to leave the comfort of my own home. Money magically appears in my checking account. My nest is so warm and cozy. My book and my knitting by the couch. A soft down comforter to curl up under (thank you, Eugenia!). A jigsaw puzzle spread out on the table. My computer with e-mail and games and the World Wide Web. Plenty of food in the pantry. Two happy dogs and a snuggly kitty. Why would I want to leave?

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Greetings to All

Merry Christmas from all at The Hideaway.

Princess, Buddy and Skye

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Luke 2:1-20 (King James Version)

It is the custom in our household on Christmas Eve to read aloud this passage from the Bible and then place the tiny baby Jesus in the creche in the manger scene. Wishing all of you a Blessed Christmas.

1 And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be taxed.
2 (And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.)
3 And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city.
4 And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:)
5 To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child.
6 And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered.
7 And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.
8 And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.
9 And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.
10 And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.
11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.
12 And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.
13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,
14 Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.
15 And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us.
16 And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger.
17 And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child.
18 And all they that heard it wondered at those things which were told them by the shepherds.
19 But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart.
20 And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told unto them.

The Dollhouse

The piece below was written several years ago and is reprinted by request. As you can see from the photo, the end of the story has now been written.

The Dollhouse

We were living in the little house on Washington Street in Waldo during WWII from the time I was four until I was eight. Those were the Santa Claus Years and a time of magical childhood.

On a day in December, Mother and I would get all dressed up and walk from our house through the passageway by Broadway Methodist Church and catch the streetcar at the 74th Street stop on our way on our Great Christmas Shopping Adventure. We rode along through the southwest part of town, past the Plaza with the bright lights on all the buildings, up the Main Street hill, then down past the Liberty Memorial and Union Station. We got off at Petticoat Lane and began our trips through the stores.

First Harzfeld’s, then across the street to Woolf Bros. Back to Main and up to Kline’s and the Jones Store. Then over to Grand and a stop at Wolfermann’s for lunch (ham on egg roll and a milkshake). On to the final stop…Emery Bird Thayer. Laughing Santa in the window at ground level and fairyland on the 6th floor. The mezzanine was a place to stop and rest, rearrange the packages, and take stock. Mother loved to dash into the needlepoint shop for a project. Then my father would meet us as he left work in the Dierk’s Building and help ferry the packages home on the streetcar.

The year that I was seven, there was a very large package that we left at my father’s office for him to bring home later. He tried to sneak it in but I found it hidden in the closet. One day when my mother left me alone in the house while she went for stamps for the Christmas cards, I peeked at the present. A dollhouse! My little girl dream. Just what I wanted. I was so excited.

From that moment until Christmas morning I held the secret close to my heart and every night when I went to bed I would dream of playing with it. On the big day I rushed to the living room to look under the tree. No big package there. I can remember looking around thinking it might be in the den or somewhere else in the house. I opened a few packages and I remember a scarf and some mittens and a book. But no dollhouse. The day came and went. No dollhouse.

This stands out in my memory as my first heart-crushing disappointment and feeling of betrayal. I never mentioned this to my parents. Later…after they were long dead…my sister told me that was the year that my father did not get the Christmas bonus he was expecting and that it had saddened them immeasurably to have to take the dollhouse back to the store.

It saddens me now to think of those years when times were tight and my parents tried very hard to give me a happy Christmas. But that disappointment was a great life lesson for me. Probably more valuable than getting the dollhouse would have been. Throughout my life, I have endured some other unrealized dreams and weathered them better for it. But if I have a granddaughter, I am getting her a dollhouse.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

State of Emergency

The Governor has declared a State of Emergency for East Multnomah County which includes Wood Village where I live. This is due to the inability of fire and police to get to incidents as the roads are impassable. The SOE means the National Guard will come to the rescue (drum roll).

All the jammed up people are getting more and more irritated. ODOT and the OSP opened Interstate 84 through the Gorge and over 400 semi trucks that were idling a mile from my house are now on their way to destinations eastward. If you were missing your pineapple from Hawaii or your tomato from California, they are now on their way to a store near you. Passenger cars jockeyed with the trucks scrambling to get on the road after a wait since last Saturday when the road was closed to all travel. Chains are still required.

