Monday, December 29, 2008

Celebrating Doug’s Birthday at P.F. Chang’s

Our immediate family last night enjoyed a wonderful dining experience together at P.F. Chang’s in Lynnwood. We were anticipatorily celebrating Doug’s birthday, which is just ahead, while we were all still together for the Christmas holidays.

The photo above, taken by Jamie while we were waiting to be seated, shows our three wonderful granddaughters doting on our wonderful new grandson, their cousin. From left are Hayley, Talli and dapperly-dressed Nathan (Mariners outfit and trendy blue jeans), and Aubrey. By-the-way, Nathan was in perfect form while he was awake and then, as if on cue, slept soundly all through the dinner.

After dinner, the wait person was kind enough to take the second photo as we scrunched around to get everyone in the picture. From left, moi, the birthday guy, Elaine (peeking over us), Kay Lynne, Aubrey (peeking around Grandma), Gregg, Hayley, Talli and Jamie (Nathan was still asleep under cover in his comfy, transportable car seat/carrier).

The background music during the evening was from the 80’s when Gregg and Doug were in high school and junior high respectively, so of course, being the competitive young men they’ve always been, they contested to see who could identify the artist and song title first. I’m not positively sure who won, but if Gregg didn’t, he certainly knew a lot of them.

Doug, your choice of restaurant and your tailored selection of entres were impeccable, and the enjoyable time all together was irreplaceable. We all had a fabulous evening!

Happy thirty-mmphth birthday, son!

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Much of Our Extended Family Assembles For Rare Get-together

Two of my first cousins, Jim and Joel Narva, and I grew up more as brothers than cousins. Our moms were sisters who were very close, and our families lived either above, below, or adjacent to each other until we were all in or through high school.

Our families assembled as possible yesterday at Joel and Sandra’s beautiful home near Point-No-Point in north Kitsap for a holiday get-together. Of course we had to take a photo (below).

Left to right are Gregg, Jim, Elaine, Kay, Hayley, Aubrey, Kay Lynne, Talli, Joel, Sandra, Lindsey, Andy, Kelli, this old man, Jamie, baby Nathan and Doug. Who’s who in the photo are as follows: Kay is Jim’s wife, Sandra is Joel’s wife, Kelli and Lindsey are Joel and Sandra’s daughters, Andy is Kelli’s husband, Gregg and Doug are Kay Lynne’s and my sons, Elaine is Gregg’s wife and Jamie is Doug’s wife, and Talli, Hayley and Aubrey are Gregg and Elaine’s daughters, and baby Nathan is Doug and Jamie’s son. Jim and Kay’s sons Mike and Andrew and Mike’s significant other, Ginny, were not able to be with us this time.

Btw, any cousins or relatives out there that might want to see the photo larger, just drop me an email and I'll send the entire file to you for enlarging (full file wouldn't upload to the blog for some reason).

Jim, Joel and I have at least seven other first cousins, all on our moms’ side, who are spread out across the country. Linda, who lives here in Washington and is nearest to us, wanted to be with us yesterday, but was unable to make it. What a gathering it would be to have all the cousins and their families get together some day. Our moms used to call a gathering like that a “hullabaloo”.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

A Very Merry Christmas To You, As Weather Shapes Our Observances

For about 360 days out of the past year, living where we do – on the side of a hill overlooking the waters of Puget Sound – has been a most pleasurable existence. We often wake up watching eagles, red-tailed hawks or cormorants diving for piscatorial breakfasts.

But for the last five days we’ve been trapped in our enjoyable setting by ice, 15-inches of snow and freezing temperatures (see last several posts). I’ve not been able to drive the car out since last Friday. The photo above, taken three days ago, looks out into the trees in our snow-smothered back yard.

Ice and snow on our steep driveway (down) followed by the excessively inclined egress road (up), has kept all vehicles away from our location. Finally, weather reports are beginning to indicate that it all may melt enough for us to get out by tomorrow. We hope that’s true, as both of our sons and their families are planning to arrive beginning tomorrow in the late afternoon.

For sure, this has been the most “out of the ordinary” Christmas season in memory. Eating a Christmas Eve TV dinner last night while watching the networks’ feeble attempts at celebrating this holiday was a first for us. Thank goodness for Public television and for Christmas Eve Service broadcasts from some of the world's great Cathedrals.

We’ve almost always been with family of some sort on Christmas Eve. But not this year. We’re certainly not complaining, however, as we’ll celebrate in a day or two with our entire immediate family. And, if weather permits, we may even be able to get together with our extended family at my cousin’s home near Point-No-Point.

I don’t think I’ve mentioned this before, but for the last six months or so, I’ve been writing a bi-weekly column in our local daily newspaper, the Kitsap Sun. It happened that today was my turn in the rotation. Some reflections on the wonder of Christmas are expressed in the column. If interested, you can click here to read the online version.

A very Merry Christmas to you and yours from Kay Lynne and me.

Monday, December 22, 2008

More Snow Overnight & Still Snowed In

Well, you can compare the photo below of our deck table and chair with yesterday’s pic in the previous post, and the difference is what was added last night. It’s pushing 15” deep there on the chair seat.

It all happened overnight while our house was dark and rapidly losing heat. We had a power failure at about 7:00 last night (during the football game, arrrgh) and it lasted till just after 6:00 this morning. That made three outages for us yesterday; but the first two were “only” about an hour and a half each. The gas fireplace really helped, but it’s no furnace.

What was interesting was that only about 400 homes in our immediate area were affected; we could see lights across the water on the Poulsbo side the whole time. The power company said a snow-laden tree had fallen across a transmission line of some sort.

