Fourteen addresses in the first 18 years of my life as Mrs. Paul Carlson meant our kids didn’t really put down roots until we settled in Grand Rapids, Michigan. We lived there ten years, longer than any other location. So it’s no surprise they all consider Michigan their “home” state, Wyoming their home town. Son Ben’s roots are deeper than for any of the rest of us, since he still lives there.
It’s no surprise that Taylor would want to share his home town with his family. You can be sure they wouldn’t choose any of the winter months for such a visit. The very fact Ben agreed to share a prime boating weekend with his brother proves the extent of his love for him! So Taylor and Beth and Beth’s mom, Trish, loaded the three kids and gear in their car and made the two-day drive from Virginia, stopping in Sandusky, Ohio, for some nostalgic fun.
High fives with Uncle Bentley, on hand to say Welcome to Michigan!
Beth is supplying me with much vicarious enjoyment of their visit, and I might have to return here with some more pictures of their fun. But for now I’m only setting the backdrop for a series I feel compelled to share. It begins with . . .
This is Paul’s extended family, his grandparents seated in the center.
I didn’t want you to miss Paul’s pose. Little did he know what he started!
Poses snagged from Facebook overflow my “The Pose” folder. I limited myself to sharing two.
The youngest Carlson man gets in the “pose” game.
And today . . . Beth sent me this:
The more things change, the more they stay the same.
I know it’s weird. For some reason I wanted to compare my exact age to the exact age of my mother on the day of her death in 1988. Yes, I actually counted the days from her birthday to her death day and added the same number to my birthday. That’s how I know today I’m my mother’s exact age at the time of her death from pancreatic cancer.
What should I do with this information? We lived entirely different lives. I could easily have died back in the late ’70s from one of five episodes of a syndrome that had yet to be identified as toxic shock. Every single day puts most of us in some setting that could lead to fatality. Let’s face it, we all live on the edge, more often than not taking our health and well-being for granted.
When my mother died at age 74 I thought she was way too young—way too young! She was ten years younger than my dad, for Pete’s sake! At age 84, he would have been the likely one to “go” first. Not that my siblings or I were ready for that either!
Bottom line, my health is good, and I hope to keep it that way. I’m not morbid and have no premonitions of an untimely end, nor do I believe I’m “tempting fate” by posting this. I was alone with my mother at her home in Florida that day in May when she was exactly my age. Her coma didn’t stop me from reading to her or from telling her things she should take with her to heaven. Seeing her through to the end gave me the unspeakable gift of time together. And now, without any effort at all, I can jump back more than 30 years and remember Mother as a peer, so to speak. That alone is worth admitting I’m weird!
Don’t worry about me, though; I have stuff to do and won’t give it much thought. Besides, everysingle day is a bonus for me!
Nineteen years ago I wrote a piece as an assignment for one of my reading groups, inspired by our book—Kathleen Norris’s Dakota—specifically the chapter titled “Where I Am.” And now where I am has extended 19 years. Here’s a portion:
Six years ago, as a newlywed I moved across the country to live in this burg with my husband, Mauri. I didn’t know him as well then as I had 30 years earlier. We had become good friends in high school in Wheaton, Illinois. But Mauri moved to Newberg to attend George Fox College (now University) and graduated four years later with a wife and a 20-year marriage ahead of him. I stayed in Wheaton and married a man seven months after he swept me off my feet. The only contact our families had through moves and more than two decades of marriage and three children each was the annual Christmas greeting. Twice letters carried news of cancer. Mauri was widowed first, then I. So here I am in Newberg, thousands of miles from my firstborn in Michigan, hundreds of miles from my married daughter in the Seattle area, and less than an hour’s drive from my youngest in Aloha. I’ve become step-mom to Mauri’s three children and daughter to his four parents, who all live in Newberg. (My original set of four parents have all died.) Where I am speaks of my physical placement and the stuff around which, the people around whom I exist. Locations link my past to my present. They trigger my memory. They add to my identity. They connect me to people. But my 24 geographic addresses in 55 years don’t define who I am. In reestablishing my root system as an Oregonian, I bring with me all of who I was the years preceding. Who I am builds on who I was. Every experience, every attitude, every response adds a new layer to who I was yesterday. Yesterday was the day. On our tandem rides I’d been observing the gradual ripening of blackberries along the roadside. This particular Sunday afternoon proved deliciously uncommitted, so I donned my grubby clothes and drove to the spot beside the railroad tracks where earlier I had eyed fruit-hung branches. With a plastic bucket swinging from my forearm, I studiously stepped a path through the briers, on alert for lurking predators who might have human on their evening menu. With gentle pressure I gripped one berry at a time, detaching each from its prickly branch, until my bucket was filled. The thorns did their best to dissuade my mission, but I accepted their lashes as payment for their offering. No blood, no berries. We have enough money for me to go to the corner fruit stand to purchase blackberries for a pie. Yet I perform this annual ritual because it reminds me who I am. In the process I momentarily remove what lies between my childhood and this current layer of my adulthood. I’m in the brambled back acres of the house my dad built in Wheaton. My mother, a homemaker in every respect, couldn’t see those berries wasted, so she commissioned my sister and me daily to fill several bowls each. For sure, it was against our will. We would rather be doing anything else. The chiggers would bore into our flesh; the sun made us sweat; the berries stained our fingers; the “prickers” gouged our skin. Not one thing about that task was pleasant—except maybe the fresh blackberries and cream or the blackberry cobbler or blackberry pie or blackberry jam we enjoyed all year long. This, and all the many, many learning experiences that comprise my life so far, make me who I am. Where they happen seems of least importance. Embracing the difficult, unpleasant stuff of life proves again and again the path to life’s best rewards. No blood, no berries. Half a blackberry pie waits in the refrigerator. Mmmm. A small slice turned a few moments in the microwave, with a small dollop of vanilla bean ice cream on top, sounds pretty good to me right now. But maybe I can wait until after dinner. Nah…
What comes to mind when I read this? “The more things change the more they stay the same.” We have digital photography now and rarely go to Fred Meyer to wait an hour for our film to be developed, but most of what was still is!
