Category Archives: Avalon Justine

Forever 39

My best friend, Connie, died a few months before her 40th birthday.  Today would have been her 47th birthday.

I think she would have disliked getting older, and eventually old.

She would have loved seeing her oldest son becoming homecoming king at his college, and having even more fun in college than she did.  She would have loved seeing her oldest daughter get married, and loved having a son-in-law.  She would have loved seeing her youngest son working along side her dad making and fixing stuff.  And she would have loved seeing her youngest daughter become the quintessential young lady.  She would have loved hearing her kids laugh together as nearly grown ups.  She would have loved looking forward to grandchildren.  She would have loved being able to celebrate all the wedding anniversaries she has missed.  I and her husband (my brother) have toasted to her with a bottle of Dom on their anniversary every year since she left.  She would have loved all that great champagne that I got drink instead.

But she would have hated having to wear reading glasses just to be able to read her watch.  She would have been frustrated with her hands losing strength and her fingers getting crooked and stiff.  She would have hated that sometimes hopping out of bed would be more like groaning and rolling out.  She would NOT have been on board with the whole “the spirit is willing, but the body is weak” thing that happens with age.  She would have not liked anything about aging that would have slowed her down.

She’s missed all that good stuff and will miss a lot more…but she has missed the bad stuff, too, including the creaky parts of aging.  I know that she is likely laughing at me wearing readers and pushing ever closer to 50 every time her birthday rolls around and she still gets to be 39…forever 39.

Trail Canyon Trail

A redunant name for a beautiful hiking trail in the foothills of Los Angeles.  “A place so beautiful, they named it twice”.  I went back “home” to the L.A. area for the Easter weekend.  Phil and the kids and I headed out on Monday morning to find the trailhead.  The trail we were seeking leads to a waterfall, as all of the hikes I go on with them do.  This waterfall was along the Gold Creek.

The book we were using as our guide was published in the 80’s, so sometimes the directions are hit or miss.  This one was a HIT!  The only “glitch” was that the sign we were looking for which would lead to the trailhead was missing on the way.  When we turned around to look from the other direction, there it was, and once we found it the directions were spot on.

We hiked in about 2 1/2 miles up (and 2 1/2 miles back, which is good, it’s always good to hike out as far as you’ve hiked in!) on a well maintained trail which completely lacked any evidence of human presence…no trash, no graffiti, no dog poop….barely even shoeprints in the softer areas.

We forded the stream a number of the times on the way there, but didn’t even get our feet wet.  I was a bit worried to be hiking since I jacked my right knee up back in December, but it held up nicely.  I was very careful about foot placement and avoiding any pivoting on it.  I tell you this just to show that the hike, though not totally easy, was doable even for the gimp in the group.  (So you could do it, too!)  The hike took us through lush green woods along paths liberally decorated with itty bitty wildflowers.  This purple beauty measured less than an inch across.  Didn’t even see the teensy weensy red bugs crawling around until I uploaded my pictures!

Purple Flower, Red Bugs by you.

And it took us through more poison oak than any of us had ever seen in our lives!  Phil and at least a couple of his kids are really prone to getting horrific rashes from it and warnings rang out frequently about avoiding touching it!  (And upon arriving home, all clothes were stripped and washed, and showers were taken, it was that bad!)  I haven’t heard if any of them broke out or not, but Richard was already sporting some nasty rashes from his LAST excursion into the wilderness.

Back to the hike.  We came around one bend and found ourselves in a manzanita forest.  Manzanita is a bush that is found in the chaparrel biome.  Manzanita is spanish for “little apple”, I guess because the seeds look alot like little apples.  The trunk and branches are a deep rosey red, and they are smooooooooth and satiny.  Any way, these were huge TREES!  Never seen anything like it.  Phil shows how tall the bushes usually are.  The trunks were so thick you couldn’t get your arms around them.

Phil and the Manzanitas by you.

The trail led us to something I can only describe as a CLIFF.  Rocks jutting out high over a small canyon.  Richard loves to rock climb.  I am afraid of heights.  He decided to pick his way down to the canyon.  I wanted to take a picture of him doing it, but couldn’t get close enough to the edge to do that, so I took a picture of him disappearing through a crack in the CLIFF.  Bye Richard.  I hope I see you again!

Richard Gives Me the Heebies By Rock Climbing... by you.

