Sunday, December 31, 2006

"New Years Eve Partying" Has Become An Oxymoron

It’s New Years Eve. But we’re not partying.

For my wife and me, the phrase “New Years Eve Party” has long since been an oxymoron. And I couldn’t be happier.

Tonight I’m watching the final NFL game of the regular season on the tube, being played in Chicago. I’ll bet most of my Chicago-area relatives are also either at the game or glued to the tube.

An hour or so ago, my beloved 49ers knocked Denver right out of the playoffs, allowing Kansas City to sneak in the back door at the last minute. Plus my second beloved team, the Seahawks, are in the post season and are assured of playing one more week at the minimum.

Watching a football game is a wonderful alternative to partying. No over eating, no sweaty dance floors, no potential headaches, no icy roads, no having to negotiate impaired drivers, and virtually a full night’s sleep. O, how my focus has changed over the years.

The best thing about bringing in the New Year this way is that, after ceremoniously opening our bottle of Sparkling Cider at midnight, I’ll get a New Year’s kiss from my wife as well as a happy lick/kiss from our dog Buddy. And we won’t have to drive home.

Happy New Year to you and to all. Click here for a fun way to bring in 2007.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Sharing Environmental Viruses

Are viruses airborne? Or on stationary surfaces? Or can they jump, like fleas, from person to person?

Not that it really matters. A cold is a cold, and once you get it, it’s pretty much gotta run its course.

My wife caught her cold first. We don’t know from whom or where. Mine could have originated with her or any number of other possibilities.

I’ve learned this. Cold viruses can’t reproduce on surfaces, but they are infectious for a period of time. They can only multiply inside our bodies.

Our mothers telling us to wash our hands often was for good reason. So, to stay free of colds, you’ve got to not touch any surface that might contain a rhinovirus nor breathe in deeply when you’re near someone who’s got one. Sounds like an impossibility to me.

Diagram at left shows how a cold virus attaches itself to your nose lining. Looks like a space vehicle docking with a station. Then it multiplies until it takes over your nasal passages and sinuses. No wonder my head has felt like a balloon for the last two days.

But our colds are getting better now. Did you know you can have a cold and not have symptoms? True.

Monday, December 25, 2006

Christmas –The Coming Together of Heaven and Earth

The imagery of Christmas usually focuses on scenes of the Nativity – a babe born in Bethlehem who was the Savior of the world. And that is all true. We celebrate that historical event today.

But what is its significance?

I am not smart enough nor educated enough to fully contemplate that question. However, Anglican N.T. Wright, Bishop of Durham and a favorite theologian of mine, has a lot to offer in this regard.

Expounding on the above imagery, Bishop Wright suggests that not only is Christmas good tidings of comfort and joy, but also it's about “incomprehension, rejection, darkness, denial, stopped ears, and judgment”.

“It is about God shining his clear, bright torch into the darkness of our world, our lives, our hearts, our imaginations – and the darkness not comprehending it,” says Wright.

In our recent “discovery” of, and participation in, a more mainline Lutheran church, my wife and I have been enriched over the past few weeks regarding teachings on the Incarnation. And the nuances of the Incarnation are precisely what Bishop Wright is talking about.

He points out that the liberal theology of three decades ago, which denied Christ’s deity, is left wanting when you link Genesis, “In the beginning God made heaven and earth,” and the Gospel of John, “in the beginning was the Word”.

We need to re-learn the difference between mercy and affirmation, he declares. (We need to understand the dissimilarity) “between a Jesus who both embodies and speaks God’s word of judgment and grace and a homemade Jesus who gives us good advice about discovering who we really are”.

This has life-altering implications for those of us who desire to follow Christ. You can read the full text of Bishop Wright’s thoughts here. They are taken from an article in Christianity Today.

You can also click here for an innovative visual nuance concerning the Incarnation. It's a video my son Gregg created and used in a sermon a week ago.

When the Word became flesh, to paraphrase Wright, it was the coming together of heaven and earth.

Merry Christmas!

Sunday, December 24, 2006

A Very Quiet Christmas Eve

It’s Christmas Eve here and in the North Pole (above), and Santa is already on his way, bringing good cheer and joy wherever he goes.

This day and evening is usually the most exciting day of the year for us. This year, it’s very quiet.

Our “Christmas Eve” was three nights ago when our whole family was here. Tonight, we have great memories and a lot to be thankful for at this significant time.

We had a wonderful church service this morning and we may go to the candlelight service later on from 11pm to midnight. This is the time to give thought and thanks to a great God for visiting our world through the Incarnation and becoming one of us.