Above photo shows the homes across Agate Passage whose lights we were able to see all night from our darkened home. That’s the Agate Pass navigation buoy at the lower center right. Of course the always-moving sea water never freezes. Click on the photo(s) for a larger image.

I thought the photo above (taken by Gregg, I think) is very pretty and wintery. It is Gregg and Elaine’s Oregon home just as night is falling and the lights are beginning to show. At right is our 11-year-old granddaughter, Hayley, ice skating yesterday on the frozen street in front of their house.

I lived in Chicago until well into my teens, and I’m not sure we experienced any winters there that were any more dramatic than this.

Hope all is well where you are.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Snowed In Again, But It’s A Winter Wonderland

Last Sunday we missed our 3-1/2 month-old grandson’s Sunday School program stage debut due to snow and ice around our home and over the entire region, and today we’re snowed in again. Deeply snowed in.

But it’s a Pacific Northwest winter wonderland, as you can see by the view above from our front door. Check the difference in the amount of snow on our outside light post fixture in this photo vs. that in the Dec. 14 post photo. Nothing – and I mean nothing – is moving outdoors in our hillside neighborhood. A few wild animal tracks in the backyard are the only signs of life. And the tracks are probably those of Gus, our neighborhood watch dog.

As you can see above, it would be insanity to aim a 2-ton wheeled machine down our steep driveway. It could be a while before this melts

Church services this morning, in most cases, appear to have been cancelled. I’m still not sure if ours were actually suspended, but there was no way we could get out to attend. Our son Gregg said they had to cancel their services in Oregon due to icy conditions exacerbating the snowy road surfaces.

The patio furniture and deck railings, above, have at least eight inches of snow, with more like 12” on the edge of the table. Don’t think we’ll have a brunch out there today. Click on any photo for a detailed, larger image.

Looks like this is one of those days when we can just sit in front of the new gas fireplace we put in this past fall and maybe watch some TV football - or perhaps one of those sappy Christmas dramas Kay Lynne loves. At the same time, we’ll also keep one eye on the incredibly beautiful white winter panorama that materialized significantly over the past 12 hours. Stay safe wherever you are during these chilly days.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

More Dumps

Well, we got dumped on again today – and in more ways than one. Most of it, however, is related to just living in the cold, wintery Northwest. Our Cav Buddy is even wearing his football sweater during the cold spell.

The truth is, it hasn’t exactly been an upbeat week. You can see in the last post how the week started. Very disappointingly.

So today, a) we got dumped on with some more snow, b) the temps are in the 20’s, c) our main car sits in the repair shop still undiagnosed (coolant leak somewhere in the heating system behind the firewall), d) the back-up car sits in the garage with a dead battery (from non-use and freezing temps), and e) as the weekend approaches, more snow and icy temps are forecasted, and we not only have church and other responsibilities, but for the time, we are carless.

Not to worry, though; we did get the last of our Christmas letters in our mailmaid’s truck this afternoon. And, as Kay Lynne and I were mentioning at dinner, if this is what is to be, we are relatively fortunate. “Things” and circumstances can be handled. We need to be thankful we have a warm place to sleep and some food in the fridge. And a totally loyal Cavalier King Charles Spaniel who cuddles closely and keeps our feet warm.

Many (more this year) are out in the weather or, hopefully, at least seeking respite from the cold in shelters. For the first time in my lifetime I am seeing a look of fear in people’s eyes regarding what may happen.

My dad told me about the long food lines during the great depression of the early 1930’s, but it was always somewhat removed because I had no contact with it. Now we are seeing it first hand. The lines are increasing dramatically at food centers like Fishline where Kay Lynne volunteers weekly and at Helpline here in town and at our church where we have a supply of canned goods for those in need.

And, we think, by remembering those less fortunate and helping them as possible, it is very likely that our little misadventures will soon fade away.

Two more quick things: 1) it’s only a week till Christmas, and 2) tomorrow, had my father lived this long, would have been his 102nd birthday (maybe 103rd, depending on how you interpret historical dates and data).

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Iced In & Bummed Out

This was the view this morning looking out from our front door. And, unfortunately for us, the snow and ice beneath kept us from going to Seattle to see our grandson Nathan portray baby Jesus in their church Sunday School Program Nativity scene.

Consequently, we’re quite bummed out.

The early morning forecasts, as it turned out, were quite a bit more ominous than what actually came about. Or at least it seemed that way. The early prediction for Seattle streets to remain as “ice-under-packed-snow” for the whole day was the backbreaker for us.

As the day has gone on, however, the temps have risen to very near or actually at the freezing point, and with traffic activity, it appears most streets are fine. Whether they were ok at 10:00 this morning I suppose will remain a mystery. And whether or not our cautious approach was the prudent action is now moot.

In our younger days, we’d have just gone out, weather notwithstanding. But running into difficulty now that we are older (like skidding the car into a ditch on an icy slope because perceptions and reaction times aren’t what they used to be) can easily exacerbate into more serious issues.

Still, this old grandpa will probably grouse for most of the day. In spite of grandma’s assurances that we made the best decision we could based on what we knew at 7:00 this cold and icy morning.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Hayley’s First Band Concert

Our sixth-grade granddaughter Hayley took up playing the clarinet just a few short months ago when she entered middle school. Last night she participated in her first band concert, the Beginning Band Christmas Concert.

The program was fabulous. And so was Hayley.

That’s Hayley, left, at home just after the concert. Below, Hayley (center, standing) gets ready to warm-up with the clarinet section just before curtain time.

