memorable day

Yesterday we spent the day together as a family celebrating Rachel’s birthday. It didn’t seem at all odd that we would do this. She would have loved it.

We started out eating breakfast at a lovely restaurant in Dundee, the next town over. When I say “we” I mean, John Williams and Oscar, Elizabeth (John’s mom), John’s nephew Grayson, John/Erin/Sage/Brynn, Pete/Linsey/Will, Mauri, and me—13 of us. We regrouped then drove to the beach, Rockaway Beach to be exact. It’s where Harbor Villa is and the place we have enjoyed family time together for many years.

Thanks to the generosity of the Harbor Villa hosts, Ron and Deb Mulkey, we were offered access to Rachel’s favorite beach and use of their restroom (a necessity with young children).


The guys went to work setting up this remarkable wind shield.


And here we spent the day doing what we do at the beach.


It was a glorious day, as you can see.



We were all noticeably subdued as we remembered Rachel and missed her presence among us.

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Not at all maudlin though. She would never want that.


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A significant selfie in the making. . .


Here’s the result from JohnW’s cell phone and shared on Facebook. A friend commented: “Her 4 heroes”

As the sun lowered we gathered round and talked of Rachel, shared poetry and a prayer and stories and, yes, even sang our family birthday song. We pondered the significance of our loss, how it has affected all of us.


It was good and it was hard, and as we headed toward our cars we walked in unity, a family stronger because we grieve together.

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newberg brass

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Not much story here, just this picture of my dear man and the other players who have been making music together for about 25 years. They used to be known as NFC Brass but after Mauri’s retirement shifted their association to the town. I put a little bit of filter on the pic just for fun. They’re playing in Francis Square downtown Newberg for the First Friday Art Walk. Quite an audience gathered and they played their little hearts out for two hours. I didn’t think I’d stay, but it was such a beautiful evening and there were so many friendly people around (most of the local family) that I stuck around to hear the last note.

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man and his best friend

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Mauri and his buddy waited for me to pull in the driveway after work today. So of course I grabbed my cell phone to forever remember the moment. (Can you even imagine living with someone like me?)


Looks like I had the same impulse about 17 years ago.

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due date

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This was my first hint that Declan was on his way. He wasn’t very cute about eight months ago. Shortly after this picture was taken, September 15 was declared his due date. That would be today!

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I remember thinking he looked pretty cute in this picture though.

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Welcome to the world, Declan. You look a lot chunkier than 6lb 7oz. and three weeks early.

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He had to spend a few extra days in the NICU with newborn issues, but his parents finally got to take him home. The Andersons made sure he had an appropriate Carlson blue-and-white-flag greeting.

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Beth’s mom was on hand for the birth and the first two weeks, and her dad flew in toward the end of the visit to meet the newest Ambrose family member. What’s your guess? Do you think they like him?

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My turn finally arrived and I was ready!

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Nothing, I’m telling you, nothing beats watching your own kid become a parent. In this case, the same as it was when Cassidy was born to Quinn exactly 12 years earlier, my joy was mixed with a measure of grief. I feel the need to drink in an extra portion of the experience to satisfy my wish for Paul to enjoy his grandchildren. I even carry that wish to my own parents and to Paul’s parents. I guess my love of family runs deep.


During the grandparent overlap, Father David came to bless the house.

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Later that evening we attended mass. It wasn’t Declan’s first time; the Carlsons took him the day he went home from the hospital, not because of a special event but “because we were just so thankful!” I love that!

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I got to spend a few days with the Andersons and snapped this pic in their new home when my return transportation arrived. (The two families live an hour apart.) I used my cell phone———because I left my camera at home! Mauri tried to ship it to me, but because of Labor Day, I wouldn’t get it in time. Taylor and Beth loaned me one of theirs, and I switched back and forth to get a couple of fun baby shots.

First I need to brag about my new grandson. He is excruciatingly sweet and totally mellow (I had to wait 24 hours to hear him cry). Because of this and his teeny tiny size, he is the perfect model for Ann Geddes-type poses. Not that I equate myself with Ann Geddes, but she inspired some of these:




That’s the lid to his memory box, and he is sleeping inside the box (cushioned, of course).


Mimi (Declan’s other grandma) had this embroidered for Declan to wear on his first birthday. I guess in three weeks short of a year you’ll see a matching picture of some sort. (Do you like how I assume you’ll stick around that long?)

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This is just to show off his eyes.

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His adoring Gus.

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Some pictures with his parental units.

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One for Declan’s home collection. He is so small, we’ll have to tell him that he’s actually in the picture.


As luck would have it, I was there to help celebrate Beth’s birthday. Every Carlson needs blue and white flags! Roses from her hubs. Sadly, I forgot to sing her the “All Day Long” song. Lost opportunity.

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Birthday dinner at Yard House. (Recommend!)

Here’s a funny story.

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Here is a gift for Declan from a former coworker. Taylor sent a nice “thanks for the gift” e-mail, adding that Declan had an appointment with the pediatrician for his circumcision on Wednesday, and if things didn’t go as expected, maybe he/she might get to wear it. From the gifter’s response, we think his family is still belly laughing.