He took the short way down, we took the long way down, and we met back up at the bottom.

The last bit of the hike was a little steep and the dirt a bit loose, but when when we rounded the last corner before the waterfall, we entered a little bitty paradise!  The cataract measured about 50 feet tall and tumbled into a small, clear pool.

The Gold Creek Falls (Real name?  Dunno!) by you.

There was a large sycamore tree at the edge of the pool which had a high green and lacy canopy.  The canopy provided shade and showed off a brilliant blue sky above it.  Off came shoes and socks!  The bottom of the pool was firm and sandy/pebbly.  But boy oh, the water was cold!  Of course I orchestrated one of my famous foot pictures, but I couldn’t stand being in the water for more than a minute or so.

Foot Picture in the Basin Pool by you.

My feet are wimpy because they have spent all winter in shoes (and I just got a pedicure further removing any protective toughened skin!).  But Jonathan’s feet suffered no such wimpiness.  This kid was swimming in that cold water!

Jonathan Braves the Cold Water and Gets Soaked Through! by you.

Head to toe wet.  Brrrrr.

Alaska and Avie Get Cold by you.

We played and laughed for a time and decided this would be a great place for a picnic.  Plenty of large flat rocks to serve as a picnic table. I don’t know if we got lucky that day having the place to ourselves, or if it is a little visited place.  I wonder if we went back in the summer for that picnic if there would be a horde of people vying for the best seats on the rocks!

Time to put our shoes back on and go.

Playing in the Basin by you.

A hidden place which seemed to have been created, at least for that day, just for us!

For the LORD your God is bringing you into a good land—a land with streams and pools of water, with springs flowing in the valleys and hills…Deuteronomy 8:7 (NIV)

Some of the best times of my life are spent exploring God’s creation with my big brother and his kids.

Dodger Blue!

Yesterday my niece Alaska got out the hair dye.  Her subject?  My niece Avalon.  Avie has dark hair so Alaska gave her some deep red highlights.  My nephew, their cousin, Mitchell, wanted in on the action.  He has blonde blonde blonde hair and wanted it blue.  His mom, my sister Whitney, okayed the color change…

First of all, look at the face.  Isn’t it perfection?  He is about the most gorgeous child I’ve ever seen.  Whitney took this picture with her cell phone and texted it to me.  I e-mailed her text from MY phone to my e-mail and then downloaded the picture.  Then I uploaded it on Flickr as I had to share it all with you.  (Don’t you just love technology and the internet???) 

Mitchell is six.  The hair color is semi-permanent!!  He plays baseball and is on the Dodger’s.  He has a game tomorrow where his new hair will be revealed.  Whitney warned him that it’s possible that some won’t find this new “do” as delightful as we do, but he was willing to take the chance!  🙂

Whitney says this picture doesn’t really do the blue justice.  Better pictures with a “real” camera have been promised. 

I wish they would have done this when I was visiting!  I would have loved to see this in real life and in technicolor!

I wonder if his school has any rules about this sort of thing.  I know some schools do.  If his does, I see a buzz cut in this boy’s future!  🙂

“Religion” – Photo Friday

Today’s Photo Friday is entitled: “Religion″

I have lots of pictures for this particular entry. Why? Not because I had my choice of so many great photos and just couldn’t pick, or anything like that AT ALL! 🙂 Nope. My pictures are a set of photos taken on a little walkabout I took through my old neighborhood in California this past week while visiting my family.

I had decided that I wanted to see if I could get a good picture of St. Matthew Greek Orthodox church which is about a half a mile from my brother’s house. We, my niece Avalon and I, set off one afternoon with our cameras in hand…she’s nine. My original plan was simply to take a picture of that particular church. About a tenth of a mile into our journey we walked past St. Andrew Episcopal Church:

and the idea hit me that I should share ALL of the churches I came across in our walkabout! Across from the Episcopal church is Nativity Catholic Church:

which is a particular neighborhood favorite of mine.

Almost to our intended destination I came across these lovely flowers which (to steal from last week’s challenge!) grew in lovely and unexpected juxtaposition to a fire hydrant:

And these fantastic morning glories winding their way up a telephone pole:

Finally we reach St. Matthew. It, like the other churches we’ve past, is situated in between homes on these old city streets:

We walked some more. Avalon, despite her youth, began to flag and wished to return home, so we headed off that direction, but before we reached the house, we passed the United Methodist Church:

the First Baptist Church:

AND finally, the First Samoan United Methodist Church:

Finally tally? SIX churches tucked into one small neighborhood, all passed while walking just a little bit over a mile…and only one of them has a parking lot!

