"We can only be said to be alive in those moments when our hearts are conscious of our treasures." ~Thornton Wilder
It came from an idea hatched on Thanksgiving Day as we gathered around the table watching a Youtube video of two people in T-Rex costumes have a snowball fight. The idea that sparked was that it would be a blast if the whole family dressed up in T-Rex costumes and had a snowball fight in my front yard at Christmas.
That idea came into being on Christmas Day as the whole family did in indeed do just that. Unfortunately the snow was too powdery for a good snowball fight...so we had a foot race. You can tell from the laughter in the video that a good time was had by all. It truly became a memorable event...a memorable Christmas not only for the kids but for us adults as well.
It was indeed "The Best Christmas Ever!:
My favorite Chinese restaurant on the west coast (Pacifica, CA) is Tam's. Since moving to Wisconsin I have missed their good food so much. For so many years eating there whether it be at the restaurant or doing take-out, it was a staple of my life. I swear to this day that their hot & sour soup has healing powers...a winter cold happening and their hot & sour soup would be the perfect antidote.
Than you Tam's for all of the good memories of my life.
Both yesterday and today I have been in a strange mood. Oh...and I have attributed it too all sorts of reasons such as unpacking fatigue, my olde age (haha), and frustration with the unpacking which is a whole 'nother story.
Yet today a friend told me exactly what is going on...and he was and is absolutely right. First I am now retired which brings with it two uncertainties: 1) Not getting the paycheck every two weeks; and, 2) No longer having structure of the 7am to 3:30pm workday. Even though I know I will be alright and I have absolute and complete faith in the Universe to provide...my mind chatter does take over at times.
Then on top of being retired, I've moved halfway across the country from big city living to small town life. Even though I know I will adjust and will be ok...it is quite a change to go from California (San Francisco) to Frederic...to go from a metropolitan area of 7 million people to a small town of 1,100 people. There are many things I miss about San Francisco already and yet there are many things I love already about living in Frederic. Do I feel discombobulated? Most assuredly I do.
Lastly, my two closest friends...and I am best friend to each of them are going through their own personal hell as their relationship is on the rocks. Since November I have been caught between the two of them. I am worn out. I love each of them. I keep insisting they see a marriage counselor not so much to save their marriage but to save themselves and their love for each other. So far they ignore me. To be honest, I am at wit's end in dealing with each of them...yet what can I do?
So...no wonder that I am in this strange funk when I should be happy. Yet there are moments when I truly am happy for I love my new home, I love having CJ with me here, and even though I have my moments the warm and comfortable vibe of this house does calm my soul.
What is today will change and tomorrow will be a whole 'nother event. It will all be ok and I am sure of that.
It was not an evening of saying goodbye but rather an evening of planning our next event at the wee little house in the woods...
Transitions. It is said that you can never run away from yourself. Yet, sometimes, great distance does give you perspective that you would not have had if you had stayed in the same place. Thirty-five years ago this coming Memorial Day weekend, I moved to San Francisco. It has been a fun-filled rollicking ride...I've never regretted for a moment the decision to move to this wonderful place.
Now, however, I am in a different time in my life. As the final two weeks of working wind down and I approach retiring from the day to day grind of corporate America, I find myself looking at transition once again. The transition will entail a new home in a small village in which I've never lived. The transition will entail my rediscovery of the creative side of my soul.
Last night was spent at a wonderful place called Blush Wine Bar with dear friends I've made along the way while living here. They...each and every one of them...are blessings in my life. BTW, seriously we were discussing their next visit at my new home...one of them even wants to go ice fishing!
Yesterday and even today social media has been full of postings regarding Memorial Day. Many of the postings were thoughtful comments and essays about those that have served the United States...and have given up there lives protecting the freedom(s) we take for granted and at times seem so willing to give up under the guise of "national security." Other postings were strident and angry about how this day of honor for the dead has been so commercialized to the point that for many it is only a three day weekend meant to be celebrating something that people know nothing about...or "the first day of summer." I understand both.