We were amazed at the quality of the performance from a beginning band. It filled the gym with the joyous sounds of Christmas. Their outstanding accomplishment, in addition to hard work and practice, is largely due to veteran Chehalem Valley Middle School band director, David Sanders. Year after year Mr. Sanders takes fledgling musicians and turns them into wonderful performers. He is a dedicated and gifted man and deserves much credit and gratitude.

Congratulations, Hayley. Very well done! Grandma and Grandpa sure enjoyed being there.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Advent Season Prepares Us For the Celebration of Christmas

We often think of Advent as part of the Christmas celebration. In reality, it is not a part of Christmas but a season of preparation for the celebration of Christmas.

The four-week long season of Advent begins a new year in the Church Calendar, and it concludes on Christmas Eve, just prior to the beginning of the Christmas celebration, often called “the 12 days of Christmas”. The word “advent” means “coming.”

In the Lutheran tradition, Advent’s month-long focus is on a two-fold anticipation: it looks toward Bethlehem and the birth of the promised Messiah while also looking toward the coming of God’s kingdom at the end of all things.

As a matter of fact, the first two Sundays in Advent center on the Second Coming of Christ in liturgy and music. The third Sunday spotlight is on John the Baptist, the herald of Christ, and the fourth Sunday concentrates on the Virgin Mary as the obedient servant, chosen to bear God’s anointed one.

Part of the Lutheran celebration of the Advent season includes the Advent Wreath with its two symbolic implications. The wreath is an ancient symbol of victory and glory, and its four candles, in addition to showing that Christ is the “light of the world,” depict part of the story of Jesus’ birth.

The Prophecy Candle points to God’s promise of a Messiah and King in the line of David who would bring salvation to all people. The Bethlehem Candle calls us to remember God’s word and to prepare for Christ’s coming. The Shepherd Candle invites us to share with others the message of Christ’s upcoming birth. And the Angel Candle proclaims the glory of God and his salvation and gives us the eternal hope we have in Christ’s coming.

In our adult ed class this morning, we took an intriguing look at the birth of Christ narratives in Matthew, Luke and John. Surprisingly, Mark ignores the birth story and begins with John the Baptist and the Baptism of Jesus. We learned which Gospel has the story of the Wise Men and which has the story of the Shepherds. The stories are not common, but separate.

Do you know which writer has which story?

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Mumbai Madness Prompts Trip Memories

“Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus” is the main railway station in Mumbai (Bombay), India. This past week, two terrorists, part of a group of 10 Muslim extremists from Pakistan (according to police), walked casually into the terminal and began randomly shooting at anyone in sight – passengers, by-standers, restaurant patrons, and those unfortunate enough to just be there by happenstance.

Their actions triggered simultaneous attacks at a half dozen or so Mumbai landmark locations, including the Taj Mahal hotel and the Jewish ultra-orthodox Chabad Lubavitch movement headquarters. At last count, over 174 people have died as a result of the carnage. The above picture shows Indian soldiers guarding the besieged Taj Mahal hotel.

Just a bit over 15 months ago, our son Gregg and our granddaughter Hayley, then 10, walked through that same Mumbai railroad station to catch a train to Hubli-Dharwad and then eventually on to Bangalore. They had traveled to India with a group of a dozen or so on behalf of their Oregon church, which at the time was looking for a resonant ministry there to support and involve themselves from here.

In our shrinking world, the threat of global terrorism appears closer than ever before. In one sense, our neighborhood now extends around the world. As difficult as it is for us old-timers to process that, we have no alternative but to grasp it and embrace it. For it is reality.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Our Little Trooper Is Out of Surgery

Our 2-and-a-half-month-old grandson Nathan is now out of recovery and resting comfortably with mom Jamie and dad Doug in an overnight hospital room after some surgery early this afternoon. The little guy is a real trooper and took it well.

We hope this does it with hospitals for a while; young Nathan has had more than his share already in his young life. In the pic below, taken mid last week, Nathan is enjoying the company of his friend, Sylvester the elephant.

It was almost a shame for the little guy to have to go back in the hospital environment after he spent more than a month in the neonatal ward following his 6-weeks premature birth. However, the stomach wall double surgery that was required was very necessary and, in reality, is quite commonly needed among preemie babies.

We are thankful to God that Nathan apparently has made it through just fine and that he will be home by tomorrow afternoon and back in familiar surroundings. Get well quickly, little guy!

Sunday, November 16, 2008


Our grandson Nathan was caught on camera yesterday by photographer dad Doug giving an adoring look at his mom Jamie. You can’t hear it, but Nathan is saying, “That’s my MOM.” He is rightfully proud.

Tomorrow Nathan is 10 weeks old, and he’s basically doing fine overall with the exception of a couple of hick-ups often common to “preemies.” A week from tomorrow he must return to the hospital environment for a day or so to have a pair of stomach wall surgical procedures. It is expected to be “routine,” but your prayers are always appreciated when a little guy must undergo anesthesia.

Grandma and grandpa got to spend all of Friday evening with Nathan and his mom and dad. Grandpa, of course, needed a nap after dinner, and Nathan joined him for a time (pic below). I didn’t actually fall asleep, as that is not acceptable with a baby on one’s lap, but I did “rest my eyes” a little. I must admit that Nathan sleeps a bit sounder on Grandma’s lap, but he seemed to do ok here. Grandmas and grandpas live for these times when they can enjoy their grandkids.

Later this evening I may have to give Nathan a phone call and offer him some “grandpa comfort,” as I hear he was a bit upset that his Seahawks lost again today. I suppose it could have been a gas bubble, but I don’t think so. His dad calmed him as much as he would be calmed and explained to Nathan that this is a character-building year for the Hawks. But I’m not sure Nathan is buying it. The little guy is very competitive. Hmmm… wonder where that comes from.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Talli’s Cross-Country Season Ends With Awards Galore

Our high school frosh granddaughter, Talli, came home last night from her X-C team’s awards banquet weighted down by medals and ribbons.