May your Christmas Eve be wonderful and meaningful.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

A Holiday Jaunt To Seattle

Well, it’s eerily quiet around here now, as our kids and granddaughters have gone home to other Christmas celebrations with the other sides of their families as well as at church.

Even our dog Buddy is moping.

Yesterday, however, was a different story. Gregg, Elaine, Talli, Hayley, Aubrey, Grandma and Grandpa all went on a holiday excursion to Seattle.

There we met Doug and Jamie for lunch among the lighted city decorations and were treated with a visit to the very top floor of the building (left photo), where Jamie is employed.

As one would imagine, Seattle was packed with people. After missing one reservation at the Cheesecake Factory because Grandpa became gridlocked in city traffic, we finally settled in to enjoy a wonderful lunch together.

If you’ve been to a Cheesecake Factory and seen their 20-page (book) menu, you know how hard it can be just to make a selection. And everything is scrumptious there.

Almost too full to move, we waddled down the street where Jamie gave us a deluxe tour of where she works on the 50-somethingth floor. The 270-degree view of Puget Sound, Mt. Rainier, Lake Union and the city is nothing less than spectacular, and I would have included a photo. But I managed to blur it into infamy (tried to get tricky w/o a flash). The very top left front corner of the building is the conference room from which we viewed the panorama.

Ever gracious, Jamie gave us a wonderful tour that of course included her spacious work area. What a sweet, but well earned, position she has in an incredible setting and with one of Seattle’s finest financial firms. Can this really be work?

To cap off a great outing, we walked across the street to the City Center where there was an exhibit of creatively made Gingerbread Houses. Big ones. One edible example is pictured top right; it’s a replica of Seattle’s Smith Tower, once the city’s tallest building. The creation is made entirely of sugar, frosting and gingerbread.

It was a happy, but tired, family that returned to the home digs last evening.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Our Family Christmas

Our family tradition has always been to have lasagna for dinner and open gifts on Christmas Eve. This year, with our sons’ wild schedules, the closest we could get to Christmas Eve and still have everyone together, was this evening.

So we celebrated.

The entire Koskela clan gathered in our home tonight for, yep, grandma’s lasagna and related goodies. Of course during the meal, the kids chomped at the bit to open packages.

Immediately following dinner, tradition also dictates that the kids of all ages first check out the goodies that Mrs. Santa Claus (Grandma) has selected for each one and placed in their personalized stockings. Everyone found a variety of "treasures" in their sock.

Then we alternately opened our gifts, squealing, "oooohing" or "aaaahing" in response to the particular present. That’s four-year-old Aubrey in the photo proudly holding her “angel” gift for Grandma that she made with her own hands. She could hardly contain herself until gift time, but she successfully kept secret the special gift.

We had a wonderful time, and, as usual, we agreed that this was “the best Christmas ever”.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Brother Assists Brother In Steelhead Success!

My son Doug organized and planned the trip and drove his car. He even gave his older brother an early Christmas present – a beautiful steelhead rig (long graphite pole and spinning reel that was perfect for drifting a jig under a bobber).

And it was Gregg (at right) who got the fish, a beautiful, chrome-bright hen with sea lice still clinging to her side (translation: it was so fresh it had come from the ocean in less than a day or so).

This may be the fastest I’ve ever seen anyone get the skunk off a new rig. What it really means, though, is that Gregg is a very savvy steelhead fisherman.

After a two-and-a-half-hour drive from our home, to the west and deep into the Olympic National Park and Forest, we arrived at the Bogachiel River (above), near the small town of Forks. Three world-class steelhead rivers come together in the area – the Bogey, the Calawah and the Sol Duc.

Plus, it’s not far from a state steelhead hatchery which virtually insures that there are fish in the rivers at this time of the year.

Well today, for Gregg, there sure was. The wily fish made three desperate runs downriver, trying it’s hardest to spit the hook. But the fisherman prevailed. Another look: Doug took pic above with Gregg's cell phone cam at river's edge. The steelie was a seven-pounder and stretched a healthy 27-inches. Click here for Gregg's perspective.

It was a fabulous (and very rare) day together for the three of us. Doug and I will get ours next time.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

It Doesn't Get Much Better Than This

My sons and I after a salmon trip on August 25, 2004

Both of my sons are here tonight, and we're getting our gear ready for a steelhead trip to the Bogachiel River tomorrow. We leave at 4:15 am.

I'm sure both Gregg and Doug will outfish me, and that's just fine. I trained them well.

I will enjoy tomorrow in a way that's inexplicable unless you have sons with whom you share a passion. It doesn't get much better than this.