Then there was some anger directed against unnecessary war and the cost of lives lost in these wars. I understand that too.
My family has a long record of service to this country. My ancestors fought in the War of Independence, the War of 1812, my great great great grandfather was a drummer boy for the Union in the Civil War, my Dad fought in WWI, my cousins fought in WWII as well as the Korean War, and I even have a cousin that was rumored to be a spy for the US during the Cold War.
However, my parents also taught me the idea that Memorial Day was to honor all of our dead friends and family regardless whether they had fallen during a time of war or died during a time of peace. Memorial Day was a day spent at the cemetery mowing the grass, trimming the hedges, washing the the tombstones, and planting flowers (this was before cemetery associations). And most importantly it was a time of quiet reflection, prayer, and remembrance of the loved one buried there.
When my sister Ruth died, my parents had bought a number of plots in a small country cemetery that was on a winding road that followed the St. Croix River. During those first fews years, it was only my sister Ruth that was buried there and I remember my normally stoic parents with tears in their eyes as they tended to her grave. Then as the years progressed other graves and tombstones were added alongside that of my sister...Uncle Emmet, my dad, Aunt Libby, my mom, and my cousin Milton. There is still room for more of us when the time comes.
Yet, even as we honor the dead and those that served there is nothing wrong with making this weekend a celebration of life for there are many living memories of good things. For instance this year was my 33rd anniversary of moving to San Francisco. The years have flown by and as I sit here typing these words I find myself stunned at how quickly the time has gone. I tell you...these have been 33 years of fun-filled memories as well as a fair share of sadder memories...but the total of it all is a life well lived. So why not celebrate that too?
So yesterday the two people closest to me and I celebrated the day by honoring the past yet celebrating the moment...and we gave a nod to the future as well. It was a day well spent.
A conversation with my niece Tammy this morning triggered within me the desire to write down the things I remember about growing up. They may or may not be interesting. However, they are my memories and will be a part of my legacy of who is and was UJ (aka Uncle John, John, Johnny and a whole host of nicknames that I will not repeat).
My parents retired to a small town in north central Wisconsin in 1957...I believe the day they moved into the new house was either May 3 or May 4, 1957. The new house was built by my Uncle George who was a moderately successful custom home builder. He was related to Dad through his wife, Ingeborg, who was Dad's sister. The plans for the house were ones they found in some sort of magazine. I remember that the plans were accompanied by an actual model of the house. The model of the house was a dark pink/plum color with a dark green roof. It showed shutters and a slightly different entrance than what was actually built.
On my father's side of the family, he had a cousin who had also immigrated to the United States from Denmark and her name was Elsa. I do not know what her maiden name had been...simply that at the time I knew her, her name was Elsa Off...married to a man named John Off. Elsa and John had lived in Chicago, IL during their working lives and had one son. So in the mid-1950s they had decided to retired and had bought some farm land that overlooked Amacoy Lake that was also bordered by a tributary to the lake...as far as I know that stream did not have a name. The property was and is about four and one-half miles south of Bruce, WI...and was about 100 miles northeast from Hudson, WI (where my parents had lived until 1957).
I remember Elsa as a tall very European sophisticated type of woman. I really loved this woman and called her Aunt Elsie. She in turn was very good to me. One of the things I remember about her was her talling me about one of her and "Uncle" John's transatlantic voyages in which the weather was so rough that some of the portholes on the ship and been broken. I also remember her giving me books because by then I was well on my route to becoming an avid book reader. The other thing I remember distinctly about them was that they had a brand new 1955 Dodge that was a pale green in color with a cream colored interior. I considered that car to be far superior to my own parent's 1949 Nash Ambassador (also pale green but with a darker colored upholstery).