Among her many awards, this grandpa thinks her making varsity second team all-league as a frosh while at the same time getting a State pin are two incredible achievements. Talli is still in the process of recovering from a leg injury which prevented her at the last minute from actually running at State (she was mega-bummed out), but just qualifying and being there was a marvelous accomplishment.

I may have mentioned this before, but she ran the third fastest frosh time ever at her high school, and that turned out to be the 10th best ALL-TIME, all ages, at Newberg. And she’s got three years left to run!

Congratulations, Talli, you’ve got a bright future on – and off – the track!

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

American Voters May Be More Sophisticated Than We Think

We have a new President-elect today, and as I try to process it all, I’m trying to ascertain if American voters are as sophisticated as some of the results would indicate. At the same time I’m hoping that we are a better country today than we were yesterday, though the issues facing Barack Obama still seem just as daunting as they were 24 hours ago.

Congratulations to Barack Obama, the new President-elect in a truly historic election.

One thing is for sure: the people wanted change – perceived or real. A second thing is also for sure: the people didn’t want some changes – perceived or real.

We’ve elected our next President who ran on a platform of "change." What those changes are going to turn out to be is yet unclear, but voters certainly declared their preference – though apparently by single digit percentages (6) rather than the forecasted double digits.

At the same time California voters passed the gay-marriage ban, and similar measures passed in several other states. Have our voters become sophisticated enough to parse these kinds of moral and political judgments?

I don’t know for sure, but it could be perceived as encouraging for the future. As to the preference for change, I’m not exactly envious of Sen. Obama, but I do wish him well. He’s got a monster monkey on his back.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Ablaze in Fall Colors

Our backyard is ablaze in Fall colors right now, and we are enjoying it immensely. Of course not only is it in the back but virtually everywhere you look.

At one time we had thoughts of taking one of the tours or cruises that wind down the east coast, following the color change as you move south from the Canadian border. Well, this year at least, we’ve got our own beautiful Pacific Northwest color pageantry right here close to home.

The hues change daily, starting usually with yellow, followed by a bright orange and then the deep red. Already some trees are dropping their leaves, with the rest of the deciduous varieties to soon follow.

I think it may be God’s way of reinforcing his omnipresence through all the changes in life. For me, that’s comforting.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Hayley Swims the Backstroke In Her First Meet

Our granddaughter Hayley, a sixth-grade middle schooler, swam her first competitive race Saturday as a member of the Chehalem Sharks Swim Team.

That’s Hayley, above, getting mentally ready for the race before she swam. I can’t help but comment how wonderful a young lady she is, besides being a fine swimmer and student. That’s also her, below, in great form nearing the end of the race.

Hayley swam the 50-yard backstroke in just 59 seconds. I think that’s pretty good for an 11-year-old. I told her I’m not sure I ever swam 50 yards consecutively, to say anything about under a stop watch.

She’s been on the team for about a month or so, and it’s obvious she’s been listening well to her instructors and practicing very diligently. Go Hayley, and best of luck in future meets.

You may have noticed that several recent posts have been about our grandkids. There’s a simple explanation. That’s what we do as grandparents – encourage them and talk about them. They are incredible gifts from God, as are our sons and their wives.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

“Check These Guns!”

The title above is what dad Doug gave to this photo of our new grandson, Nathan, taken earlier this week (I think).

Yesterday was his original due date, so from now on, things should be much like for any baby. He’s now tipping the scales at 7 lbs, 3 ozs.

The little guy continues to do well, as he’s really happy to be home with mom and dad, and it shows. Grandma and grandpa are getting anxious to see him again, as it’s been nearly 10 days. Maybe in a few days, after the busy weekend is past, we can hop the ferry to go over and play a little ball with him.

Hey, there’s an idea, Doug. Maybe we could find a crib in the shape of a diamond, or maybe of a dugout. You can assure mom Jamie that we'll keep the floor really clean (it's humorous if you've ever been in a dugout during a game).

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Talli Is Going to the Oregon High School Varsity State Cross-Country Meet As A Freshman

Culminating her season with a personal record at the District Cross-Country Meet today in Oregon City (above), our high school freshman granddaughter, Talli, at the same time qualified for the State Meet in Eugene on November 1.

What a year she has had so far!

Talli’s time today of 20:31 in the 5,000 meter, 3.1 mile course places her third ALL-TIME for Freshmen at Newberg High School (6A). Wow! She’s in the athletic record books just two short months after entering high school.

Yep, we’d call that quite a debut, but then, we’re only proud grandparents. You go at State, girl!

Monday, October 20, 2008

Yesterday I Bought PREMIUM Gas for $2.99/gal

I wish I could make sense out of what makes gas prices go up and down. What’s noteworthy is that I filled my almost empty tank yesterday for LESS than $50 – at under $3 per gallon.

And I was happy. Because I didn’t have to give up my firstborn – like in the wry photo.

Seems like it wasn’t that long ago when I started to grumble if it cost more than $30 to fill my tank. A few months ago it cost $75 one time, and from then on I just added gas at $35 intervals.

Until yesterday. And thank goodness for nearby native American tribal-owned stations (who provide the lowest prices within 25 miles).

I guess we ought to make the best of the price drop while we can. I spose it won’t be long until the roller coaster starts uphill again. Us retired folks have enough trouble stretching dollars as it is.

Oh, btw, had they lived, today would have been my mom and dad's 74th wedding anniversary.