Monday, December 18, 2006

There’s No Place Like Home

After a little more than three and a half days without power, heat or water, our house is once again “connected”. And you can’t imagine how good it feels to be in a warm home.

The inside temperature has come up over 25 degrees today, so the place is once again quite inhabitable.

In spite of it all, we are one of the fortunate ones. About 200,000 homes in the northwest still are cold and uncomfortable without power. Our thoughts and prayers are tonight with those folks.

The juice is flowing once again just in time. Our elder son, his wife and our granddaughters will arrive sometime tomorrow to spend most of the week with us. My other son and his wife will join us throughout the week to celebrate the Christmas holidays.

Hopefully, all of us boys will get a steelhead fishing trip in on Wednesday. If we’re successful, you’ll read about it here in the days ahead. Silence on the topic will indicate our disappointment.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Another Day… Another Motel Room

Well, we’re spending a third night in a motel room, as power, water and heat remain absent from our house.

The temperature inside our home was somewhere BELOW 40-degrees this afternoon when we went by to check things out.

A friend from church offered to let us use his spare generator, and that would maybe save some food in the freezer. But without water (we’re on a community well with an electric pump), we can’t do much as far as “living” is concerned, so we declined his kind gesture.

So, we wait it out.

It could be another day or two before we get power restored. We’re one of about 600 nearby homes without power due to fallen trees on local power lines. The main transmission lines have been restored, but the infrastructure is still struggling. It’s more important that the power company focuses on larger outages rather than smaller ones. That’s understandable.

We’re thankful that things aren’t worse.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

70 mph Winds Knock Us Out of the House

I’m writing this sitting in a nice warm motel room about 20 miles from home. The horrendous wind storm has knocked us out (of the house).

With no power, no heat and no water, it became wiser for us to spend evenings and nights in a more temperate place -- not that we’re wimps, or anything, but we were concerned for our dog, Buddy :-).

The pic shows a man in Kitsap County just trying to get to his damaged car in front of his house after winds blew a large tree down that landed right on top of the vehicle (photo from an online newspaper).

During the height of the winds Thursday night I opened the front door to see what I could see. Not much (it was totally dark). But I could hear the 70+ mph winds bellowing up the Puget Sound Passage our house faces.

It sounded just like I imagine a hurricane sounds – just a steady, freight train-loud roar. Fortunately, our home is set back enough so that we were sheltered from the main gusts. To make it even worse, the temps dropped below freezing last night, leaving a real chill even indoors.

We went back to the house today to see if power had come on and to get some clothes for church tomorrow. It had not. So I guess we’re here for another night, at least.

The severe storm that came through Puget Sound beginning late Wednesday has drawn national attention. One thing has become apparent. It’s the largest power outage ever for Puget Sound Energy.

All tolled, about a million homes were without power for at least some time, meaning that maybe as many as two million people were on their own. The power company is in the midst of herculean efforts to get the juice flowing again, but it’s a daunting task.

Fortunately shelters have opened where there is power, and there have been few reports of injury or deaths (or freezings) as a result. For that we can be thankful.

However, I will miss a football game tonight. The motel TV doesn’t have the NFL Network. Buddy's gonna miss the game maybe more than I will. It could be a whole lot worse.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Our Last Day With California Friends Before Heading Home

First to Santa Cruz…

In the early afternoon on Friday of last week we spent the last few hours on the Santa Cruz side visiting Kay Lynne’s sweet elderly aunt, Beulah.

She still lives on her own in her home, just steps from the ocean cliffs near the landmark Santa Cruz lighthouse. Aunt “Beu,” as we all call her, is still sharp as a tack and getting around just fine. A classically beautiful woman in her prime, and still very attractive, Beu’s greatest asset is that she is a beautiful person – inside and out. She is a pure pleasure to be around.

We thoroughly enjoyed the time with her, catching up on the New side of the family. My wife has three cousins, two second cousins, and two third cousins, all from Beu and her late husband, Lee – Kay Lynne’s mom’s brother.

Then to Morgan Hill…

As evening approached, we returned to San Jose, picked up Darlene and headed for Morgan Hill, some 15 miles to the south. Eddie Wall, my old ad agency partner was driving home from an LA business trip and was to meet us, his wife, and Mike & Gwen Silkwood for dinner at a nearby restaurant.

Oooops, wrong partner!

Ed's never seen a naked statue

After we all met at Mike and Gwen’s beautiful Morgan Hill “mansion”, and viewed HD TV in their high tech theater, we headed out to yak it up and get our fill at an Italian eatery. We enjoyed our usual, humor(?)-laden banter. We soon had the wait persons talking to themselves and regretting ever taking our table. But such is common with this irreverent group.

