Category Archives: Jonathan Hartley

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.

Happy Birthday, Jonathan




(Posted in absentia)

“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!

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) 

Eleven? Are You Kidding Me?

Well, my favorite little animal charmer and geocaching buddy, it’s your birthday again, ALREADY!  Didn’t you just turn ten like a week ago??  Seems like it!  🙂  Let’s see, today is the 15th, so I’m still in Sicily.  Where are you celebrating your birthday?  Are you in Arkansas with Sarge and Grandpa?

Well, wherever you are, and whatever you are doing, I hope you are cracking up!  I’m thinking of you today and I love you!



(posted in absentia)


Just nicely home from my latest trip.  Some weeks ago my dad asked if I’d come to Oregon to help celebrate my Great Aunt Enyd’s 90th birthday.  I’d never met this great aunt and thought it was a good time to do so!  I figured I’d fly out there for that and then spend a week down in the Los Angeles area to see family and friends.  I flew out of Denver and into Portland last Friday.  My dad drove up from Los Angeles for the party and met me at the airport.  And the whirlwind of activity ensued!

We headed out to Vancouver, Washington to pick up my niece, Natalie, who was to spend the rest of the day and evening with us.  I took my Dad and Natalie over to friends’ house in West Linn, Oregon.  I was to meet up with all of them later for dinner.  I headed out to another Portland suburb.  A friend of mine where I live has a sister who lives in Tigard.  Their mother was visiting from California and they invited me to come over since I was in town.  Lovely folks!  The time was too short before I was off to West Linn again to meet everyone for dinner.  I drove my niece home after dinner and she cajoled me into stopping at a dive bar near her home for a drink and some pool.  Since Natalie is smart, funny, articulate, and well-read, I was delighted to do so!  Besides…how often does a 22 year old niece beg her old lady aunt to hang out with her?  You gotta grab those chances, don’t ya?!!

Early the next morning my dad and I were off for Grant’s Pass for the party.  My aunt Enyd is 90, but sheesh, is she ever spry and mentally sharp!  She is an artist and has a large studio filled with her various works.  She tells me that being an artist is a disease and tells me to stay away from it!  I stopped doing my art back in the late 80’s and have been considering taking it up again.  I’m having second thoughts after her admonishment!  🙂  We went to a wonderful riverside restaurant for dinner meeting up with many of my aunt’s friends and a number of relatives that I also had never met.  AND my favorite cousin on that side of my family (everyone knows he is my fave, so I can tell you that) and his very fun wife were there from out of town as well.  I hadn’t expected to see them, so that was a wonderful surprise.  That was Saturday.  My dad and I spent the night at Enyd’s adorable little cottage in the woods.

We were up at six the next day (not counting the time change) and on the road headed for California not too long after that.  We drove past Mount Shasta as the sun was rising.  Quite an impressive and beautiful sight.  We stopped at a Lumberjack themed restaurant (“where the big boys eat”) for breakfast where I had one of the best omelettes I’ve ever  had in my whole life.  About halfway home we stopped at “Casa de Fruta” off the five freeway where we picked up some dried apricots, cashews, artichokes, and avocados.  The rest of the drive down to my brother’s was filled with flowering trees of all varieties and with spring bursting forth all along the freeway.  What an amzaing valley of plenty!  We made it to my brother’s house just after dark on Sunday.  I missed Amazing Race.  As it turns out, it was an important episode to have missed!

Monday came early!  Phil (my brother) doesn’t work on Mondays.  We decided to incorporate geocaching into his kids’ school curriculum and have a field trip for school.  We went out (with Mitchell, too!) to find a number of caches placed by a friend of mine and his four children.  By reading what people wrote who had found these caches in the past, I could tell that they were clever ones.  They didn’t disappoint!  We did find all three of them.  Each of them was very different!  To celebrate our geocaching success we went out to our favorite Mexican Restaurant, La Capilla.  After lunch I went out and ran a few errands to buy things I can’t get where I live (like Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf coffee extract, and Paul Mitchell’s Heat Seal).  Well, I was pooped and went to bed early.  I put in “The Man From Snowy River” and was asleep before Jim Craig got to gentle either Old Regret’s last foal or the rancher’s daughter.  This was Monday

And was up early the next day.  I had brought all my tax stuff with me from home and spent many hours organizing receipts and paperwork and filling out the form from my tax man.  I was off in the early afternoon to drop all the tax stuff off to have my taxes done and then on to Pasadena to visit friends of mine.  Mike was one of “my kids” from my 1985 Teen Missions team.  He’s married and has six kids now.  And he recently moved to Pasadena from Oregon to work at the US Center For World Missions.  They are doing amazing things worldwide through that center, by the way.  Had a GREAT visit with him and his wife and didn’t get home until well after midnight.  This was Tuesday.

