Friday, December 21, 2007

Getting Ready for Christmas

This year, getting ready for Christmas has been different. It was gradual. It just happened. Well, I guess I did panic a bit when it didn't seem like I was going to get the snow I needed for my perfect Christmas Card photo, but just a bit... Yesterday I heard on the radio that Christmas was next week, and all I could think was, really? That was quick.

We spent Wednesday night at our church with Heather and her three kids, Nathan, Christa and Jenna. There was a Little Town of Bethlehem set up, pretty much taking up the whole church and grounds. There was a living nativity, with angels, shepherds, the best behaved donkey I've ever seen, sheep and at least one goat. The wise men were there, of course. Snow was on the ground. I kept thinking the angels should be flapping their wings to stay warm. Everyone stood around the manger singing together as the story was read. 

Then we went back inside and continued to visit little shops where the children made different little things to take home with them. Our last stop was in the dining hall for a wonderful beef stew and bread dinner together. It was a wonderful night, made all the more special by the presence of the children. Also, I guess, knowing that I wasn't rushing anywhere for shopping, wrapping and mailing helped. That was all taken care of already. 

I guess living far enough away that everything has to be mailed does have its advantages. The secular part has to get done early. Now all I've been doing is listening to the Christmas music, putting up a few decorations, and thinking about Christmas dinner now and then, so it'll be special.

One funny little thing that was special. The kids' dad, Matt, couldn't come with them that night because of a weekly obligation at their own church. Christa, 6, was sitting next to me eating, and I said to her, "So, what's your dad doing tonight?" She said, "He's at Mutual." I asked, being funny, "Oh, Mutual of Omaha?" and she said, "Yes." I think Matt would have been really tickled. 

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Up and Running

The expression "easy as pie" only works for people who don't make pies. Let me just say that this new Macintosh system upgrade was much quicker and easier than making a pie. I'm up and running. I still have to reinstall my backed up files, (mostly drag and drop) but the system is on and working, and the internet popped up immediately with no problems. Wow. OK, I'm impressed. The entire process took less than two and a half hours, and nearly an hour of that was the DVD check before it started.

So feel free to email me. I'm on line and I'm happy.

Over the River and Through the Woods

We've had a couple of interesting days. Yesterday was definitely better than Thursday. Thursday we got up early and drove all the way to Broomfield to the Apple store to get some time at the Genius Bar. For some reason my computer suddenly thought I was Japanese, and many of my programs started showing off the buttons in Kanji. It was interesting. I don't read Kanji. Also, for security and backup reasons, along with some other rather powerful features, we had decided it was time to upgrade to the new System software. I was buying that during the trip as well.

Genius Bar personnel seem to know the workings of Macs like — well — geniuses. We were fixed and running really quickly. It was well worth the hour and a half to get there. Besides, we had something to get at Sharper Image, which also has their closest store at Broomfield, so it was a good trip. We also found our annual Christmas Angel ornament for our tree, so we went home safe and happy, had lunch, and were well pleased. Until...

I unpacked my laptop and discovered that the power cord had been left at the Apple Store. Laptops don't give you much time without the power cord, so we called them and they said we'd have to come back to retrieve it. So a four hour plus in store time trip turned into an all day affair. But we were safe and got everything done. We're arrived back home just as dark was closing in on us, and then spent the next day backing up the entire drive.

At four o'clock we left the computer backing up the last of my data and went to Longmont to spend a wonderful evening with friends Matt and Heather and their kids, plus Matt's brother David and his wife Heather and their kids. It was a wonderful evening, with a great turkey dinner. Best of all was being with these two wonderful families. The kids are really fun, and we've missed them since the football games ended. 

So now I'm going to sign off and reformat my drive completely and do a clean install on the new system software (yes, a lot of hassle, but really the best way to do it). After that, I'll start reinstalling things, so if you really need me quickly in the next day or so, you might want to use the telephone. Wish me luck. 

Friday, December 7, 2007

The White Stuff

We're up early, watching the white stuff fall from the skies. We've been praying for snow ever since returning from the smoky skies of California. When we returned, the forecast was for snow the next day, but it didn't happen here. We were really disappointed. Then the bad news was that we wouldn't be getting any for at least ten days. 

