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Twenty-five — that’s how many years Paul Carlson has lived in heaven.

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I have at least a thousand pictures of him, from infancy through age 52, but I chose to commemorate this notable day with this one for two reasons. First, because he’s pictured with his dear friend Dick Walker, who joined him on “the other side” two years ago, and second, because of the sweater he’s wearing.

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On the Christmas after we lost our family’s patriarch I kept him in our celebration by wearing that sweater. I followed my own advice when I say to others who are finding their way through significant loss: “There’s no wrong way to grieve. Don’t base your process on what you perceive others are thinking.” We were still a family, and by George we were going to smile for the camera just like all the other Christmases when we were five.

Paul's plaid sweater-After 20 years I'm letting go of the sweater. It's heading down to Juarez to keep someone warm. Dad would like that, huh

Quinn kept that sweater for 20 years. But when it felt right, she sent this picture with a note — “With a lump in my throat I lovingly added the sweater to the Juarez pile. Dad would have given the sweater off his back when he was alive, it only felt right that it should keep someone warm now rather than stored in a box. On a business trip, Dusty stopped on the side of the road to help a stranded woman, feeling nudged because that’s what Dad would have done. That was his thought process, without having ever met him. Life is a ride, isn’t it?”

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Mauri and I talk easily about our first spouses. So much about us, even now, is a carryover from who we were as married to Margaret-Rose and Paul. Margaret-Rose made Mauri a better person; Paul made me a better person. So we owe them a lot! Keeping their memory alive benefits us and our children. So on days like this, we commemorate Paul’s 52 years of good life — and smile. We keep smiling.

Posted in family matters, nostalgia | 4 Comments

kin

We’ve been blessed with visits from kin around the country, the most recent ones took me by surprise.

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This afternoon’s visitor gave us a whole day’s notice, so when the doorbell rang at 3:05, I was not surprised. Kevin had flown to Portland from Jacksonville, FL, this morning and stopped for a three-hour chat on his way down to Eugene on business.

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Kevin is my nephew, my brother’s boy, born the same day my first Paul and I got engaged. That’s how I remember his birthday and age without looking them up.

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There they are, father and son, just a few years ago, or so it seems.

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These photos were at the tip of my fingers because I recently finished a book project for Kevin’s dad, my brother’s 80th birthday!

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You might know I have WAY too much fun putting together books using my vast collection of family pictures. So when I tried to think of a meaningful gift to note the passing of 80 years of life, this plan quickly formed. Johnny celebrated his birthday in Peru, crazy kid, so I had to wait for those pictures in order to finish the cover and final pages. When I saw these two matched together, I hooted and hollered. Can you believe his mouth forms the same shape on both pictures?

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You might catch on to what I’m doing here — posting a few of the pages from the book with the hope of enticing you to “read” the whole book. Read is in quote because there’s really nothing read, only pages and pages of pictures.

Click here to view the the photo book.

(You don’t need to buy anything. Just click “view” and then “play.”)
 

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This page is near the end because it shows he celebrated his 80th by climbing Macchu Picchu at 14,500 feet! Crazy kid . . .

When I grow up, I want to be just like him.

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surprise!

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This is how it started for them——in Virginia! Early on Wednesday, as in 3 a.m. early.

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Two flights to cross the country, both provided seats for the babies——a huge gift for the parents.

This is how it started for me! Whoa——their arrival was a total surprise!

They traveled all this way to celebrate my retirement. Imagine . . .

Their move from Arizona to Virginia a year+ ago made me think they’d never visit us all the way out here in Oregon. I am extremely glad to be found wrong in that regard!

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Thankfully, I hadn’t had the time to sort through and “rehome” our collection of toys and children’s books, so there was plenty of entertainment for the littles——Emery and Avery (14 months) and Declan (3 years). These blocks provided entertainment for Declan’s aunt, uncle, and daddy years ago.

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The highchair still held its purpose.

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Taylor and Beth brought along some baby holders that connect to a normal chair. Darcy stood ready to clean up any dropped morsels.

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We took advantage of local play areas, this one for the rainy day.