And I was up early the next day.  I packed a backpack and headed out to Ridgecrest to visit my friend Donna.  Got to her house around noon.  Delivered a package for a lady who lives where I do.  (Her daughter lives in Ridgecrest just a couple of miles from Donna!)  Donna recently followed her dream and started a jewelry business.  So we went to check out her new space!  The store should be opening in the next month or so!  Very exciting!  In the evening we went over to her sister’s house and spent some time visiting with her parents who are out visiting from Michigan!  Good timing!  I hadn’t seen them in years and it was a good time of catching up.  We all went out for some pretty awesome Chinese food.  This was Wednesday.  Got to watch LOST and was asleep the moment it ended (a great episode!!!  Who knew Claire would turn out to be Jack’s sister????!!!!).

And I was up early the next day.  Spent a few more hours with Donna (it’s never long enough no matter how much time I have) and was back on the road by noon.  I had to be back at Phil’s by 4:00 as ABNER was coming up to visit!  Woo Hoo!  Had about an hour to kill once I got to Phil’s so I went to the “greenbelt” to play Frisbee with Jon, Avalon, and Mitchell.  It was a very long hour waiting to see Abner.  Mitchell begged to go with Abner and I and we headed out to the Redondo Beach Pier.  We walked along the pier and chatted, getting caught up from the months that have passed since we said good-bye at the Lusaka International Airport last August.  Mitchell had fun.  He talked a fisherman into letting him hold his fish and the fisherman let him throw a sanddab back in the ocean.  Mitchell didn’t hesitate to touch those fish!  I had to stop him when I saw him heading for the fish the fisherman planned on keeping!  He would have thrown them ALL back in the ocean if he could have!  While at the pier, Mitchell talked us into going down to the “fun place”, an old fashioned arcade.  We bought tickets to the “Tilt-O-Whirl”.  I have NEVER had any problems with rollercoasters and the like, but this little arcade ride nearly brought me to my knees!  I didn’t barf, but could have!  Back to Phil’s for dinner with the family and then off to Irvine to meet up with brother Low at his church, Mariner’s, for his singles group meeting.  Low was the emcee (M.C.) and it was fun to see him in action.  Abner headed back to San Diego from there (sad day) and Low drove me back up to Phil’s.  We sat around yakking until late.  Then off to bed to fall asleep three minutes into “Pirate’s of the Carribbean II”.  That was Thursday.  Thought I missed “Survivor”.  Was glad to realize that it’s March Madness and I missed NOTHING! 

Friday.  I had awakened Thursday morning with a bad case of bronchitis.  I coughed most of the night.  And I had a lot on my mind.  The combination of the two made for a nearly sleepless night.  My brother had also come down with a respiratory thing and so we loaded up on NyQuil.  I hope it helped, because I don’t think I could’ve coughed more than I did!  I can’t imagine coughing any more than I did that night.  I had plans with my friend Darren and his kids (the ones who placed the really cool geocaches) for Friday afternoon.  We had talked of going geocaching and I had invited Jon to come with us.  What we ended up doing though, was going out to Disneyland!  I don’t know where those kids got the energy, but we closed the place down.  And then we tried to break into a car that looked just like Darren’s!  We eventually found his car and Jon and I were home by 1:30.  That was Friday.

AND I was up early on Saturday.  Mitchell had a tee-ball game!  HOW STINKING CUTE WAS THAT????  VERRRRRY!  🙂  He’s on the Dodgers.  He seems to really enjoy himself and he sure is enjoyable to watch!  After the game, Whitney and I went shopping for a BBQ.  My friend Mike from Pasadena and his wife and their six kids were joining us for lunch/dinner.  Mike’s six kids, Phil’s four, Whitney’s one, and a friend of Alaska’s….that’s 12 kids under sixteen.  Holy moley.  They all really enjoyed meeting each other and playing this game and that game.  At dusk they headed out to the back yard to play Mafia (we used to call it Murder, or Killer, but it’s that game where you wink to “kill” people).  We didn’t hear from them for hours.  We started a fire in the firepit and made S’Mores to close out the evening.  I think they’ll all be getting together again soon.  And that was Saturday.