The funniest part of the evening was when the bill came. Buddy Ed and his dear wife had ordered the most expensive entrees on the menu. As Ed picked up the check, he announced, “Down here we always just split the bill by the number of couples; it’s much easier than trying to figure who got what.”

I’ve gotta remember that one. Seriously, Ed & Darlene are probably two of the most generous people we know, so I can needle him. I’m still trying to figure out if he was just testing my humor limit :-).

After dinner we returned to Silkwoods for more
friendly banter and enjoyed some (Marie Callender) pies that Gwen “had slaved over all afternoon”. We flew back home the next morning following a restful Friday night stay back at the Wall’s Almaden home that was gorgeously decorated for the holidays.

That's Ed & Darlene left above & Mike and Gwen at right above.

Hopefully our paths will again cross somewhere up here in the Northwest next Summer.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

On to the Mt Hermon Christmas Dinner & Concert

On Thursday of last week, after a restful night at the Wall’s home in San Jose, we headed south “over the hill” (that’s what locals call the 1,900-ft high coastal range between Los Gatos and Santa Cruz) to Scotts Valley (another place we once lived for six years) and the nearby Mt Hermon Christian Conference Center.

This was our third or fourth time at the annual Santa Cruz mountain Christmas event, and it features a quaint holiday gift boutique and a very nice buffet dinner, followed by a Christmas music concert in the auditorium.

This year’s guest artists, for the week we were there, were Tim Zimmerman and the King’s Brass from Winona Lake, Indiana (“poor” available light pic at top).

They get a WOW! for a spectacular performance.

Accompanying us to the Mt Hermon concert were Ted and Sharon Petersen, Mike & Gwen Silkwood and Darlene Wall (minus hubby Ed who was in LA).

At evening’s end, we joined Ted & Sharon at their beautifully rustic mountain cabin right on the conference grounds. There we spent the night following a “catch up” on our respective interests and involvements while enjoying the comforts of easy chairs and sofas.

That’s Ted and Sharon in the other photo, taken at the cabin. I’ll include pics of Silkwoods and Walls in the next post. We really enjoyed the time with Ted and Sharon, as it had been about six months since we had seen them. They are the kind of people who enrich your life by just being around them

The Petersens live in Lake Wildwood, a gated community in the Sierra Nevada foothills, where the pines are tall and the lake is a short walk from their doorstep. Living on the second hole of the LW golf course just adds fun to everyday goings on. Don’t play Ted for money, however; he’s good. He hits long and very accurately – just the opposite of my golf game.

Sleep came quickly and deeply (I believe I might have snored a bit) in the cool mountain air. Sure hope they can come visit us next summer.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Making the Rounds in the Bay Area

Late Wednesday morning of last week we left Discovery Bay and headed to Fairfield, where we last lived in the Golden State, for a meeting with our financial advisor. Of course we had to drive by the house we then lived in. It appeared to be fine.

We then drove south in our rented mini-van (an UN-impressive Mazda MPV) toward San Jose, some 80 miles away, where my wife Kay Lynne had a dinner get-together planned with two of her friends from high school with whom she has stayed close.

She met Lorene Olszewski and Paula Brodick at a restaurant in Valley Fair, the extremely popular Westfield’s mega-mall. Valley Fair is one of Santa Clara Valley’s (and perhaps California’s) very first shopping centers. Macy’s was its first department store, opening in 1956, which became the center’s anchor retailer. The pic is of Valley Fair Macy's today.

Said to be the “best” mall in northern California, with the possible exception of the Stanford Shopping Center, Valley Fair is now all enclosed and is home to more than 200 stores, many quite “upscale”.

Kay Lynne was a Macy’s teen fashion model/consultant there “way back” in high school. All three of the gals were “pom-pom” girls (cheer leaders) together at San Jose’s historic Lincoln High School. I have photos, but I value my life.

The ladies had a great time at dinner, catching up on news and events in their lives. Lorene has two grown sons in the engineering and computer professions while Paula has a son who is in law enforcement.

I find it quite interesting that much like the six of us “Baggar” guys (see last post), my wife has remained close with several friends who also go back a very long way. She has known Lorene, for instance, since kindergarten.

All these “old” friends, however, make our periodic visits to California most enjoyable. More posts to follow on our Bay Area visit of last week.

Monday, December 11, 2006

50-Plus Years and Counting

Last week we were in California visiting many of our long-time friends there. On Tuesday night we enjoyed a restaurant dinner in Discovery Bay with friends we’ve known for 50-plus years.

In case you hadn’t thought about it, that’s half of a century!