Friday, October 17, 2008

We Can’t Seem to Get Enough of Little Nathan

Yesterday we enjoyed a full afternoon and early evening with our new grandson, Nathan, who is five and one-half weeks old and who is rapidly approaching seven pounds. He’s certainly a captivating little guy, and we can’t seem to get enough of him.

In the photo above taken while we we there, Nathan is showing you his left-hook feint in as good a boxing pose as he could muster up on grandma’s lap.

We went to see him, additionally, so mom Jamie and dad Doug could have a shot at doing some things they can’t do when totally occupied with the baby. I’ll leave the success of that part up to them, but you can rest assured grandma and grandpa had a super time with Nathan.

What continues to amaze us is his ability to engage. His developmental skills seem, to us, to be extraordinarily good, considering he has not as yet reached his predicted due date (but, we’re only grandparents). He follows your movements and is very responsive to sounds. And he looks you square in the eye when making his appraisals. I think we passed his careful assessment ok.

It’s a real joy to see him happily at home with mom and dad, and we’re thankful to God for his amazing progress so far. And so far we’ve learned that he is very strong, very physical, and very strong-willed. But if he’s not needing food or a diaper change, he’s one contented little guy who can charm your socks off.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Talli Runs Another Personal Best

In the last scheduled cross-country meet of the season yesterday at McMinnville, our high school Freshman granddaughter Talli ran her personal best (PB) race of the season. Her time was 20:36.63 for the 3.1-mile, 5,000 meter course.

She finished fourth overall and less than a second and a half behind her teammate Emily, a Junior. In the pic above, that’s Talli, left, and Emily, in an earlier race this year.

Talli has had nothing less than a sensational year in cross-country competition, finishing either first or second from her school in every race. Congratulations, Talli.

All that’s left now are the District Meet in a week and the State meet on Nov. 1, both for which you have to qualify. Last I heard it’s possible she’ll go to the District meet and she has a shot, I think, at the State meet. Wow.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Is There a Better Name In Post-Season Baseball Than ROCCO BALDELLI?

There have been some great names in baseball post-season history – among them Joltin’ Joe DiMaggio, Rocky Colavito and (if you want to count a pair) the Bash Brothers (Conseco and McGuire).

But I’d like to suggest that a guy playing right now for Tampa Bay in the ALCS against Boston may have a name as good as any: Rocco Baldelli. And to live up to his name’s implications, he hit a three-run home run yesterday in the eighth inning in Bean Town to eliminate any thoughts of a Red Sox comeback in game three.

The photo shows Rocco with his 10-year-old kid brother, Dante, in the TB dugout for the game. The younger Baldelli, a Little Leaguer, got to spend the entire day on the field with Rocco and the Rays.

Although his name suggests “power hitter,” in reality Baldelli is fortunate to be playing Major League Baseball at all. Rocco suffers from a condition called “mitochondrial disorder” that exhibits itself in muscle weakness and exercise intolerance. Baldelli must maintain a physical regimentation closely guided by doctors and his trainers. It’s considered extraordinary that he is able to play baseball at the level he does.

But physical ailments notwithstanding, Rocco Baldelli yesterday provided a big thrill for his entire immediate family, who live in New England and who were all at the game. Way to go, Rocco; you’ve got a great moniker! The only question mark is, can it carry the Rays all the way past the Red Sox, like it did for one game?

Monday, October 13, 2008

Another Milestone: Nathan is Home With Mom and Dad

After one month and four days in the hospital neonatal ward following his six-week-premature birth, our grandson Nathaniel James is home with his mom Jamie and dad Doug – actually a week or so earlier than expected.

Nathan was pronounced “100% healthy” by the doctors at noon, and so he saw his real home for the first time late yesterday afternoon.

He’s mastered the eating thing just fine, thank you, and is putting on weight daily. He’s now a whopping six pounds and five ounces, two full pounds over his birth weight. And as strong a little guy for his size as I’ve ever come across.

We don’t have any pics yet of Nathan in his home environment, so I masked the most recent one I have, and that’s what you see above. As we acquire more in the days ahead, I’ll post them from time to time.

If you’re not familiar with Nathan’s incredible birth story, click HERE. Suffice it to say that for Nathan to be home is another wonderful milestone in his young life. We are totally grateful to God for his abundant grace.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Fall Beauty in the Northwest

Today was a gorgeous Fall day here in the Northwest—typically crisp but enjoyable nonetheless.

I took the above photo just at dusk tonight from our front deck using a telephoto lens on my Canon Digital Rebel XTi. If you look carefully near the bottom of the frame, you can just make out a waterfront home across the water on the Suquamish side of Agate Passage. You can click on the pic for a larger image.

We don’t always have such beautiful weather, but when it’s nice, it’s really nice.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Our Month-Old Grandson Is Doing “Sit-Ups”; I Think He’s Getting Ready To Go Home

Kay Lynne and I got to hold and interact with our new grandson, Nathan, last night in the hospital. No adrenalin rush could compare with what we felt.

In some newer pics, at top left Nathan is checking out the perspective from dad Doug’s shoulder, and just above at right little Nathan is snoozing on mom Jamie’s shoulder. But look carefully at Nathan in the pic on the right; he’s tightly clutching his mom’s finger while he naps.

Kay Lynne got to spend time with Nathan first (we get to visit him alternately); she came out totally enamored and quite “jazzed”. When it was my turn to hold him, he was still wide awake and extremely engaging. As I gently talked to him, he would listen for a while, but then he wanted to play.

His hands and arms are seemingly always moving. He reached out and grabbed my chin. Then he’d grab at his feeding tube which is taped tightly to the side of his face. I don’t blame him at all; I’d want that thing out, too.

At one point he actually sat up in my arms and held himself up with his back arched, as if to almost reach down to his toes. He repeated the action several times, just like he was doing sit-ups.