Travelers at the airport are not faring so well. There is some kind of reverse domino effect that puts the first people to get bumped last in line. If you have a ticket for a flight that will take off at noon today, you will go. If you had a ticket for that same flight for last Saturday, or Sunday, or Monday, move to the back of the line. If the Wednesday, Thursday and Friday flights are full, you will not be able to rebook until next Saturday. Which means you won’t be home for Christmas. And possibly not for New Year’s Eve. And if you checked your luggage before the shutdown, you might as well kiss it goodbye.

So at The Hideaway there is no mail or newspaper delivery. No UPS, or Fed Ex, or DHL. So there is an element of isolation. I walked to Walmart for dog food and was surprised to see the store full of holiday shoppers. On the way, I noted a RotoRooter van ass end up in the ditch. I am grateful to not be the one waiting for him.

Since I have already had my Christmas celebration with my family, I can just kick back and wait this one out. I guess I will miss Christmas Eve Midnight Mass (which is now held at 5:00 p.m. in many churches). I don’t need to be back at work until January 6th which happens to be Twelfth Night. Official end of the holiday season.

More snow tomorrow and on Christmas. Keep watching this space for updates on how the Green City deals with the white stuff.

Monday, December 22, 2008

A Taste of New Orleans

Now Portlanders are finding out what it is like to experience the systemic shut-down of a city brought on by unexpected weather. It is gnarly here and getting worse by the moment. Roads are closed, drifts are high, stores are empty of necessities like flashlights and shovels. All are advised to stay home and inside and warm and I am quite content to do so.

Since I live at sea level by the Columbia River, I can’t go anywhere without going up hill which is not possible at this time. All the roads in my area have blockades up and the ditches are lined with cars and trucks that didn’t make it.

No paper on Sunday and none today and I will wait and see if the “all kinds of weather” mail delivery comes. My electricity is on (a real plus in an all-electric home!), my furnace works, I have a full pantry and plenty of activities to keep me busy. A 1000-piece jigsaw puzzle is on the folding table, knitting waits in the basket, a good book on the coffee table. I have warm sweats and Ugg boots (thanks, Cari!) and of course, this computer.

Our family gathering was Saturday so we are not stressing over driving to get together. We all have jobs where we can not show up and it is okay. I am thankful and grateful that I did not spend last night sleeping on the floor of the airport or train station or bus depot. Instead I was in my nice warm bed under my nice warm Pendleton blanket (thanks, Scott!).

Is this the flip side of Global Warming?

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Laundry on Sunday Night

Did I mention on my Thanksgiving Thankfulness List that I have a heated laundry room. Heated. Warm. Cozy. Indoors. It is not in a garage or a basement or on a chilly back porch or in a building at the far end of the back yard. Or worse yet in a Laundomat clear across town. I’ve had all of those at one time or another in my life. In this house my washer and dryer are in a room right off the kitchen that also houses the furnace! It’s a mud room/back porch with a built-in desk, loads of cupboards and shelves and, right in the middle of the floor, a heating vent that blows hot air up on the clothes on my drying rack (if I choose not to use the dryer).

This is the height of luxury for me. No hauling baskets of laundry hither and yon. No braving the elements to start a load. On a night like this…with a blizzard warning for my area, and road closures prohibiting travel anywhere, I have only a few steps to clean clothes.

My worst laundry situation was when I lived on Wild Pig Ridge and had to drive 50 miles to town to use the Laundromat. A close second was living in an apartment in San Francisco and having no car and hauling my dirty clothes in a pillowcase on the Muni to the Laundromat. No place on earth is as depressing as a Laundromat on a Sunday night when it is filled with steam and tired, lonely people.