In 2014 I posted this, It contains nearly identical pictures to the ones I’m about to share tonight!
I had the identical response from 19 years ago when Mauri and I took a walk near Captain’s Cabin, taking note of all the ripe blackberries along the way. The following day I was back with an appropriate container, cheerfully and laboriously picking all the reachable berries of correct ripeness.
My harvest made it safely home in our cooler, and after we unloaded the car and reset the house I went to work on my annual pie-baking tradition. I would be too embarrassed to share pictures of the process, as I made a huge mess resulting in the world’s ugliest pie.
The baking process covers a multitude of sins, so I’m just barely able to swallow my pride to include this picture.
Thankfully, the proof’s in the pudding, or I should I say in the pie, for it was delicious. Pictured was last night’s dessert, and here it is a day later, almost time for another go ’round.
Someone beat us to reserving Captain’s Cabin for the week of our anniversary, so we took the closest to it—this week! Turns out we’re sharing Harbor Villa with a high school youth group from Northwest Baptist Church in Bellingham, WA. “Happy anniversary!” and friendly waves were passed our way, and we continue to love the holy hubbub of their outdoor gatherings. And right up the street at the camp, it’s Surfside week, an important factor more than 25 years ago in deciding when to schedule our wedding because Mauri’s then-high-school-age kids didn’t want to miss it.
So here we are, halfway through our week. We each brought a project to work on. Mauri’s revolves around music, mine around pictures. After 25 years of life together, our interests have not changed and likely won’t. All of our time is spare time these retired days, so we are happy to simply do what we do.
Breakfast at the table in sleep clothes and bedhead. We are who we are.
And we do what we do. Take yesterday for example. We put on walking shoes and crossed the street to visit Deb’s garden. When we were here after Easter she showed us her work in progress, so we were eager to see the “fruit” of her labor.
Bless her, she pulled some invisible veggies out of the earth, assuring us they “need to be thinned,” and we remembered aloud the remnants of a shared Caesar salad in our fridge from a Tillamook Cheese Factory lunch. So she added a few snap peas to our “basket” and I quickly carried them back to our little kitchen for lunch later.
Now a walk on the beach.
Who says there’s no such think as a free lunch? We’re quite sure we’d’a tossed those sad leftover greens were it not for those fortuitous toppers. Thanks, Deb! You’re an excellent veggie grower!
Some afternoon project work for him. He brought a file of original scores that date back to the ’70s. It’s fun and interesting to hear his response to them this many years later—what he still likes, what he would change.
A step in my afternoon work: editing and placing the perfect cover shot for Declan’s book. The boy turns 4 in a few weeks, so I want it ready to add those last pictures before sending a pre-print (Shutterfly) proof to his parents. What could be more fun than that? And should I mention my perfect view of the rocks and ocean out that window?
With a half-hour window before we leave for dinner (breakfast & lunch in; dinner out), I head out for a solo walk. The tide is in, making most of the sand too soft for speed. I gave it my best.
A lovely and familiar drive up to Nehalem, two towns north of Rockaway. We followed the fishprints to a food cart Mauri had researched and found reviewed as 5 stars.
Yep—that’s just as described! I’m not normally a fish eater but embraced the whole experience as part of what we do.
We saved room for dessert at the ice cream shop our friends Ridgely and Wally discovered and highly recommended earlier this summer. Too bad it was closed on Tuesday. Oh well, not everything has to be perfect to be awesome (so says the hanging above our fireplace). So we bought Tillamook ice cream bars at a local market and sat by the quiet river, watching for that elusive eagle or kingfisher.
Back in the car Mauri asks: “Wanna go look for elk?” This question didn’t come out of the blue. Years ago in Nehalem we happened upon a huge herd of elk in a residential area, so we knew there was a remote possibility there’d be some lurking about.
Lo and behold . . .