Let’s just say this little part of town has got religion!

But where DOES everyone park??

It was a beeeeuuuuuutiful day!

Please take the time to visit the other participants’ entries!  I will post additional links as they come in

Sky Windows

A Curious State of Affairs 

Just For Fun

Looking in the Mirror

Idea jump!

Next week’s challenge comes to us from Jan of “A Curious State of Affairs” and it is “Self-Portrait”.  Click HERE to see the particulars!  It’s another FUN one!

One more picture, because what is a mini-adventure without one of my foot pictures?  Incomplete!  So, then, here it is!  A curb picture with a friendly reminder of where it ends up when you dump it!

“Joy!” – Photo Friday


(click above for more information)

Photo Friday

Today’s Photo Friday entry is entitled: Joy! © Jan Marshall 

My computer has been out of commission for a week.  I have it back, and it seems to be working just fine.  I missed having it GREATLY!  Seems it was “killing” AC adapter/chargers.  The connection inside had come loose fromt the mother board and so it was arcing electricity and causing power spikes.  The man who fixed it checked my two adapters and confirmed that they were completely dead.  I put an order in from Dell for a new one and was anxiously awaiting its delivery, but when I tried my old adapters one last time before throwing them away, I found that one of them, despite having been declared legally dead, worked!  I wasn’t sure I’d have my laptop back and in working in order in time to post something for this Friday’s Photo Friday.  But I do.  Happy happy joy joy!  🙂

Despite my morose, loner, pessimistic leanings, ;-), I manage to find much to be joyful about in life.  It has taken practice and work, let me tell you!  I have made it part of my personal life plan to find joy where it can be found, and to embrace it as fully as I know how to do so.  There’s a verse in the Bible that says “do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength” (Nehemiah 8:10).  If I enjoy the things that bring joy to the Lord, I find strength to endure the things that cause grief.  I think children are one of those things.

One of my brothers and two of my sisters have given to me the gift of nieces and nephews.  Children inately find joy in unexpected places.  We can learn much about joy just by watching children.  On one of my visits to California to visit my family, I took one of my nieces and two of my nephews to the park.  We happened upon pigeons while we were there and the chase began.  I know this is a photo meme, but I’m posting a video this week.  The quality is horrible as my old digital camera had limited video capabilities.  When I played it back, it shocked me a little to hear my own voice and laughter…I enjoyed their chasing the birds more than they enjoyed their own chasing of the birds. 

Now, although the whole point of chasing pigeons would be to catch one, when my nephew Mitchell actually did, it stunned him!  The lesson I took away from this pigeon chasing escapade?  Don’t chase what you aren’t prepared to catch!  🙂  And if laughter is the best medicine, then this little trip to the park cured what might have ailed me.

I had to make a choice between the nurse in me that screamed “PIGEONS ARE FILTHY, DON’T TOUCH THEM!!!” and the person in me who wanted to experience the potential joy of the moment.  I guess you can see and hear that I picked the joy option…

Please visit Lady Luck’s blog “A Curious State of Affairs” to see her entry, and for links to the other entries for this week.

Next week’s topic?  Friends.

Emerald Pool

I made an unexpected trip to So Cal this past week as I wanted to attend the funeral of a friend.  It was a sad reason for a visit.  But the service was a lovely tribute to a wonderful man.  Lots of tears.  Lots of laughter.  I’m so glad I was able to be there.

As usual, I stayed at my big brother’s house.  We did some fun things while I was there.  One of those things was this!

Phil, his kids and I, went on a hike.  We went to the Santa Paula Creek area of Ojai in search of a waterfall.  My brother has this book of California waterfalls.  It’s most cool.  It lists the waterfalls and gives directions on how to get to them.  This was one his family had not yet gone to.  The book promised a 3 miles in/3 miles out hike with the holy grail being a series of “punch bowl” pools connected by small waterfalls leading to a 30 foot waterfall at the end.  The hiking instructions would have lead us to a campsite overlooking the pool which fed the larger cataract.

Somewhere along the way we got off the trail and ended up hiking the river’s path.  I came across this lovely little creature in a dry part of the river bed.  It measured about a half an inch across!