AND I was up early on Sunday.  I headed out for Orange County.  I was on the road at 7:30 to meet up with my Dad to go to church with him.  He goes to Rick Warren’s Church (Saddleback).  Rick Warren is the guy who wrote “Purpose Driven Life“.  I got lucky.  Rick doesn’t preach there but once or maybe twice a month, but he was preaching that day.  It was a really good message on Pride and Humility.  After church we headed over to my sister Liz’ family’s house.  She made us a light breakfast.  It was nice to get all caught up with Liz.  I was surprised by her daughter Jesse’s interest in just hanging out with us.  She is growing up to be quite a lovely young lady and I very much enjoyed her company and what she brought to the conversation.  Smart AND funny AND beautiful!  (But of course she is!)  Later in the day we ate another one of Liz’ stellar meals.  She’s an awesome cook.  The roast that she and Toby rotisseried was, well, one of the most delectable bits of meat I’ve ever eaten.  Ever.  Dad and I stayed there until early evening (Low had joined us but had to leave for a wedding a couple of hours earlier) enjoying the time with Liz and her family and with one of Liz’ best friends and her two sons.  We headed back to Dad’s where I hopped in my Mom’s car and headed an hour back up north.

I was back at Phil’s on Sunday night in time to watch Amazing Race.  A few minutes into it and I realized that my favorite team was nowhere to be seen.  The episode I missed last week?  Wellll, it turns out that Rob and Amber were the ones to be eliminated.  I was sad!!!!  I wanted them to win.  Now I need to find that episode and see just how they were taken out! 

AND I WAS UP EARLY YESTERDAY MORNING.  I don’t really like getting up early.  Can you tell?  Well, that big new AirBus plane was flying in to LAX yesterday morning.  And my flight was scheduled to leave at 10:50.  I had to get to the airport early just in case there was alot of extra traffic and media and such.  There wasn’t.  And I ALMOST got to see the plane land.  Word was it was to come in at about 9:30 and would land visible from the windows in the terminal I was in!  Cool.  Soooo, I am going through security.  Lines aren’t too long, things are moving fast.  I figure I’ll be in the terminal and by a window with plenty of time.  Til the guy in front of me has to have his bag rescreened.  I wait.  The bag is rescreened.  Took them pretty long to do it.  I go through the metal detector and wait for my bags.  They have to rescreen one of mine.  Takes them a long time to do it.  Then they bring the back over to me and tell me they need to look in it.  No problem.  But the plane lands while they do so.  The thing that they were concerned about?  A bunch of coins in my wallet.  Didn’t get to see the plane land.  Didn’t get to see the plane at all.

That was yesterday.   And now I’m home.  And boy is Mew Ling glad about that.  You should have heard her when I opened the front door.  You’d have thought I’d been gone for a year.  I’m glad to be home too.

(I was up early again this morning.  But that is not MY story to tell!  Tomorrow?  I sleep until I wake up.)

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

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


Happy Birthday, Jonathan

Gracious.  Little Jon Jon is in the double digits now.  Ten years old. 

Whatever happened to that squeaky, scrawny, little red faced baby that Alaska wouldn’t let go of? 

Rumor has it you will be visiting Colorado (and me) in August and will be there when I get home.  By then it will have been three months since I last saw you.  At the rate you seem to be growing, I will not be surprised to find that you have grown taller than me.  Yes, Jon, I KNOW, that won’t take much!

So, little man, on this verrrrry important birthday, I am reaching across the continents, the ocean, and the miles to give you a big fat hug and kiss, and to make you sit on my lap while I do it!


I sure do love you….

Auntie Mean

(posted in absentia)


Humor can be found in death in some of the oddest places and at the oddest times.  As you know, this past Sunday was Mother's Day.

Early in the morning, my nephew Jon was in the kitchen with my sister, and they were looking for a date on the calendar to mark for a birthday party he wished to attend.  My nephew pointed to May 14th and said "Hey, it's Mother's Day".  And he came out to the living room and stood in front of the built in cabinets (it's called "the shrine" and I'll tell you about that later….) and wished his mother's ashes a "Happy Mother's Day".

His first Mother's Day without his Mom.

It was a sweet and touching moment.  But strangely funny, too. 

“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.


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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