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This one for the sunny day.

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Several local restaurants served up some good food.

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You wouldn’t know it was me posting if you didn’t see at least one match-up! (That’s Ben!)

Mauri had some fun with the twin who walks (and bounces). We thought for sure Avery would take her first steps while she was here—but no.

On Saturday morning, my feet barely starting to touch the ground again, I headed down the hall to get dressed for the day.

Who did I meet? Four Arizona Andersons! In my astonishment I said, “I can’t take anymore!”

The doorbell rang. I thought it was Beth coming back from Crossfit. Wowowowowow! Ben, all the way from Michigan! Clearly I could take more!

I was flabbergasted! So many secrets kept, so much invisible preparation!

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My three offspring! I fill up my eyes whenever they’re in the same room at the same time!

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Here I am, soaking in the joy, taking pictures to help me remember.

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A panorama of the peaceful room while the littles nap. Mauri’s likely in the cookin’ room, making coffee.

“Mom,” said Quinn, “you know that family gathering you thought was happening tonight at John and Erin’s, it was just a placeholder so you wouldn’t make other plans. We’re all going to Tree’s to celebrate your retirement.”

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Turned out we went to John and Erin’s after all, but for a full-family photo shoot in their scenic backyard.

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Photoshop grandson Bailey and his fiancé, Sarah, and we’d have the perfect blend.

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I might have topped my own record for photo staring!

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Ten of our 11 (going on 12) grandchildren!

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“Hey, Unka Dusty! What’s up?”

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On to “Tree’s” —— wonder where they came up with that name.

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I spent the whole meal in a daze, still pinching myself in disbelief. But I took a few pictures, though most of them are blurry for the very best reason: Everyone around the two tables was engaged in animated conversation. A wonder to behold, the camaraderie and connection our blended family enjoys. It’s a blessing we acknowledge as a incredible gift.

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John Macy captured a few moments of joy.

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And this sweet moment when Sage brought me one of the many cards friends and family mailed to Erin (for her to give me) as the result of email prompts by Quinn. No small undertaking in itself! The grandkids took turns delivering them one at a time. (I waited for better light and quiet space to read the thoughtful words of appreciation so many wrote to me. Wow!)

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Yup, we all left smiling. Especially me.

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One might think we’d be ready to call it a day, especially the driver of this carriage, whose delayed flight from Grand Rapids arrived at 1 a.m. But here we are at Jem 100 for ice cream!

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Uh huh . . .

ALL the travelers stayed with us. How cool is that?

Now and then some realization would hit home: “Mauri asked me for a haircut! He never asks for a haircut.” “So that’s why you came home with so many eggs!” “You vacuumed the stairs!” All those subtle preparations going on while I focused on my work went undetected. That Mauri! He never let on, never gave the slightest clue what my future held.

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And now it’s Sunday and those surprise visitors would soon be leaving. So a plan was created for everyone to meet at Red Berry Farm to give the littles a place to run off some steam.

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This little stinker found the bag of apple-cider doughnuts and filled both fists! The tiniest at birth now has the biggest appetite! She’s known as the vacuum cleaner, steals food from her sister’s tray.

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These cousins will be together again next month for our annual Thanksgiving build down in Juarez.

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The Anderson sisters took a walk with me to see the pumpkin patch. So dear! Both very busy with college/school and work/activities, yet managed a weekend to come celebrate with me.

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This very cute pic of the Macy boys calls out to be included. We were at Round Table Pizza, but I’ll spare you all the restaurant-table pictures we took!

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I’m starting to feel the impending farewells.

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One final meal together then hugs all around as we part ways. I was too dazed to remember our white-hanky farewell tradition, carried out in such style at previous partings. But they didn’t forget. And, bless him, Mauri had his all ready to wave. Once again carrying me through.

And the next night, after we’d heard that everyone had reached their destination,

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I posted this photo on social media with the caption: “When your children and grandchildren gather from near and far without your foreknowledge, meals are planned from restaurant menus. When they all take their leave, you drown your sadness in their leftovers. #stillsoakinginhappymemories”

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i did it!