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There’s this . . .


. . . and the proof that some things never change. Father time and too many bowls on Honey Bunches of Oats might have done their work on my appearance, but the photo lover inside remains.

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My visit ended with one more service at Redemption Gateway while Quinn and the girls fulfilled their weekly commitment in the Walkers class. My visit included two weekends, allowing me to attend the Carlsons’ church twice and the Andersons’ church twice. Could I have planned it any better?

I’m pretty sure I’ve given you a baby overdose, but I’ll risk pushing you over the edge with one more, because it is this:


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sister/auntie quinn

My wait to hold and admire and love on little Declan is starting to drag now that he’s home and acclimating to his surroundings. He has plenty of attention from his parents and Mimi (Beth’s mom), and on Wednesday, Moose (Beth’s dad) flies in from Virginia to begin the spoiling process. However, on several occasions already, one or all of the Andersons have driven over from their new home in Queen Creek (AZ), an hour away, to check in on their nephew/cousin’s progress.

Last evening Dusty texted me several (more) pictures (I owe him big time), and here is one:

Q and D

She is absolutely smitten! He looks fairly intrigued by her too. But wait—you know me! I had to find the match, and here it is:

Scan 1

This is Quinn with her baby brother, Taylor, circa 1976, now a dad!

I wouldn’t want to waste a chance to share this picture of Taylor with his admiring dad, now would I?


Of course I’m sharing it so T. can compare his picture to his son’s pictures.

Scan 2

Grandparents are all the same, aren’t they? My parents admired and loved on my babies, and I can’t wait to do the same.

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Last weekend, while I visited my friend Nita up in Washington, Mauri was visited by Scott, our own personal tablemaker. Of course that meant he missed out on my fun and I missed out on his. Isn’t that how it goes sometimes?

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He missed going to Nita’s friends farm, where she sells funky relics.

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He missed this drive around the area of Longview and not seeing anything because of the smoke caused by nearby fires.

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He missed the garage sale that offered this gem for $5. Nita couldn’t resist it.

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I was especially sorry he missed The Cruise. He and Lee could have had a car/year-naming contest.

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He missed witnessing the baptism of 10 followers of Jesus at a special combined service of the Duncans’ church.

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He missed hearing lots of fascinating stories.

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And he missed being shown the door when it was time to leave.

What did I miss? you wonder.

While there wasn’t a picture to show me what I missed, I heard there was coffee and conversation——and something left behind that was specially made for us as a gift to go with our table and benches.

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Here’s a hint.

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And now you know what we had for dinner tonight.

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Several weeks ago I was surprised to find an envelope in our mail from George Fox University—addressed to me—not Mauri and Sherry Macy, which has been the case for the past 21 years. My only connection to George Fox is through him.

Well, that’s not entirely true.

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Now and then I think of it when I pass this spot on campus. See the X? It marks the spot where, back in the mid-1960s, Paul Carlson sought a conversation with Mauri Macy, who was a student at Fox. Paul had traveled to Newberg from Wheaton, Illinois, on business, selling college advertising for Campus Life Magazine. The topic of conversation was me. Paul wanted to know if Mauri had any “designs” on me. I guess Paul had heard me talk about Mauri in the couple of dates we had before this business trip, and he liked me well enough to want to assess his competition, if there was any. Mauri assured Paul we were only friends, nothing more.

So, I do have a connection to George Fox University. But that was hardly enough cause to be sent mail to me alone. But then I saw that it was a personal invitation to the dedication of the new student resident hall being named for my friend Melva Brandt and her husband and former GFU president David Brandt.

Now don’t go and get all impressed that I was friends with a college president’s wife.

Well, OK, if you must.

I took off work and went to that building dedication and sat in the close-up chairs so I could take this picture,


and this picture,


of the ribbon cutting, then later saw this picture on Facebook,

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taken by that phone/camera in front of me (credit: Marilyn Lahue-McCully) whose shutter timing was exquisite.

Formalities complete, we were invited to walk the halls and admire the new dorm we’ve been observing in various stages of development from the foundation up, not knowing it would eventually be named Brandt Hall. I bumped into church friends who saw me without the man whose name is usually on the envelope, and their wondering eyes asked, What are you doing here? “I was invited!” I shouted. No, I didn’t shout; I didn’t say a word. But I wanted to because after all, I am friends with a former college president’s wife and that’s why I received a special invitation to this grand event that served chocolate cupcakes with poofy frosting and infused iced teas.


Only a half hour earlier, the newly constructed canyon bridge had been opened for walkers, so of course I had to take advantage of being one of the elite who got invited to test it out first.

My nose was still raised high in the air when I got home to look through the local paper and see

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that “…the public is invited to attend.” That loud boom you heard around 5:30 p.m. Wednesday, August 26, was my ego bursting. It’s a good thing ’cause I’m unbearable to live with in that state.


The next day I went to lunch with Melva and some other friends, and we talked about life and real stuff in the manner of real people who don’t put each other on pedestals or think of ourselves more highly than we ought to think.

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