While this diversion provided what promised to be a “direct hit” on our target, it also entailed multiple rock crossings of the river, some ankle twistings and one occasion where we had to work our way along a rock wall using toe and foot holds which nearly had me at my tolerance for the heights and falling “thing” I have!  But with the patient help of my brother, and the occasional hand holding by my nephew, Richard, I persevered.

I like this picture soooo much.  I call it “Album Cover – No Band”.

We hiked and hiked and hiked.  It was getting late.  We found what we believed to be the punch bowls, but no big fall.  We thought we’d probably passed it when we ended up off the trail.  We took a moment to rest and drink water before starting back out of the canyon.  But Richard (who LOVES to rock climb) ventured farther up and in and came back with the news that he’d found the fall.  “Is it too scary, or can Aunt Lou make it?”  The answer was “Yes, she can.”.  So, me included, we decided to continue to climb our way in.  Very worth it!  The directions would have had us over looking the fall, but since we came up by way of the river, we were instead at the bottom where it filled a large deep pool.  We were so glad that we’d ended up off the path.  The algae on the rocks at the bottom of this crystal clear twenty foot deep pool lent the most gorgeous emerald color to the water.

The pool was surrounded by rock walls and a small rocky “beach”.  Evidence abounded that many had gone before us.  There was the sad bit of trash, a towel that looked like it hadn’t been there long, a few charcoally spots where fires had been built, and of course, graffiti.  And you know what?  I wasn’t much bothered by the graffiti.

Today’s graffiti are tomorrow’s “prehistoric” cave drawings…

A good time and place for one of my “foot pictures”!

It took us about a third of the time to hike back out.  Why is that?  Just wondering.

All in all, a wonderful smallish adventure.  We were all tired and sore at the end (and for the whole next day!).  Especially Avie.  We’d barely started the hike and she was complaining that “it’s a terrible time to be a kid”.  She’s growing, and her legs are sore.  But she stuck it out.  Barely.  Had that hike been a tenth of a mile longer, one of us would have been carrying her!

Two days later we got to see Tiger Woods and Vijay Singh.  But that’s another post!

The Dragonfly

It was quite possibly the largest dragonfly I’ve ever seen. 

My niece Avalon and I were back to a location I’d been to twice already in search of a geocache that had me completely stumped.  I brought Avie there while we were out looking for a handful of other caches because I needed a fresh pair of eyes.  Fresh eyes didn’t help.  The search did bring me to a wonderful location that I’d wanted to explore but never had despite having lived just two miles from it for fifteen years.  An old railroad bridge.

We took the opportunity to take a foot picture by an old railroad spike.  Avalon is wearing her pink plastic lawn flamingo slip-on Vans (a tribute to her mother).

We failed in our search for the cache.  On our way back to the car I spotted this dragonfly about six feet up the trunk of some kind of eucalyptus tree.  In vain I attempted to capture him on my digital camera.  I sure wished I’d had my trusty 35 mm Canon EOS Elan with me.  I tried regular settings, macro settings, standing back and zooming in.  I tried it from all kinds of angles and approaches, but I could not get a good picture.  The best one, this one, was taken from about eight feet back, zoomed in, and with a flash.  Avalon was convinced that this big guy (probably five inch wing span) was dead.  She poked at him a few times with a long stick, and declared “Yup.  He’s dead.”  Just then he took off!  He’d had enough of her.  It scared us both a bit.  A bug that big flying around makes a heck of a lot of noise.  (And I instinctively opened my mouth to keep him from sewing it shut!

Look at those gorgeous colors and patterns on him.  I’m so disappointed that I couldn’t get a better shot, but I am pleased that you can see the veining in the gossamer of his wings.

We found four other caches in short order that day.  One of them posing as a reflector on a phone pole was a work of geocache art! 

One Year Ago Today…Two Years Ago Today

This is a big thank you to all my ZFWers who, last year at this time, were so kind and understanding to me as I faced the one-year anniversary of Connie’s death.  I had no idea what to expect from myself emotionally, and neither did they.  But they were all so supportive of me.  And it wasn’t bad and it wasn’t scary.  I didn’t have any sort of emotional breakdown, or anything like that.  It was another day in my life.  Just a little bit sadder than most.  And I was in Lufwanyama, Zambia.  Away from my family.  I worried about them, but what could I do?  I was a million miles away.