Yes, I finally retired from my job as office administrator at Newberg Friends Church. I’ve worked from the same office for 15 years, doing all the things an office administrator does plus a host of other things too. No, I am not super woman; it’s just been the kind of job that stretched me in several directions, making boredom far from reach. My love of order and systems and projects has served me well these past years and explains why I have proclaimed, even through hard times, “I love my job!”

A former teammate passed along his oft-spoken phase: “I’m here to serve.” I adopted it as my work motto, a regular reminder of my ultimate purpose that I hope to carry on into retirement.

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On Thursday my coworkers treated Mauri and me to lunch at a favorite restaurant. The flowers on the far right were their gift to me, along with a gift card to New to You (shows how well they know me), and best of all cards and sincerely spoken appreciation. Cindy took the picture so isn’t in it.

Only one of these dear people would have been in the picture had I retired a year and a half ago. I’ve mentioned the split our church suffered in July 2017, causing all my teammates but one to leave. It was a sad day for all of us——those who left and those who stayed. So we’ve all been in a rebuilding process, the real reason for my extended work life.

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Friday morning arrived——my last day——and I enlisted Mauri’s help once again for a photo to complete this first day/last day match-up. How convenient for the team to provide a large bowl of flowers to match with the plant Susan gave me as a “you go girl” job starter.

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Friday’s “carryover” (preparations for Sunday carried from office to sanctuary) gave me pause as I realized this weekly task will be passed to another.

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I knew I’d be back in two days to worship with the congregation, but there’s something sacred about the vacant room, the air filled with more than a century of God’s presence.

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This makeshift signage directed visitors past an often-vacant reception desk to my office down the hall. Time for it to come down. My successor will bring that office back to life full time.

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I felt a little silly being sentimental about my last afternoon walk to the post office.

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I’ll be turning over the key to Dianne when she begins full time on October 8!

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I’ve had this note from my beloved Denise taped to my door for years, even after she took another job soon after the split.

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Here stand two heroes who also happen to be really good guys. They each heard “hero” many times as they came to my rescue with just the help I needed. Josh (left) works full time at George Fox University yet manages to bail me out with computer help and audio tech assistance and phone-connection disasters and the list goes on. Brent is our custodian but does oh so much more than cleaning and set up. Rather than run the other way, he checked in with me at the beginning of each day to ask for my list of urgent needs.

How fortuitous they should both show up at my door at the same time on Friday afternoon when nostalgia hit me hard.

By 5 p.m. I had recorded a new message on the answering machine and updated the phone extensions and cell phone lists, deleting mine and adding Dianne’s. I had gathered up my extra computer charging cord and Time Machine backup disk and my door name plate, and headed for the door.

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For some reason, this scene caught me off guard. I’ve always pulled into that first slot, being the first one to the office nearly every day. Even when Denise got there first, she would pull into the second slot, saving the first one for me. I never ever declared it “my” spot, but it became assumed, I suppose. I drove a Jeep Wrangler when I started working in 2003,

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then in 2010 I traded it for a red Element,

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and in 2015 bought an Escape from the Hank and Jo. Do you see Denise’s car parked next to mine?

You know what “they” say——the more things change the more they stay the same. Well, life is about to change in the coming days. Watch out—it might mean more time to post!

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Post Script: I shared a match-up photo on social media and a friend whose dad worked for Youth for Christ back in the ’60s suggested I include this photo of me at my first job. She thought I could do a match up of first job/last job. So here it is:

first job last job

Posted in in the neighborhood, series / match-ups | 6 Comments

typewriter

Mauri and I are downright pathetic. When we discover a movie we both like, we watch it again and again and again . . .

Pride and Prejudice, Sense and Sensibility, Return to Me, If I Were You, Scapegoat, the list goes on and on and on . . .