He is incredibly strong for his now six+ pound fighting weight. The little guy is mastering eating (from a bottle) rather rapidly of late, and he’s quickly putting on weight.

We are noticing that there is something very special about Nathan’s persona. Maybe it’s because he’s been through so much in his will to survive. He seems to want to be a key participant in every moment, as he offers a strong, sweet, direct reaction to your voice and touch. And have I said what a handsome little guy he is?

The most wonderful thing this old grandpa experienced last night was the privilege of being able to look into his eyes, talk to him, and see and sense his responses. It was an incredible feeling. Nathan is a charmingly engaging little guy. He seems to be rapidly progressing in his development, and it may not be long now until he can go home. We couldn’t be more thankful.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

She's Quite The Young Lady

Our eldest granddaughter, Talli, (second from right, above) has grown into a wonderful young lady. Now in high school, she's pictured with four of her friends (two go all the way back to kindergarten) just before they all left for the Homecoming Dance last Friday.

To grandparents, this milestone is a stark reminder that time waits for no one, and at the same time it gives renewed hope for the future. Word has it that they had a great time at the event, after which they enjoyed a sleepover at one of the gals' houses.

But I heard the football team lost the homecoming game. Just wait till next year.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Update on Latest, Newborn Grandchild: “Cuter Every Day.”

Pictured above is a recent photo of our newborn (six weeks premature) grandson, Nathaniel James. Kay Lynne and I saw him last evening just after his 5:00 feeding and changing. We enjoyed every second with him, as we hadn’t seen him in more than a week. If you happen not to know about his “miraculous story”, click here. Also, you can click on the photo for a larger image from which you can also copy it, if you want.

Nathan was three weeks old on Monday and, for sure, is getting “cuter every day”. Already, he has new “digs”, as he was doing well enough over the past few days to be taken out of the isolette and placed in his own private, little, glass-sided crib. He looks right at home there—well, as much at home as you can be in a hospital.

His mom and dad, Jamie and Doug, say that all continues to go as well as can be expected, for which we continue to be thankful. Because Nathan was born so long before his due date, the doctors have indicated that we must learn to appreciate his developmental progress more by his due date (late October) than by his birth date.

What that means is that though his responses to various stimuli (touch, light and sound) are not only normal but may be even a little advanced for his status, other things (like being able to get adequate nourishment from a bottle – which at this stage of development he obviously would not be doing at all if he were still in the womb) are causing him to work much harder than if he had been a full term baby. That said, Nathan is a strong, tough little guy and is handling his circumstances just fine.

It’s going to be fun to watch this kid when he gets bigger. He’s already ripped his food tube out of his nose and stomach (it was replaced, of course, as you can see in the photo), and if I recall correctly, he tore his I.V. line out at least once when he had one. With strength and determination like that, I can’t wait to see what he’s gonna do to a baseball. Go Nathan!

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

More On Granddaughter Fun

Yesterday’s post had Aubrey’s picture, and today I’ll give you a bit more on Hayley and Talli. That’s Hayley, above, now a happy middle-schooler, getting ready yesterday for an after-school snack.

Right now she’s hard at work preparing a Power Point presentation on the country of India, which she has been asked to give to the 7th grade Social Studies class at her school – a very distinctive honor, as the class is a year ahead of her own. But Hayley is uniquely gifted to do a fabulous job.

You’ll recall that Hayley went to India with her dad a little over a year ago; click here to refresh your memory. The journey half-way around the world was an experience in which VERY FEW students her age (10 then) get to participate. She’s been asked to tell the older students about her travels and impressions, and Hayley felt the best way to do so would be via Power Point (Hayley is VERY computer literate).

Maybe in the future I can get an online (or file) link to her report, and, if so, I’ll post it here. Hayley is also on a local swim team (we saw her practice session yesterday) and on top of all that is taking clarinet for the first time. She gave us a sample "recital-ette" yesterday of what she's already learned, and, based on that performance, we can't wait for a band concert that we can attend. Once again, we’re very proud grandparents.

This past Saturday our frosh granddaughter, Talli, ran a PB (personal best) in the 5,000 meters (3.1 miles) at the Tomahawk Twilight Cross Country Meet in Marysville, Washington.

Her time was 20:37:91, and, once again, she was the first to cross the finish line from her school, beating several older, upper-classperson team members, as well as those from other schools. Overall, she came in 45th out of over 250 competitors in the race. The photo above shows her (in yellow) at an invitational meet two weeks ago.

You can click here for a link to the event results. If you scroll way, way, down on the right hand side, you’ll see her name and time under the “5,000 Meters VARSITY (1,2,3,4)” category. If you click on her name (#44), it’ll show you her YTD events and times.

Lest you think she only excels in athletics, let it be known that she’s also a top academic student who is active in everything, it seems. And, oh, by-the-way, she also plays trumpet in the band. Yep, we’re very proud grandparents.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Home From A Day At School

That’s Aubrey Joy, above, our first grade granddaughter, as she arrived home this afternoon from a full day at school. We were in Oregon for the latter part of the weekend and today to spend a bit of time with our three sweet granddaughters and their mom and dad.

It’s always a joy to see them in their daily routines (we don’t get to do so very often) which are increasingly complex, schedule-wise, for mom and dad. Oldest sis Talli is in high school now, and Hayley is a middle schooler. All are active in extra-curricular, after school activities.

Tonight, when we left about 5pm, all were headed in different directions for evening activities. Such is life at Gregg & Elaine’s. More tomorrow on our fun weekend.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

How Do We Read and Study the Bible?