Some weeks later I received a notification from the post office in Ndola that there was a package for me.  The package was from Phil and it instructed me to open it only on July 29th.  However, July 29th had long ago come and gone.  So I opened it anyway.  I found a nice quiet place and began to look through all the wonderful pictures that Phil had sent me.  He had also sent me a small tape player with headphones and a tape.  (These types of things are against TMIs rules.  But I popped the tape in and listened anyway.)  The tape was of him talking.  And of music.  I smiled as I wept.  I never thought I’d make it through a year.  But I had.  And so had Phil.  And so had his kids.  And so had we all.  And what a wonderful thing for Phil to do for me…to have planned that far ahead to do something in memorial for my best friend and his wife.  I think he’s the only person who really understands how much that girl meant to me.

And, unbelievably, now it has been two years.

Soooooo, in memory of Connie, here’s an e-mail of hers that she might have turned into a blog posting had she ever become a blogger!  (I am posting it exactly as written and without any editing…)

Sent:            Monday, September 13, 1999  11:47 PM

Subject:      The Store

I should know better than to go grocery shoppping with four children under the age of eight but after we had consumed everything edible in the house except for a jar of sweet pickles and a frozen tamale it is something that just had to be done.  Before we even got into the parking lot Richard and Alaska have all but gouged one another’s eyes out over the radio.  Richard jumped at the chance to stay in the car so he could listen without any disruptions while I braved the store.  As I was extricating Avalon from the car Mr. three year old I-CAN-DO-IT-MYSELF decided he would get a cart.   Not just any cart will do.  We have to use the limo cart that has additional seating added on the back to make it extra specially hard to start, stop and maneuver corners.  As Alaska was busy getting in her parting punches at Richard I see Jon way over by the cart rack tugging with all his might on the line of carts.  Now I must digress here for a moment and ask why do they design the fronts of grocery stores with a sloping entrance?  Of course the incline is heading down away from the store and towards the parking lot.  I guess this is for the people who have $500 to spend on groceries and only shop once a month so they are able to push their grossly overladen cart out to their car.  However if you are like me, $100 worth of groceries barely covers the bottom of the cart and sometimes I can even get them all in the house in one trip.  So here I am past the point of no return in having Avalon out of the car when Jon manages with a  fnal mighty heave to get the cart out of line.  Of course all that momentum carries the cart into the gravity zone.  The next thing I know he is being dragged by the cart out into the lot and headed straight for the nearest parked cars.  By this time the cart has developed a mind of its own and even if I was Carl Lewis and unencumbered of the 30 pound babyseat I would not be able to stop this lumbering metal behemoth.  Now this cart had a choice between a banged up old 70’s sedan and a brand new foreign luxury car.  It makes straight for the alarm infested auto.  My life at this point goes into slow motion.  As Jon is struggling valiantly to hang on and his little feet dragging and twisting all around he managed to impede the determined dent inflicter long enough for me to intercede in the nick of time.  I took a deep breath, loaded up the cart with my children, and pushed my way uphill toward the door.  All of the sudden the cart is no longer an ordinary means of conveyance but an airplane with my children’s arms serving as wings.  Actually I believe it turned into a hummingbird–at least airplain wings remain fixed.  At the end of the first aisle as I am attempting my first big turn Jon makes a full body lunge for the promotional 5′ high cardboard display of crackers.  The display goes over in it’s entirety carrying with it dozens of boxes of Waverly’s and Cheese Nips.  It must have been some big sale because there were at least four of those stupid plastic price signs that they use product to hold to the shelf and if you happen to grab the wrong box go clattering noisily to the floor.  At this exact moment in time I think every customer in the store must have converged at this strategic corner because all of the sudden it was like being on the 405 freeway at 5PM.  The butcher came over and assisted the reconstruction of the cracker tower.  I continued onward taking care to remain in the exact center of each aisle.  We actually managed to finish the shopping without further incident and headed for the checkout.  Alaska started to unload the basket while I checked one aisle over to grab a pack of batteries.  I am finally starting to relax and the basket is beginning to get to the point where Alaska can no longer reach over and get things when the checker asks the lady in front of us if the baby food was hers.  Neither the lady ahead nor us had been paying much attention and we had neglected to put one of those little divider thingies down between our myriad’s of stuff.  Half of our groceries were being loaded up by the bagger into her cart.  After the checker voided at least a dozen items and everything was backed up on the couunter about 2 feet high she decided it would be best to void the whole order and have someone take her over to another register.  The only good thing about all this was that the lady in front of us was not the least big upset by the whole thing and checker calmed down after she realized that no one was going to explode.  I figured the lady must have kids of her own because a lot of the items she bought were similar to ours — right down to the Wonder Bread.  I’m sure this must account for her not realizing sooner the mix up and also for her understanding.  Maybe it had happened to her before and it is also the reason she was grocery shopping by herself.  Connie

(posted in absentia) 

Happy Eighth Birthday, Avie!!