Just as we were preparing to travel up to Rocky Mountain National Park, 25 miles up the road, to get my photos for this year's Christmas Card, the forecast changed. Now it's coming down slowly, and has been since about one in the morning. We've only had about an inch so far, and the ground is still showing through in places, so I'm not ready to start shooting my masterpiece yet, but I'm hopeful. This storm comes with a confirmation of the one thing I've always known about God. He sure has a sense of humor.

It's supposed to snow until Sunday. The heaviest snowfall is expected from Saturday afternoon through the night. Well, guess what. I've finally been asked to sing in church at this Saturday evening's service. I've been practicing "No Reservation at the Inn," an old Statler Brothers song. In good weather it takes us 20 minutes to get to church. In bad weather? Well, it can be an interesting trip. And when do I want to take the photos? In the evening, when the light is on the front side of the house, just after the sun sets, so the lights show up really nicely against the snow and the house. We'll be gone before then, and darkness will be well and truly complete before we return. Laugh, God. And remind me to be careful of what I pray for, in case I might get it all on the same day.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Who thinks up this stuff?

Wrapping paper. I've just never questioned it before. And somehow, it's always been my job. John wrap something? Forget it. When did wrapping presents start to kill my back, anyway? I used to stay up all night on Christmas eve, wrapping presents, and I don't remember having it bother my back. I remember being tired, and worrying that I wouldn't get done. I also remember worrying that things wouldn't come out evenly between the three boys, or that I'd run out of ribbon, paper, scotch tape or bow tacks. At that point, the wrapping had to look really good, since the contents were carefully chosen but very low budget. 

Now I've been wrapping for two days, and only seem to have gotten a few gifts finished. I'm not even hand tying my own bows this year, and don't have that many people on my gift list. I should be done. I'm not, but I'm close. I think I'll quit for a week or so and work on the Christmas cards. The older I get the more quickly I lose focus, I guess.

Before I leave the Christmas gift wrapping theme behind, though, I want to share my favorite all time Christmas gift wish list. It was from Benjamin. All he wanted one year was a rock, a chicken, and something green. And that's what he got: a geode, a fluffy, chirping chick on a string, and a stuffed Kermit the Frog. And they were beautifully wrapped.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Home Again

Yes, we've been home several days, and almost all I've done is enjoy being here. I keep thinking about the Christmas cards, the blog, the laundry, downloading my photos and doing the slide show, but all I've really done is read, relax, cook, play my guitar, shop, attend church, take some photos and talk to the deer (lots of that). 

So here finally is my wrap up of a mighty fine trip...

We left home, kind of dragging our feet, because we knew a snow storm was expected two days after we left, and I really wanted to take some photos for this year's Christmas card, but since we were expected at a certain time, we went ahead and left on schedule on Saturday, November 10th. We packed up the car bright and early and headed into town to the church where the HAM club was conducting their licensing tests, and John went in for his "Extra" qualification license, which is as high as he can get. He passed, and then we hit the road to California. It sure put him in a good mood. He had studied hard for that test. I hadn't seen him (except from the backside) for a month, except when he got hungry. 

The trip to California was almost normal. John did his usual drive the speed limit routine, with most cars whizzing past him. We don't care. We're not in a rush. We have great music in the car, and now we listen to audio books as well. This trip we listened to Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card. Now John wants to hear all his books. (John doesn't like to read, but he likes to listen.) I need to find shorter books, because he'll drive for 16 hours if the book is long. 

Anyway, we were driving through one of the canyons in Utah when a lady waving a red jacket ran out in the road toward us and John stopped. She asked if we had OnStar (yes) and told us there was a bad truck wreck ahead. Would we please call for emergency response? So we were given all the details. A trucker in a hurry lost his load and his truck, but luckily not his life. We sat for over two hours while they scraped him onto one lane so that people could squeeze by on the other lane. So how much time did he save? I've always thought speeding was illogical. You have to go ten miles over the speed limit for a whole hour to save about ten minutes, and one single ticket takes about half an hour plus court time. That doesn't even count the expense. And this guy has lost his truck! There's a slide show link at the end and photos, so you'll see what I mean. It also cost us a lot of extra time, but luckily we had just eaten and used the restrooms a few miles back. 