We set aside my retirement for the past year and three months to help NFC rebuild after a devastating split, and that concludes in one week! There will be more transition while I train my successor, but life will change at home immediately. We’ll see each other (much) more than between 1 and 2 p.m. (lunch) and the evening hours. I wasn’t worth much after a full day of work, so we ate our dinner on trays and zoned in front of the TV——watching “The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society” again and again and again. We notice and talk about every character, the immaculate acting, the story, the details, even the mistakes. We quote the script, working hard at the English accent; we play the movie when neither of us is watching.

Here’s the trailer, if you want a teaser. You might like it as much as we do.

Set in the mid 1940s, the star actress uses a manual typewriter to write books and letters. So it was only natural for Mauri to remember we still have his manual typewriter, purchased for his years as a student more than 50 years ago. Using his cue to look for a green case, I headed to the old attic to find it.

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He wasted no time cleaning it up.

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In the case he found some letterhead from Holly Public Schools, where he taught high school and junior high band in 1975-6.

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Also some letterhead from MMR Ministries. We decided to use clean white paper and keep the old for posterity.

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Remember the old dial-a-letter label makers.

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He went first.

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His strong piano- and guitar-exercised fingers had no trouble pressing the keys, but he needed to remember the old way of setting margins, underlining, and back space. But he wondered to me, “Where’s the key for italics?”

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He wasn’t going to let my reticence cause me to miss out on this retro experience.

Arthritic fingers can still type! My memory went immediately to watching my mother “hunt and peck” about as fast as my “taught” fingers could type——and probably with fewer typos! So I wrote her an impromptu note:

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Oh, dear, I’ll be forever grateful for being forced into the computer era in 1988, when Paul bought our first Mac while I was in Florida for Mother’s final days on earth. I returned to my home office in Michigan to enter a whole new world of desktop publishing on an exasperatingly slow computer with a tiny screen and software named Pagemaker.

I never called my mother “Mom.” On a computer I could change that mistake without retyping the whole page. And that other mistake as well.

No, I don’t miss those typewriter days AT ALL, but it sure was fun to revisit them for a while.

Mauri thought you might enjoy this. Turn on/up your computer’s sound.

Now back to Guernsey . . .

Posted in family matters, nostalgia | 4 Comments

one-year photo shoot

Life’s busyness got in the way of my sharing a few pictures from the Carlson girls’ one-year photo shoot. So bear with me while I belatedly put just a few gems on here for posterity.

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Have you seen them often enough to know Avery from Emery? They don’t look anything alike but still one needs to know which one is who.

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But this dude stands alone. Declan a.k.a. Bubby.

Just look how patient he is with his sister’s antics.

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first day photos

Hee hee! I love first-day-of-school pictures so much! Here’s what I have. . .

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Schools in Arizona start early (and end early too), so Cassidy was the first to show up. Quinn knows I need lots of pictures, so she also sent on-the-way-to-school pictures taken with the family pup, Issy Bear. Maybe I’ll add that at the end as a bonus. Dare I believe that she is in high school?

Will

I carefully watched social media for this one. Will is now in first grade (as you can see). He belongs to Pete and Linsey.

Sage Brynn

Other locals are Sage and Brynn. Erin texted this pic of the girls heading out for Edwards School, where they are both part of the dual-language class. Their daddy attended the same school just a block south of our house. Sage is a second grader and Brynn started all-day kindergarten. This begins a new phase for their mama!

I remember sending off my 2nd grader and kindergartener to school less than a month before adding Taylor to the family. I didn’t have much of a break, did I?

The other school-age local missing from this collection is Oscar, who was so eager to get out the door there was no time for a picture. Oscar is in 4th grade and, because of a move to our side of town, attends Edwards School too, where his mama was a student all those years ago.

Declan

And finally, out in Virginia, this boy started preschool. Declan let his face know how excited he was to go to school. Other pictures show him wearing a backpack almost as big as he is as he marched himself into the school, his mom snapping pictures all the way into the classroom. One can only hope he maintains this attitude toward school!

Our Bailey has begun his final year at Dordt College in Iowa and Marissa her sophomore year at Grand Canyon University. I guess they’ve aged out of the whole first-day-of-school routine. It had to happen sometime . . .

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Bonus. You knew I couldn’t resist.

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Little brother getting in on the photo shoot.

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