Avie’s 8th birthday, originally uploaded by Blah Blah Blog.

It seems like just yesterday Avalon was pretty much just a baby. And now she’s eight years old. Sheesh. Where does the time go?

Happy Birthday Little Miss!  See you SOON!  🙂

An American Family

My mother mailed me this photograph the other day.  I grew up in a house with two parents and five siblings.  When I was young our family of eight was the “perfect” family.  Perfection looks different, depending on what you’re looking at.  This is part of my American family:

Front:  Mitchell, Whitney, Avalon

Back:  Jonathan, Alaska, Phil, Cheryl, Richard

My mother (Cheryl) is divorced from my father.  My sister (Whitney) is a single mom.  My nephew (Mitchell) doesn’t have a dad.  My brother (Phil) is a widower.  His four children (Richard, Alaska, Jon, and Avalon) only have the memories of their mother.  These three different parts of my family have all become one family.  My brother is off to work at 4:00 in the morning.  He’d prefer to just stay in bed and pull the covers over his head, but he gets up every day, and does what needs to be done for his family.  My sister Whitney is off to work next.  She has dreams that are on hold.  My mom gets all the kids fed and monitors their homeschooling.  My mom would love to be enjoying her golden years doing what she wants to do, and just being a grandma, but instead she does what her family needs her to do, willingly and with joy.  Mitchell is too young for regular school, but wants to learn so much, that she includes him in the other kids’ studies, teaching him basic things.  He is learning his letters.  She does all the things a stay-at-home mom would do.  She’s tired most of the time, but takes care of things day after day.  Phil gets home from work midday and goes over the homeschooling work with the kids.  Alaska and Richard take weekly turns tutoring Jonathan and Avalon.  They all eat dinner together at a big table, just like my “perfect” family used to do.  Before heading to bed, Phil puts together the kids’ lessons for the next day.  My mom lives in a studio apartment behind the big house.  After his wife died, Phil invited Whitney and her son to live with him and his four children.  The house is full.  Mitchell calls Phil’s four children his kids.  (When separated from them for any period of time, he wants to know where they are….”Where are my kids.  I miss my kids”).  Phil has bunk beds in his room.  He shares his space with his sons.  Whitney and Mitchell share a room, and the girls share a room.  Surprisingly, there is harmony most of the time.  And lots of laughter.

It’s an American family, this new family of eight.  My American family.  I am so proud of all of them.  Life has given them a few too many lemons.  But they are busy making lemonade.  They aren’t just surviving, they are thriving.

God has blessed my family.  And through them, He blesses me.

But let all who take refuge in you be glad; let them ever sing for joy. Spread your protection over them, that those who love your name may rejoice in you.

Psalm 5:11

Christmas Lists

It’s that time again!  I put my request out from my nieces and nephews to send me their wish lists.  Today in the mail I received Avalon’s and Mitchell’s, all nicely typed in a cute font in bright colors!  Mitchell has a couple of items that are very, well, hmmmmmmmm, what are they?  The most interesting one is number 10.  He wants a “Candle”.  A candle???  He’s not even five!  What does he want a candle for?  He also has asked for “Two boats”.  Not one.  Two.  I do sometimes wish I was inside his head. 

Which reminds me that I need to digress before I forget to tell you a story about being inside Mitchell’s head.  This story was told to me by my sister Diane and my mom told it to her.  Mitchell was in my mom’s car tearing up a styrofoam cup.  Apparently my mom asked him why he would do that, or something to that affect.  His answer went something like this…”My brain tells me to these things.”  Now, tell me that this isn’t evidence of a sin nature!  Okay, back to Christmas Lists!

