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?