The common thread – for the guys at least – was the late 1950’s and early 1960’s, San Jose State and a church-sponsored college group known then as Tri-C.

About that time and in those places we all became friends. Life-long amigos, it turns out.

Let me identify all the neat folks in the photo above, taken at the Klassen’s Bay home following our meal. Left to right in the back row are Joe Medal, Bill Brooks, Ralph Higgins and Bob Rodde. Front row are Dwight Klassen, Gayle Higgins, my wife Kay Lynne (seated), Mary Rodde and Lynnette Klassen.

Dwight, Ralph, Bob, Joe and I all lived together at one time or another during the above mentioned years. We were known as the Baggars. Bill roomed for a short stint with both Joe and Ralph near the end of the time frame. Unfortunately, Joe’s wife and Bill’s wife were unable to be there, but both guys drove some 80 miles from San Jose to join the get-together.

We enjoyed a wonderful, extended evening reminiscing about old times, many humorous, and catching up on what’s going on in all of our lives. Several had been touched by illness and are still in the recovery process. Thankfully, everyone is doing well.

I don’t know if it’s rare, but how many people do you know who have close, meaningful friends of more than 50 years? I’ve known Bob the longest, for 53 years, and Dwight for 50 years this annum.

Bob and I were high school friends, and I met Dwight as a college freshman. I’ve known Ralph and Joe a year or two less, as our paths came together in San Jose at the college group beginning in 1958. Bill joined the fellowship soon after.

The wives blended into the “Baggar Band” at various times along the way and, truth be told, are probably somewhat bored with the repetitive stories each time we assemble. In fact, we guys now just raise fingers to indicate the story number and then laugh like crazy. (Saves re-telling the tale and limits the growing exaggeration.:-)

Rare or not, each one has a special place in my life. And I’m the richer for it.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

I Don’t Miss Topical Sermons

We’ve been in California this past week visiting a lot of long-time friends, and I’ll have some upcoming posts on that. But we came home a day or two earlier than we might have done otherwise, due to my wife’s Sunday School teaching responsibilities.

On the way home from church today, I came to the realization that we hadn’t heard a topical sermon since we began attending First Lutheran some 16 months ago.

I don’t seem to miss them at all.

In my previous Christian life, our weekly worship experience almost always included a topical sermon. I guess I should make the distinction clear.

Topical sermons are based on current societal events (such as “a statistical increase in premarital sex” or “global warming”) and usually are flaunted with a catchy “with it” title. I could come up with a dozen typical topics, but I’ll spare you.

Well, I just can’t pass up one. Ever seen a topic like this? “Is Global Warming God’s Warning?” You get the picture.

Topical sermons then attempt to snatch scriptures (many times out of context) and create a spiritual hypothesis about the subject. Some of these efforts may actually contain truth but to my way of thinking rarely teach us much about how we ought to meaningfully understand and practice our faith.

Conversely, in our church, sermons always are an exposition of scripture itself. Moreover, they usually follow the lectionary relating to the church calendar, which results, over a period of time, in a broad but relatively complete picture of the Bible’s teachings.

Today, the second Sunday of Advent, our pastor preached on the New Testament lesson taken from the first chapter of Philippians. Paul’s salutation to the Philippians is also a summary of his counsel to that body and also to us. I won’t try to “re-preach” the sermon here but I’ll just mention the highlights.

Pastor Jukam indicated that if we follow Paul’s advice, we should be more intentional about four things: First, to let Christ show through in our living (e.g., how long does it take someone to realize we are followers of Christ?).

Secondly, we should pray regularly and earnestly. Thirdly, we should be joyful in sharing our faith, and fourthly we should let our love overflow so that it affects others.

Sort of simple, yes, but very practical and effective advice from the apostle Paul that we can all benefit from and endeavor to put into practice in our faith walk.

How our climate might relate to a scripture verse here and there is of less relative consequence.

Monday, December 04, 2006

California Sun?

Most of this week we are hopefully enjoying some warm sunshine two States to the south of us, visiting six couples whom I like to kiddingly call our “California Cronies”.

We’ve known all of them for at least 40-plus years, and two of the guys I’ve known for over 50 years, one going all the way back to high school.

We’ll touch both ends of the greater San Francisco Bay Area on this visit, from Discovery Bay up north on the Delta all the way down to Santa Cruz, on Monterey Bay to the south of San Jose.

We have to leave our dog Buddy in a nearby kennel that also houses our vet and animal hospital facilities. That way, if he suffers separation anxiety again and doesn’t eat or drink, they can put him on IV’s till we get back :-).

Actually, my wife likely will have more separation anxiety than Buddy will.