Both kids have 11 items on their list.  Number 4 on Mitchell’s, and number 2 on Avalon’s is something called “Floam”.  Are you familiar with this stuff?  (Official Floam Website)  It looks like something that would get into all kinds of places you don’t want it and you’d never get it out.  It has been on the last few years’ Christmas lists.  We’ve been forbidden to buy it for them, but they keep on asking!  Sorry kids!  NO FLOAM FOR YOU!! (a la the Soup Nazi, you know?)

My favorite thing on Avie’s list is number 6.  “Kiss from Daddy”.  This is particularly cute, because my brother just lavishes his kisses on her all the time.  It’s not like she is in a kiss deficit where her Daddy is concerned!

Kids are cute! 

Now, I am off to buy two boats.  And maybe an Easy Bake oven!  (That’s number 9 on Avie’s list.   But I’m surprised it’s not on Mitchell’s, too!)

Blah Blah Blog Is Turning Thirty! (Thousand!!)

Wow.  Sometime today my visitor counter will turn over to 30,000.  That’s so amazing!  Thank you all for helping to make my blog be so much fun and such a fulfilling endeavor for me.

Here’s a picture that’s completely unrelated, but it’s time to introduce the world to a “habit” (of sorts, perhaps it’s better described as a compulsion) of mine.  Just about everywhere I go, I take a “Foot Picture”.  The point of a foot picture?  Welllllll, it all started a couple of decades ago.  I was at Disneyland with about 30 of my best friends (ha!) and we wanted to take a picture of all of us together.  We couldn’t find someone (must have been a slow day) who’d take our picture, so, since I wanted to be in the picture, too, I had everyone stick their foot into a circle and I took the picture of all us, from the knees down, myself included.  Ever since then, I take one of these pretty much wherever I go.  I try to find an interesting background for the picture, perhaps even one that gives an idea as to where the picture was taken.  Like I took one of me and friends on a sewer cover in Cuba that said “Havana” on it.  How cool is that?  This little picture was taken at Helen Hunt Falls in Colorado Springs this past August when my family visted after I returned from Africa:

(Feets at Helen Hunt Falls, originally uploaded by Blah Blah Blog)

From left to right that is Richard, me, Avalon, Jonathan, Mitchell, and Whitney


Like Avalon

My 14 year old nephew Richard has had long hair now for a year or so.  He reminds me of all the boys I went to junior high school with.  I wish he'd cut it.  He's got the most beautiful face and it's obscured by the stringy strands.  And just saying those words makes me feel like a grandma.  And it makes me understand why my grandmother was always putting barrettes in my hair, which I hated.  Anyhow, I don't say anything to him about cutting his hair.  Some day, when he decides to cut it, he will.  In the grand scheme of things(**), what does it matter if he has icky long hair?  I'm just glad he's the awesome kid he is. 

In the meantime my four year old nephew Mitchell has apparently decided to grow his hair out, too.

"So you can be like Richard?" my sister Diane asked him just a few days ago?

"Nope.  So I can be like Avalon".

He apparently still wants to grow up to be a girl.

**I watched Hotel Rwanda last night.  I have been putting together a post on that, and genocide, and mass murder in the 20th/21st centuries.  I stopped.  It is hard to find the words that adequately convey my disgust and my frustration.  So I decided to do a quick post on a subject that brings me joy instead.  But "Hotel Rwanda" is coming.   

“You’ve Got Mail”

If you know me at all, you probably know how much I like getting "real mail".  To me there's nothing quite so personal as someone taking time to put pen to paper and sending a personal missive.  Even if the note is on white paper and in a white envelope and written in plain black or blue pen, it's a delight for me to open the envelope and know that this paper was in someone else's hands, someone who was thinking of me.  Since I was 16 it has been my favorite daily thing, getting the mail.  While I love holidays, I don't like that you don't get mail on them.  My friend Connie and I used to send each other some pretty weird letters.  One of the weirdest ones I got from her was mailed in one of those old apple pie containers from McDonald's. 

Anyhow, today was a banner day at the mail box.  I received a letter from my niece Avalon, and a letter from my mom.  Inside the letter from my mom were two drawings that my nephew Jonathan made for me.  Getting a letter is delightful, getting letters like these?  Priceless!

Better than Christmas!

 Avies Letter.jpg

Doesn't this just about melt your heart?  And this is what was inside!

Avies Letter2.jpg

 And from Jonathan, this…

 Jonathans Letter.jpg

Better than Christmas.