In a large grove of very old white pine trees was an old log farmhouse...that Aunt Elsie and Uncle John updated, added on to, and made into their retirement home. Before the updating it was two stories with a large kitchen on the main floor and narrow stairs that led upstairs to two small bedrooms. It had an outhouse! Before actually retiring to Bruce, my parents actually used this house a couple of years for summer vacations with Aunt Elsie's blessings. Also there were a couple of times that I would spend a week or two with Aunt Elsie and Uncle John. They were an entertaining couple who made me feel like an honored guest, treated me like a young adult (I was seven or eight years old at the time), and I loved staying with them. Also they were not as strict with me as my parents were...so that was a definite plus in my relationship with them.
Eventually Aunt Elsie and Uncle John added another large room to one side of the original log house. It was a combination kitchen and dining area with a large picture window facing south...and it had a comfortable big fireplace to take the chill out of the air on cold winter days.
With the addition of this room, the old log house sections was converted into a living room, large bedroom, and a bathroom on the first floor.
As I mentioned, the house was nestled in a grove of white pines and the northern end of the forty or so acres Aunt Elsie and Uncle John owned. There was also an old barn that was falling down...and which was eventually demolished. I still remember sitting in the shade of the pine trees on hot summer days with either Mom and Dad or Aunt Elsie and Uncle John...the shade was cool and it was there I learned to love the quiet, the sound of the wind whispering though the needles of the trees, of just being.
Eventually my parents did decide to retire to Bruce, WI and they purchased from Aunt Elsie and Uncle John approximately 13 acres of land at the south end of the 40 acres of land...and the property had more direct access to Amacoy Lake. The shape of my parent's new-bought property was similar to an hourglass. The top of the hourglass was where they built their new house...and it also bordered what was at the time an upscale resort called Wonderspot. The bottom half of the hourglass was a wooded area that had a nice sandy beach, was hilly, and covered with a combination of oak and pine trees.
It was an ideal place for a young boy to grow up.
...to be continued.
Growing up we always spent our Christmas break in White Pines, California a small lumber town 1 mile off the road from Arnold, with my Grandma Opal and Grandpa Charlie. Every year we would hope and pray for snow and we were never disappointed. I remember some years the snow seemed to be piled 8 feet high along the road leading into town.
One of my favorite Christmas memories is receiving a red sled from my Grandma Opal. They were real mountain people and didn't have a lot of money. My Grandma cleaned local businesses to make ends meet and saved all year to buy the sled. I remember like it was yesterday when she gave it to me along with my sister Teresa and our cousins Terry Lynn and Jerry Lee. The smile on her face seeing our excitement is etched in my memory. We couldn't wait to give it a try on the hill behind the house and spend the entire week searching out new hills to conquer! For years that sled could be found under her house. Well into adulthood I would seek out the sled and remember that special Christmas present from Grandma Opal!
When Rick, Dave, and I arrived at the restaurant (Moonraker) in Rockaway Beach the temp was a somewhat balmy 66 degrees (F). Now at 11pm, the temp is a much cooler 52 degrees (F) and I have now shut all the windows that were open in my wee home. As I sit here listening to fantastic jazz on a station that is located Santa Rosa, occasionally lifting my eyes to gaze at the sparkling lights on the Christmas tree, I cannot help but reflect upon the fact that I am most assuredly blessed with love and laughter in my life...and for that I am deeply thankful. This year more so than ever I am enjoying a thankful Thanksgiving. I am happy. All sorts of things happen in this version of life that we know and are now traveling through. We declare these things good or bad as we travel the journey. All sorts of people enter and leave our lives also on this journey...and along the way we declare whether they are good or bad and or whether the situation is good or bad. Physical things happen in this journey of life and once again it is up to us to decide whether they are good or bad. Dr. Wayne Dyer has said "we cannot control what comes into our life or happens in our life, but we most certainly can control how we react to these events."
So, in summary, each of these things...these events...these people...make up the rich fabric that is each and every-ones life. Our thankfulness and happiness, then, are the golden threads that are woven through this rich fabric and tie it all together making one incredible whole.
On this eve of Thanksgiving I wish all of you a blessed holiday.