Thursday, December 23, 2010

Merry Christmas!


(Brought to you this year in electronic format because Scrooge Jim said college tuition was more important than printer ink, Christmas cards, and stamps.)

Jeff is 22 and graduated in May.  He graduated cum laude and we're very proud of him.  Danielle, his girlfriend, also graduated, and Jim and I met her parents when we were all in Oregon for their graduation.  The ceremony was outdoors and it was a rainy weekend, but there is a God and he bathed us in warmth and sunshine for the entire ceremony.  It began raining as we walked out of the stadium and by the time we reached the reception, we were drenched.  This made for some wet graduation photos, but by then no one cared.  We learned that the Hawaiian tradition is to heap leis on any and all.  We could barely see the grads.  Since 30% of the students at Pacific U are from Hawaii, there were a lot of leis in the room.  After the reception, we went out to lunch with Danielle's family.  Later that night we met up at McMenamin's Grand Lodge for music and snacks.  We had a really great time until we got home and discovered that leaving Jesse at home alone is a very bad and expensive idea*.


Jeff and Danielle spent the summer in Forest Grove; Jeff worked on campus and Danielle worked with children in the foster care system.  They came here for a visit in August and then went over to Hawaii to visit Danielle's family.  In September they moved to Walla Walla.  Danielle is doing a one-year grad program there.  Jeff started working graveyard restocking grocery shelves while he looks for a daytime job.  He would like to work for the airlines and has recently interviewed for a part-time job with Horizon Air, so he's hoping that will work out.


Tim is 20, in his junior year at Pacific, and looking forward to turning 21 in February.  He yet again spent the summer life guarding and working on his tan at Useless Bay Golf and Country Club.   He has a season pass at Mt. Hood for the ski season and can't wait for snow.  Not sure if it's because he really enjoys snowboarding or just wants to work on his winter tan.  Maybe a little of both.  In addition to his classes, he works on campus building sets in the theater department.  He's decided to major in business with anemphasis in accounting.  He loves coming home to visit (and we love having him), and in recent years has really gotten into tv sports, so he and Jim spend a lot of time tuned in.


Jesse is 19, and our sweet baby boy graduated from high school in June.  We collaborated with our backdoor neighbors and threw a joint graduation party for a number of families.  Then the kids went off to grad night and I tagged along as a chaperone.  Jesse did an excellent job of making sure we were never in the same area for more than 1.25 seconds.  In August the boy who couldn't wait to get away from home and his parents went off to Washington State University in Pullman, Washington.  He was home twice for visits before Halloween even came around.  (Not that I'm complaining.)  This entails a 6-hour car ride to get home and a 9-hour bus ride to get back, but he said it's worth it.  At least until the third bus ride home for Thanksgiving, and now he's sick of spending all day on a bus, so I imagine we won't be seeing him as often unless he can find a car ride both ways.

I've spent the last year gearing up to return to the court reporting field, practicing on my new equipment and shopping for a new business wardrobe.  I have not actually gone out and taken any depositions yet because life keeps getting in the way.  I hope to soon.  If only because I want to wear my new clothes!  Of course I continue to work at the movie theater on Tuesdays taking tickets and sub throughout the year in the snack bar.  I did corsages and boutonni√®res for the prom last May, and in August I catered a small picnic for Island County Master Gardeners, which I am a member of.

Jim is still working for Evergreen Construction in Auburn.  He upped his commute to three days a week and then works from home two days.  He doesn't really do a whole lot aside from working and writing tuition checks.  Unless you count cleaning up dog poop, grocery shopping, and ironing.  I for one am getting really tired of his hedonistic lifestyle.

Kenzie started having seizures early in the year and as the year progressed they got worse until finally we were not able to control them with meds anymore.  So Buddy is now an only dog and is loving that.  He is my constant and faithful companion and is unbelievably well-behaved.  Finally I have someone who listens to me.

Charlie is still gainfully employed keeping the vermin population at bay, and we have our little flock of 6 hens.  (We started out with 7 but 'Gracie' (barred hen in the background) sadly became a hawk's dinner the day before Thanksgiving). Turns out I didn't need to be worried at all about chickens, dogs, and cats coexisting peacefully.  I wish I had a video of the two hens racing, and beating, Buddy for a piece of popcorn I threw on the ground.  'Nina C' (buff hen in the foreground) has turned out to be a handful.  She routinely wanders off and either gets lost or just decides to not return to the coop for the night.  We find her the next morning either back at the coop or stranded in the rose brambles.  She never seems to learn her lesson.  I have written her off as a goner many times, but she always reappears.  She has more lives than a cat.  Too bad the same couldn't be said for 'Gracie.'