Thanks, Choney.  Thanks Jon Jon.  You two absolutely MADE my day!  I love you and miss you, too.


Thoroughly Modern Avie!

A fairly uneventful trip out to Los Angeles.  I flew into Ontario and Diane and I had dinner there with a friend of ours who lives close by.  They’ve had weird weather out here and the mountains surrounding the inland empire had snow!  Lovely.  My flight had a layover in Phoenix, and the mesas were all covered in snow, there, too.  That was a gorgeous sight!

And, when I stepped in the front door of my brother’s house, there was his seven year old sitting on the couch doing this:

Thoroughly Modern Avie.jpg

Yes, she’s talking on HER cell phone and working on her sister’s laptop.  I swear, I nearly wet myself when I saw her!


Avalon’s Prayer

Don’t ever think that little children don’t understand what is going on around them.  My niece Avalon turns seven today.  She is a piece of work.  She is one of Connie and Phil’s children, their youngest.  She runs around like most of the time she hasn’t a care in the world.  She’s funny, and sassy, and makes us all laugh.  And she’s paying acute attention.

This past Valentine’s Day was a tough one for my brother.  His first without Connie in 20 years.  For many months now, dinners have been at my sister’s house, prepared by my Mom.  Everyone who is around, in town, not working, etc., joins in these meals, including Phil’s children (Phil is generally at work).  A couple of nights before Valentine’s Day, Avalon volunteered to pray the dinner prayer. 

“Dear Jesus…Please help my daddy not be afraid to be alone” was how it started.

Happy Birthday, little Miss Avie.  Your Auntie Lou loves you and misses you.


Dear Connie,

Hey Can Can,

It’s been almost seven months since I last saw you.  I have been thinking of you more and more as the days go by.  I miss you so much.  You know, I started this blog for you.  I have so many things to tell you, to share with you, and blogging seemed the best way to do it.  I always loved swapping stories with you.  Even if yours were better.  I feel like it’s not fair that now mine are better, by default.  I’m going to dig up some of your stories and post them here for you.  I’m thinking “Bees” will be the first one.

Phil seems to be doing okay.  He is doing an amazing job with your kids.  I cannot believe that he has bitten off homeschooling all of them.  You know, he went back to work.  I think that it’s good for him.  Perhaps the distraction offers him some relief from thinking of you constantly, I don’t know.  But he laughs.  And sometimes the sparkle is back in his eyes.  And you have great friends.  They have enveloped him, and amazingly, he has let them. 

Richard is getting so big.  He’s turning into a man right before our eyes.  His hair is so long now.  He reminds me of all the boys we were in junior high school with.  And Alaska.  Geez, Connie, she’s so pretty.  She has this glow about her.  I called the other night and talked to everyone.  Alaska was in the kitchen, cleaning, because it needed it.  And Jon Jon.  He is looking and acting and moving and walking more like Craig every day.  He is so Christen.  My friend Darren is going to be taking him Geocaching with his family.  He really misses that.  And Avie.  She’s your clone.  I look at pictures of you when you were her age and I cannot believe that two people can look so much alike.  Do you hear her when she says “Goodnight Mama”?

I am loving living in Colorado.  I really miss our family, though.  I wonder why it is that God’s timing was that I would be here so soon after losing you.  I have to tell you how proud you’d be of me.  I wish you could see all the home improvement things I’m tackling.  I even own a miter saw, if you can believe it.

You once told Phil that you didn’t think I needed you.  I did.  I didn’t need you to fix my car, or hang my Christmas lights, or put a new latch on my screen door.  But even though I would have paid someone to do them, you did all those things for me anyway.  I would come home, and you’d have been there, and my screen door would latch when it hadn’t when I left in the morning.  I didn’t need you in the sense that I needed you to do things for me.  But I did need you, Connie.  You will always be my best friend.  Those nights when you would drop by my house and we’d sit on the porch or on my couch and just talk and laugh were my refreshment.  You were my cold drink of water on a hot day.  I needed you on my porch.  I didn’t want our time together to be spent doing projects.  I wanted my time with you to be spent just being Connie and Linda.  I know we didn’t have lots of time to spend with each other, but just knowing that you were only five blocks away from me was like money in the bank.  And now you are eternity away from me.  I don’t think I’ll ever really get used to that. 

I love you forever, and I’ll miss you til heaven,




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