There’s no real need for me to do laundry tonight. I don’t have to be at work in the morning. But old habits die hard. For so many years, Sunday night was the time to get ready for the week ahead. It was also the lowest time of the week with the weekend over and all those things you were going to do Saturday morning still undone. My memorable moments of sadness were always on Sunday night. Tonight I am not sad. I am glad to be safe and warm as the storm rages outside with my last load of laundry spinning on the last cycle on my nice heated laundry porch.

Winter Solstice

The wheel turns and the Winter Solstice today, December 21st at 04:04 PST, marks the shortest day and the longest night of the year. As the Earth tilts toward the light, spend some time in silence to meditate on the past, honor the present, and look to the future. Here at The Hideaway we will click on the party lights, put on some Celtic music, light scented candles & incense, enjoy the quiet pleasure of peacefulness in this very unexpected very White Solstice.

We are under a Blizzard Warning here in Wood Village. Solid ice has pretty much paralyzed the area where I live. The wind has blown four to six foot drifts across the roads and piled up huge berms along the fence lines. It’s Sunday morning but no paper to read while I have my coffee. When I opened the door to let the dogs out, a huge pile of snow landed in the living room. Little Buddy came a cropper. He has never seen snow like this. He had quite a hard fall and I had to get out the shovel (I brought from Missouri!) and clear the stairs before he could get back in the house.

The bird feeders were emptied by the wind and piles of snow buried all the bird seed. So I was out in my pajamas first thing this morning to restock and scatter seed on top of the snow. No sense putting water out as it freezes quickly. From the kitchen window I have seen the grateful birds arrive in droves.

A very determined Red-bellied Woodpecker (not to be confused with the Red -headed or Red-breasted variety) is outside the deck trying to chop down my giant pine tree. At the bird feeder on the porch are Chickadees, Sparrows, Flickers and Dark-eyed Juncos. I have seen Robins in the area but none come to the feeders. Some of the traveling geese didn’t make it out in time and I heard honking in the sky.

A long, dark, cold, windy day. But I am safe inside. Warm and dry and enjoying the view from the window.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Blizzard Warning!

This is the dire prediction for the West End of the Columbia River Gorge which is where I happen to live. Already the snow has started to fall and the wind is blowing hard and the wind chimes are dancing and ringing. It is mountain living at sea level. A strange and rare event for Portland. Apparently global warming has a flip side.

The Hideaway fares pretty well in bad weather. My new roof, window sealing, and weather-stripping are paying off. My furnace works great and I have Ugg boots and a fleece vest to wear plus plenty of afghans and down comforters to snuggle under.

My storm cupboard is stocked; I have plenty of yarn and a good book. What else can you ask for? The view out the window is beautiful. Birds are flocking to the feeder and squirrels are chasing along the fence top. My house is clean and decorated for the holidays with a huge heap of brightly wrapped presents for my children and little grandchildren.

Gingerbread just came out of the oven and there is a warm cozy feel despite the elements. A happy Solstice Eve.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Arctic Blast Day Five

This storm event has pretty much paralyzed the Rose City. You may have heard about it. It hit last Sunday and took most drivers by surprise. Monday the whole town was shut down. Then Tuesday and Wednesday were days of closures, although MHCC was open. There has been full-on hour-by-hour coverage by all four TV stations.

Today my workplace has sent me a Flash Alert informing me the college is open today even though practically every other school in the metro region is closed. I will make the bus trip and go in for a few hours. My bus trip on Tuesday was long, cold, but uneventful. Tri-Met is the only option as there is a long steep hill between home and work. My Pathfinder could probably handle it, but other drivers are unreliable.

Of course, I chuckle when I think of driving in much worse weather in Missouri. Folks back in the Midwest treat snow like Portlanders treat rain. A “so-what” attitude and life goes on. I have fond memories of slipping and sliding on Highway 13 between Clinton and Osceola. In the dark. In a blizzard. More than once.

I made it to the postoffice yesterday to mail Christmas gifts. I filled the gas tank in case I need to keep warm if the power goes out. I stocked up on basic groceries. Then I came home and to my couch and kicked back with my knitting which is pretty much what I do every day.