We still made it to Mom's by Monday afternoon, and our visit with her and Papa was great. We played Bingo four times during the eight days were stayed with her, which sounds like a lot, but we had a lot of fun. She won a couple of times, and took us out to dinner at Applebee's on some of the winnings. We also enjoyed a turkey potluck dinner at their club house, and after dinner I played guitar for them, which I probably enjoyed more than they did. I played some of my "funny" songs, and had them really laughing. 

Another highlight of our stay was the day I stole to run around with Sherrie. John had gone to have lunch with some of his friends, so Sherrie and I tackled the triumvirate of California shopping: Trader Joe's; Smart and Final; and Sur La Table. We had lunch at Cho Cho San, which is a wonderful Japanese restaurant with food served at Teppan style tables, with the food prepared in front of you. (Hot Saki anyone?) I love it when the chef throws his knives around! John and I even got to spend an evening with Al and Becky before the week was over. 

On Tuesday, right after Bingo, we left for (my sister) Ellen and Johnny's house for the next stage of our trip. That gave Mom time to change the sheets, since (my brother) Pat and his wife Betty, and their son Tim and his wife Tory were coming the next day to spend Thanksgiving week with Mom. Then we all could meet up at Ellen's for the Thanksgiving feast on Thursday.

Sherrie has said that for her the most fun day was the day before Thanksgiving, and it didn't make sense to me. I'd always had to work the day before Thanksgiving. Then I'd be up half the night trying to do my part - usually pies and my Methodist Jello, maybe some bread or whatever I was bringing to Ellen's. This year I finally understood what she meant. I don't know if Ellen had as much fun as I did, but I had a ball making pie crust, setting the table, shopping, laughing, talking, eating, running stuff back and forth — just generally helping someone who really knows how to entertain 20 people in style. It was so great being there. I loved it. She's a great cook, and between the meals at Mom's, and then at Ellen's, I really came home knowing I'd been spoiled. 

Thanksgiving was as hectic and joyous as anyone could imagine. (Son) Tighe and Nicole were there, and it was so great to see them. We were lucky enough to pack some of their green bean casserole in our cooler when we left (along with a whole dinner of leftovers that gave us a feast at our next stop.) Ellen was more than generous when she helped us pack. We even got some of her famous turkey soup. 

The following day we left Johnny working at the house while John and Ellen and I went to the Reagan Presidential Library and took the tour. We really enjoyed it, but were most enthralled with Air Force One. It was fun watching John walk hunched over through the entire plane. It only looks big on the outside. We had our photo taken at the door together, and you can now see it on our Rogue's Gallery Wall. (Yes, that was another invitation to visit...)

Saturday morning we took off for Lake Isabella to get the place ready for Winter. That morning the skies were full of smoke again, as the winds had picked up and Malibu was once again burning. [The fires ended up burning down nearly 60 homes this time.] It was a short stay up at Lake Isabella before heading home. 

Once again we had a dumb trucker experience. This time we were in Colorado. It was funny that while we sat in line waiting to squeeze through the canyon where the truck had tipped over, the little pickup in front of us had a sign that read, "Let's All Drive Safely." I had to get a photo of that, of course. 

We finally did get home, and I had just walked into the kitchen, when John said, "Hey, come back here." I turned around and went back to the door just in time to see five deer finish running right up to the deck. They actually looked like they were happy to see us. They stood there and dug through the light snow covering, munching grass (it had snowed the day before we got home) and watched us unpack the car. I felt that we had been truly welcomed home. 

Our only disappointment was that the storm "scheduled to arrive" later in the week so I could get my Christmas photos taken landed everywhere but here. Roads closed down; ski resorts are thrilled. We got barely a dusting. Boo Hiss! Oh well, we're still here, and there's at least a bit of the white stuff around. If all else fails we'll drive twenty-five miles up into Rocky Mountain National Park this week and take some pictures for this year's cards. It won't be the design I have in my head now, but it'll be the new design in my head once I take the photo, right?

So now all that's left is to send you to the slide show. I hope you are getting in the Christmas Spirit, and understand that I'm never going to be politically correct and say "holiday spirit." Blessings to all... To see the very short slide show, click here