We sat a long time, watching them slowly emerge from the grasses on the right side of the road, meander down the road toward the water, then into the grasses on the left. Could we have orchestrated the moment any better?
We took a longcut back to our cabin through this familiar countryside, drinking in the beauty of our coastline. Doing what we do.
All day long it’s been Mauri’s and my 25th wedding anniversary. In most ways it was like most other days of our lives, but poring over my photo files to prep for this post made it memorable. Narrowing my picks to 25 was a challenge, given the amount of life we packed into the past 25 years. I hope you’ll take a few minutes to scroll down the page and share in my thanksgiving for these years God gave us as a married couple. We think he still has something up his sleeve for us in the coming years, and we’re eager to see what that might be!
If you hang in there through 25 pictures, you’ll catch a glimpse of our special celebration in photo #26, representative of the start of what lies ahead.
THANK YOU for being part of our lives through this blog.
A week ago this morning I was in the ER in Newberg with Mauri while at the very same time Quinn was in the ER in Denver with Dusty. Mauri’s shingles were quickly diagnosed, and he was sent home with the prescriptions needed for pain and treatment. Dusty’s diagnosis didn’t come so easily or quickly as doctor after doctor pondered the miserable and mysterious symptoms that wreaked havoc with his diabetic numbers. Finally, on Wednesday the docs agreed to remove his gallbladder, which turned out to be absolutely needed (I’ll spare you Quinn’s description of it). But he didn’t bounce back as expected, requiring more tests that showed severe infection in his esophagus (caused by another description I’ll spare you).
Both Mauri’s and Dusty’s medical situations captured much of my attention, concern, and prayer this week. So I’m thankful to report they are both finally improving. Dusty turned a corner this morning, much to the relief of many who need and love him. PTL!
We’ve entertained the entire town in our neighborhood this weekend for Old Fashioned Festival, another reason I was thankful for this change of scenery and breathing room.
What a great idea—to hold her annual client appreciation party in this beautiful place!
I haven’t picked blueberries in a long time, so I tied on a bucket and went to work.
There was no shortage, and my bucket filled fast.
Our host weighed and transferred my berries into the buckets Linsey provided.
Somehow grandson Will found himself stuck, literally, in a muddy bog.
In due time I took my leave. This double row of parked cars winding around the curve illustrates the remarkable success Linsey has enjoyed in selling real estate. We are invited to this party because we have referred clients, and we will confidently refer you to Linsey to help buy or sell a house or real property. We think she’s amazing!
On the drive home I had one thought: blueberry pancakes for dinner.
I married a man who cooks! And he feels well enough to give me the desire of my heart for dinner!
Let’s see, I think we left off at the white-hanky farewell. Such good sports!
At this point we were ready to put some miles on the car and get ourselves to Boise, where a cute little airbnb would give us a quiet place to put our feet up.
It was my turn to drive. The speed limit allowed for 80 mph, so I was going 80 when I started to pass a semi, oblivious to its impending blowout.
We were side by side when I heard a loud ca-clump, then held on tight as we navigated the bombardment of tire fragments. The truck finally pulled over, but we kept going to the rest stop a few miles up the road near Bliss, Idaho.
We walked around the front to look for nicks or bruises only to discover this “thing” in our grill. Our “well, isn’t that interesting?” quickly became gratitude it didn’t take out our windshield––and one of us in the process!
What is that “thing”? Thanks to friends on Facebook we learned it is a tie-down bracket from the truck. Logic says the force of the blown tire shot this toward us as we passed.
Our AC was immediately out, but we made it to Boise without the engine overheating.
This little add-on doesn’t look like much from the outside, but inside the space was well appointed and nicely decorated for our comfort.
This little kitchenette was efficiently designed and gave us all we needed to make our coffee and shakes. I thought it the perfect design for our upstairs space, using this photo to help me remember it!
We didn’t want to let that highway incident interfere with our plan to eat lunch with our Boise cousins. You know how I feel about cousins! These are on Mauri’s mother’s side.
And some of the bambinos.
You needed to see Eric’s shirt!
Four-week-old Millie came too. It was just great to see everyone!
We had a few hours to build up an appetite for more food, this time for dinner at Texas Roadhouse with longtime friend Don and his wife of 13 years, Christina. Mauri claims to have “only two stories,” but he has many more than two that involve iconoclastic Don. It was fun to renew this friendship and to get acquainted with Christina, who couldn’t “complete” Don any better.
Don wanted to take a look at our car issues, which might have prevented us from serious trouble on the drive home.
See that heart-shaped hole right there? Gorilla tape would not seal it sufficiently, and radiator fluid spouted as the engine ran! So first thing the next morning we showed up at a repair shop to get the help we needed to make our way home. Mechanics also repaired the AC, so the drive home felt like smooth sailing.
I entertain no thought this mechanical stuff holds any interest for you. It’s part of our story and a clear indication of God’s care for us. But to make it up to you, here’s a short video from Saturday. That’s Mauri and me singing (a portion of) our family birthday song to two-year-old Avery and Emery via Facetime.