In July Jim, Jesse, Buddy, and I drove over to Montana to visit our friends, the Kosloskys.  Some of my PNW gardening friends also made the trip over so we could all meet up with a member of the group who lives not far from Keith and Barb.  We had a good time visiting friends, gardens, and nurseries and playing in Steve's massage chair.

Jan, Sawyer, and Tristyn came for a quick visit towards the end of July.  There was lots of trampolining and endless trips to the chicken coop to chase and fondle the hens.  By the last day of their visit, the hens went on strike and quit laying. It was the only time since they started laying that we didn't get any eggs.  Sawyer and Tristyn declared 'Dottie' their favorite.  In truth, poor 'Dottie' was the slowest and therefore, the easiest to catch.

We had a gorgeous fall – beautiful sunny days, and with no frost the dahlias just bloomed their heads off.  It more than made up for the summer we never had. (Rain, rain, and more rain.)

Our annual apple pressing was our most successful yet.  It took us four years to figure out, but caramel apple martinis will be on the menu henceforth.  There were about 20 people in all.  Besides our Whidbey apple-pressing regulars, Jim and MaryAnn Nahmens, Barb and Keith Koslosky, and Mike Roantree came in from out of town to spend the weekend with us.


A great time was had by all, except for Jim.  While out on dog poop patrol, he thought he was picking up a dead mole that Charlie had killed when suddenly it came alive and bit him in the finger.  Naturally much fuss was made over this pitiful and miniscule wound with a great deal of beer drinking necessary as a painkiller.  The unfortunate creature grew larger and more vicious with each beer consumed.  Somewhere on Whidbey Island there is a zombie vampire mole leaving a trail of victims in its wake.

We had a nice Thanksgiving with our friends Jeff and Barb Ewing at their home.  Jeff and Danielle weren't able to get the time off to come up and the passes were too snowy for us to make it to Walla Walla, so we  joined the Ewings along with other friends for a great feast that included turduken.  Don't you have to wonder about whoever was sitting around one day and decided to start stuffing various birds inside each other?!


Jim is eagerly awaiting 2011.  2010 was the year of unexpected expenses and he would like to put the spending to rest.  All three vehicles have needed extensive and expensive repairs – new engines, new radiators, new doors*, new tires, more new tires when the brand new tire was damaged (a very bitter pill to swallow), new window rolling mechanism, new brakes, and the list goes on. 

Then there have been the vet bills, the most recent being today when Charlie Cat had to go in to be sedated so he could have a five-and-a-half-inch blade of grass extracted from his nasal cavity, which had resulted in swelling and infection. It perhaps would have saved us $287.26 if someone had just mowed the grass.

And my late night visit to the ER (see next paragraph) followed the next morning by a visit from the fire department when the dryer caught on fire.  Turns out a previous owner rerouted the venting incorrectly.  The fire chief said we were very lucky.  We weren't feeling real lucky as we paid a contractor to come out and reroute it all according to code.

Medical expenses have run high and we haven't even gotten the bills for my recent angioplasty.  After about a month of chest pains, the run-around from doctors, and news that I may or may not have had a 'silent' heart attack, I had an angiogram last week that revealed a 95% blocked artery.  So they stented that and I'm now good as new.  Even better than new because upon arrival home from the hospital, I checked out my incision in the mirror and discovered that I was sporting a new 'do.'  Surely it qualifies as the most expensive Brazilian ever.  I'm on restricted activities for a month or so, which to me means no housework and no lifting anything heavier than a wine glass.  Red wine, of course. 

So as we head into 2011 much poorer but at least one of us a bit more stylish, I raise my wine glass to all of you and wish you a very merry Christmas and happy holiday season.

Jim, Gwen, Jeff, Tim, & Jesse


Just when I thought the hawk was gone and it was safe to let the chickens out – he returned and got 'Mary Lou' (white chicken in above photo).  Very sad.  So it looks like we'll be putting up some sort of 'roof' over the chicken run in the near future.  I wish chickens came in green or camouflage.