Pretty soon I will set out for work again. I did break out my down Cabela coat that is usually too warm for Portland. I have wind pants, Gore-tex boots with Trekkers on the soles, boxing-glove style hunting mittens, a wool hat, and various safety devices including a whistle, a flashlight, and a flashing signaler. I carry my stuff in a backpack so my hands are free for balance on the ice.

So here I go...into the storm.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Lifetime Guarntee

Have you given much thought to what will happen if you outlive all the lifetime guarantees on all the things that are supposed to work? Or last? Whose lifetime are we talking about anyway?

The 12-cup coffee maker just gave up and refused to get hot. The geriatric upright vacuum I inherited from my son seems to have had a stroke and even life support didn’t help. All the light bulbs used to burn out on the same day, although that may change now that I have the curlicue energy savers. I did install them on the same day so I expect them to hit the wall at the same time. The tachometer in my car has had a complete breakdown and spins erratically no matter what the engine is doing. My computer screen has switched to a pale pink and flashes to let me know I should have bought a new monitor when I upgraded the computer. The leather gloves with a “lifetime guarantee” have holes in the tips of each finger. For all of these, I believe, their lifetime has ended. And they did, indeed, last until then.

See what wisegeek has to say about all this:

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Remember Pearl Harbor

I was four years old on December 7th, 1941 but I remember the day very clearly. It was a Sunday and my father had taken me to the park as he always did on that day of the week. I had a green hoop I liked to roll on the vast expanse of grass in Gilham Park. But on that particular day there was something extra, something special. Santa Claus came by on the streetcar that ran along the top of the hill, and good little boys and girls waited at the stop to tell him their wish for a Christmas present. We had been out in the cold for some time before the trolley came, and by the time we headed home we were both cold and looking forward to a cup of hot cocoa.

When we walked in the door of the apartment building, my mother was standing on the landing. Dressed in her Sunday navy blue polka-dot dress and pearls, she had her hand to her throat and a horrified look on her face. “Oh Clarence,” she said. “They have bombed Pearl Harbor.” My father bounded up the stairs and into the apartment where Mother had the radio on and chairs pulled up close beside it. They sat there in silence listening with rapt attention to the news that the country was at war.

To me it meant only that the hot cocoa was forgotten and that I had to be very quiet and not disturb them. I sat on the Oriental rug at their feet, coloring and hearing the voice of Franklin D. Roosevelt speaking to the nation. The phone rang and it was my sister calling from KU in Lawrence. She had found a ride and she was coming home to be with us at this time of tragedy.

All these years later, that day lingers in my mind. The feeling cold winter chill of our outing, the smell of pot roast cooking in the kitchen, the rasp of Roosevelt’s voice, the color green of the sweater my sister wore. I still have my mother’s pearls. And a copy of the Kansas City Star my father saved from December 8th, 1941.

On December 8th, we listened to the radio and heard the President give his now famous speech that began, “Yesterday, December 7, 1941 - a date which will live in infamy - the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan.”

“A date that will live in infamy.” And in my memory. Remember Pearl Harbor.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

The Deep End of the Winter

Darkness enfolds us when I walk with the dogs these December evenings. Last night I was awestruck by the beauty of Mt. Hood in the moonlight. As we make our rounds, smells of dinners cooking drift out and lights are coming on in all the houses we pass. Through most of the windows TV screens flash as people settle in after work to relax and stay warm and cozy inside. The cold is biting and we bend into the wind on the eastward stretch of our journey. We all are anxious to get home and inside ourselves.

This is the darkest time of the year and it is a time of sadness for me. The next few weeks as the earth turns away from the sun are the deep winter of the soul. Another year gone by and so many things left undone and dreams unrealized. And memories of childhood happy times and family long gone.

But the promise of Solstice keeps me going. And the birth last year of my beautiful granddaughter has made this a joyful time again. We are joining together today to celebrate her first birthday.

Friday, December 05, 2008

Birthday Girl

Remember Ember? Born in December. My precious little granddaughter celebrated her first birthday today. She has brought us a year full of joy and happiness. She is a blessing.