In the Lutheran perspective and tradition, of which my wife and I have been a part for several years now, elementary things – like how one reads the Scriptures – have taken on new meaning and application. I’ll try to summarize from our current adult education class, taught by Pastor Kent Shane.

Lutherans believe and practice the recognition that Scripture is an ancient text and was written by people who lived in times and places quite different from our own. The basic assumption is that we cannot fully understand the meaning of the text without an adequate understanding of the context of the people, the culture, the geographical location, and the time in history. Without that insight, the task can be overwhelming if not confusing.

I have to admit that for most of my life I have read the Bible with a “devotional” outlook; that is, simply with the expectation of hearing God, engaging the truth and attempting to incorporate it in my life. By itself, that is well and good. Lutherans, however, (and many other traditions, I’m sure), suggest that there are at least three additional considerations in studying the Scriptures.

Initially, there is the “historical” viewpoint. What do we know about the author, where he lived, and what the implied social and political realities were? Then there is the “literary” approach. What is the plot, and what are the characters, the setting and the theme (or story)? Finally, there is the “theological” aspect (obviously this is affected to a degree by the particular denomination or tradition). How do we distinguish law and gospel, how does the text point us to Christ and salvation, and how do we allow scripture itself to interpret other scripture?

Further, how do we distinguish the difference between the “plain meaning” of the text and “public meaning”? It’s not just our own little truth gleaned from several possible that is important; if Scripture is to be true for us individually, it must be true for all.

Encompassing all four methods into our study of the Scriptures helps to accomplish what Lutherans believe our faith practice is all about: a) to make room for God’s voice to speak to us, b) to beckon us to lead lives worthy of our calling, c) to lay out our sins and offer us God’s grace, and d) to deliver to us the promise that is ours in Christ.

Thanks be to God.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

“Forgiveness is Life-Changing”

Our husband-wife Associate Pastor team Kent and Alison Shane (they job share the one and one-half time position) have been on a sabbatical leave this past summer. (Photo at right is by Carolyn J. Yaschur of the Kitsap Sun.)

I missed Pastor Kent’s return to the pulpit a week ago, but I was glad to be back two days ago to hear Pastor Alison’s sermon.

I can sort of sum up her comments in a sentence: Forgiveness is life-changing.

I base this conclusion on her comments on Christ’s parable on forgiveness in Matthew chapter 18. First, Peter asks how many times we should be expected to forgive? Jesus’ answer was so large a number that the intent was obvious.

To further clarify, Christ told the parable of the king who wished to settle accounts with his slaves. One slave owed the king an enormous amount that was impossible to repay by any standard of the time. The king was moved by the slave’s pleas, and granted not the asked for additional time to pay, but full forgiveness of the monstrous debt.

That same slave was owed a smaller debt that was easily payable, and the debtor came to him and asked for more time to pay. Forgetting what had been just granted him, he had the second slave thrown in jail until the debt could be repaid.

So the one who was forgiven an unpayable debt in turn had his debtor incarcerated for a far lesser amount owed him. This slave, according to Jesus, was wicked, had not learned his lesson and was given a worse punishment.

The point of this parable – and the sermon – is not at all about how many times we should forgive. What we should learn is that forgiveness changes us, and that was the point that Pastor Alison was making. In a similar way that we have been forgiven (which we could not accomplish on our own), we should now forgive.

And in the process God uses the change to make us more effective agents of His grace. Thanks be to God.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Our Granddaughter Talli Is Already Number One on Her High School Varsity Cross-Country Team

Our 14-year-old granddaughter Talli, just a Freshman at Newberg High School in Oregon, yesterday completed the girls’ varsity 5,000 meter cross-country run in 20 minutes and 45 seconds at the New Balance Festival of Champions Invitational Meet at Western Oregon University in Monmouth. She’s number 912 in the photo above, taken early in the race, as she jockeyed for position.

Competing against other freshmen, sophomores, juniors and seniors from over 35 Oregon high schools, she was the first from her school to cross the finish line, making her the number one ranked runner on the Newberg girls VARSITY cross-country team. WOW.

CONGRATULATIONS, Talli. And did I mention that Newberg High is a 6A school (the highest of six State high school athletic categories)? And, in case you’re wondering, 5,000 meters is 3.1 miles. In the pic below, Talli (center) tries to look relaxed just before the race, along with her teammates Emily and Maddie.

She came in 16th in her race. There were far too many runners for a single race, and so there were several heats, all against the clock. Overall, out of 219 varsity runners in the 5,000 meters from all schools, only 41 had a better time than Talli’s. And this was her first high school race.

Needless to say, we’re extremely proud grandparents, and we can’t wait to see her run in person – hopefully in the not too distant future. It’s looking very much like Talli has a fantastic future in high school track and cross-country competition. You go, girl!

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Baby “Fix”

Kay Lynne and I had another chance yesterday to see our fourth grandchild and to get our baby “fix” that may or may not last through the weekend. We had been in baby “withdrawal” since we first saw him on Tuesday. That’s KL with Nathan in the above photo, taken by Dad Doug. You can click on it for a larger image.

The little guy continues to do very well and is now taking nourishment both by I.V. and by bottle (mom’s “special” formula). He’s doing so well, in fact, that his condition has been upgraded to allow his move early yesterday from “neo-natal intensive care” to the “special infant care unit” (SICU) on a different floor. We thank God for His abundant grace.

The pic above is of the Koskela boys (minus one), taken yesterday in Nathan’s new hood. Wish we could have had Gregg there for the pic, but that will happen in due time. Nathan looks like he’s sleeping, but he was really whispering to Grandpa and his dad about the particular kind of fishing pole that he wants for his first birthday. Anybody know how to “downsize” a fishing rod?

Mom Jamie is gaining strength daily, as she recovers from delivery and four MONTHS of bed rest. She and Doug now spend the greater part of each day with Nathan at the hospital. Nothing new on when Nathan can come home – maybe in three or four weeks.

Time now for Grandpa and Grandma to go look at pictures of grandkids.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Meet Nathaniel James

Here's one of the first pictures of Nathan (snapped by his Grandpa), taken just after noon today. Is he a beautiful baby, or what?

He's proving early on to be a very strong little guy; in fact, he's already tried to rip off the wires (seriously). Plus, Nathan was doing so well with his breathing and oxygenation this morning, that they were able to remove the ventilator after only about 30 hours.

To be honest, I expected to see a tiny little "premie" and I thought he would be in an isolette (incubator). He IS a "premie," (by about six weeks) but he stretches out his 4 lbs, 5 ozs to a full 17-1/4 inches! That's about 80% of the length of an average full term baby. He appears to be doing wonderfully well health-wise, all considered. And the nurse says his "binkie" (the purple thing in the photo) is already his new "best friend" (besides mom and dad, of course).

They tell us that he will likely go into an isolette in a day or two, once everything stabilizes and is working properly. The early prognosis is that he may be able to go home around his due date or perhaps a week or two sooner. Everything is "iffy" right now.

We're just thrilled to see him and welcome him and love him. Doug and Jamie are very proud new parents. Mom may get to go home in a day or two, for the first time in more than nine weeks. "I'm ready," she says.

Monday, September 08, 2008

Grandparents for the Fourth Time

His name is Nathaniel, which means "a gift of God". And he's our grandson. The little guy came into our world early this morning at 4:45, a bit premature but weighing a healthy 4 pounds, 5 ounces.

And he's a miracle -- hence his name.

Baby and mom Jamie are doing fine, although Nathaniel James will be in the NICU (neonatal intensive care unit) for a period of time, the duration at this moment undetermined.

Dad Doug told us that little Nathan is not only a miracle baby but may end up as a "storybook" case. Doctors say that Nathan beat at least 20-1 odds in lasting in the womb for 18 weeks after a breach drastically reduced his amniotic fluid. The vast majority of babies are born within hours or a few days of such an event, and when it happens as early as with Nathan, odds are very long for a viable delivery.

Jamie's excellent health and physical condition was a factor in the successful delivery, along with their following the best available medical advice to a "T". Jamie was on full bed rest for the past 18 weeks.

It may be a while before I can post a photo due to the incubator situation, but Doug says "he's got a full head of hair". That's a good start!

I can't help but be envious of little Nathan. He has FIVE -- count 'em -- gorgeous girl cousins, all waiting to lavish him with love and attention. He's a blessed young boy.

As we Lutherans say, "thanks be to God". And thanks to all of you who prayed for Jamie, Nathan and Doug.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

A Pitbull In Lipstick?

Well, I don’t know how this election will turn out in November, but I’ve got an idea I can recognize a future political superstar when I encounter one:

Sarah Palin, Governor of Alaska, Sen. John McCain’s vice-presidential running mate.

Who IS this woman, and where did she come from? I’ve lived through 12 presidential elections in which I had an interest, including the Camelot-ic drama of the Kennedys as well as the “I feel your pain” sentiments of the Clintons, but I’ve never before seen a rookie hit a walk-off home run in the first game of the political World Series.

This campaign Series is likely go seven games, and I’m gonna enjoy every inning.

Friday, August 29, 2008

McCain Pick Makes It a Horserace

In my last post I wondered if John McCain would repeat the V.P. choice mistake made by the Democrats.

He didn’t.

Instead, he may have hit a political homerun.

With one fell swoop, he made an unexpected and astounding pick for his V.P. by naming Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin as his running mate, which is likely to help attract female undecideds, progressive thinking voters of all ilks, and social conservatives in both parties.

And in so doing he elevated his own status as a discerner of what his party needs not only in order to have a shot at winning, but also to focus its direction.

Plus, what I didn’t see noted much anywhere today, even in the abundance of coverage, was that by picking Gov. Palin, he now has an excellent chance to pull in and secure the evangelical base which his party needs to win and which he has had difficulty so far in corralling. These are the critical voters who turned out to allow G.W. to eke out a victory, especially in 2004.

The big question: Is Sarah Palin the catalyst that will make them come out again for McCain?

At any rate, it looks like we now have a horserace that will take us right up to election day. This is gonna be interesting!

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Will the G.O.P. Make a Similar Gaffe?

In the previous post I implied I thought that Democrats (read Barack Obama) made a serious, obvious error in naming Sen. Joe Biden as the V.P. choice, and that’s with all due respect to Sen. Biden’s credentials. Had the nominee been Sen. Hillary Clinton, a change in Party in the White House, come January, would have been virtually assured.

Now, I’m beginning to wonder if Republicans (read John McCain) will sip the same Kool-Aid. A Mitt Romney pick (rumored to be strongly in the running), in my estimation, does just that.

What the Republicans need is a candidate who will lure “disgruntled Hillary-supporters” into the red camp. And what is the logical candidate gender to best do that? Duh. And then which party would be the more “progressive” with its ticket?

There are three female V.P. candidates I’ve seen or heard being bandied about as among the top choices. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison of Texas, Gov. Sarah Palin of Alaska, and McCain campaign economic advisor Carly Fiorina, former Hewlett-Packard CEO. Of course Condie Rice is always mentioned as well but appears not to be interested.

In my humble opinion, Carly Fiorina stands head and shoulders above the others. She’s a brilliant economist, proven leader and great communicator. But what do I know? If it happens, though, you saw it here first.