Christmas celebrations take on many different forms.  At my brother’s house, where there are little children (and those who act like little children) there is lots of noise, games and activity.


Rick and Peter playing on one of Bob’s video games.


Of course it is a driving game!  I took a turn and spent a lot of time in the wall and the infield.


Abby – wearing her new pajamas and boa – shows Alex her new purse.


Megan was snuggling under the afghan on the couch and Chloe the new puppy decided to join her.


Soon they were both asleep.


Later, Sara and Abby joined her on the couch.


While Rick taught the new puppy bad habits.


Abby and JJ


And an Abby fashion show.


At Rick’s family celebration things are a little more quiet.  All the “kids” have grown up and are off at college or jobs.

In addition to the regular gifts, we have a tradition of drawing names for a special gift exchange.  We have spelled out the letters in MERRY CHRISTMAS one at a time each year and are now on the “E” in Happy New Year.  So, the rules are: you must come up with a gift that starts with an E.  It must be homeade by the giver and must not cost over $5 – (free is better) and no live animals.

We have had some unusual creations over the years.  You never know who has your name until you receive the gift and everyone wonders who Daryl has.  He has been the master at this game over the years for unique creations – usually painted John Deere green.


This year, for the first time the “kids” – the youngest is now 20 – took part in this gift exchange.  Doug received Ernie the Eggplant Elephant from Nick.  Yes, he made it from a real eggplant and cut up another one for the ears, legs and trunk.

It is really a very creative group.  E was not the easiest letter to work with, but we had elixirs, earring ensembles, eclairs, an emergency kit, eggplant parmesan, evangelical ensembles, and an engagement encyclopedia to name a few.  Rick wanted to do an Empty box, but did finally come up with something better.


Megan received a giant E that was Enclosed in Expanded metal from Brent.  He welded the whole thing himself from the scrap pile.  It weighs a ton and is very sturdy.  I don’t know what she will do with it, but that is not the point.  I think Brent is taking after his Dad in creative – and unusual – gifts.


A game of dominoes after dinner.

 If my calculations are correct, this is the 21st year of the letter gift  tradition and it has been a lot of fun.  So, for next year we must start working on “W” gifts.  Let’s see . . . weedwacker, watermelon, wingding.  Anyone with a great W gift idea should let us know.

Can’t be Replaced

Megan has flown home from Texas for Christmas.  At the very top of her list of things she must do while she was home was see Dr. John.


When you move to a new state you have to develop a new network of resources, as both we and Megan have found out.  Someplace to buy groceries, someone new to do your hair, a place to get a great lunch and the best person to talk to about local things.  But there are some people you just can’t replace.   Dr. John is one of those!  After flinging her body around the court and soccer field, Megan has visited him often through the years of her sports career.  We miss him in Washington too.

I know there must be good chiropractors – both in Washington and Texas, but who is going to be the guinea pig to find out?  Not me.  I have visions of someone new adjusting my neck and walking around with my head facing sideways for the rest of my life.  So we will enjoy having him close while we are here, get one last adjustment before we go, and hope not to do anything to mess it up too much before we see him again.

A Guy Thing

It must be a guy thing.  Our friend Whitney collects vehicles like Megan collects shoes.  It is his business, but also his hobby.  He is working with Rick (or maybe Rick is working with him?) on the Scout.


We have found when working with old vehicles it is helpful to have two to make  one complete.  The gray Scout behind Stanley is the “parts” scout.  It is a ’63 that we’ve robbed parts off.


The re-built engine that is going into Stanley the Scout.  I will kind of miss those back fires 😉


I really know nothing about cars – if mine starts when I turn the key on, runs and the CD player works them I’m happy – but even I am amazed at the variety I see at Whitney’s shop.


Whitney’s latest toy, I mean business aquisition, is this tow truck.  I would tell you the year and model and all the details about the engine, but I really wasn’t paying close attention.


The tow truck interior.  I do know he found it on Ebay.  An Ebay shopper – a man after my own heart!


There are vehicles of every description and in every state of repair and restoration.  To be fair, I should point out that most of these are someone else’s project that Whitney is working on for them.


This old fire truck is one of Whitney’s though.  Doesn’t everyone need their own fire truck?


 Even I can recognize a Corvette.


I believe this is a Volvo?  Or maybe not.

I really shouldn’t talk about all Whitney’s vehicles.  Rick has quite a collection of his own in various states of restoration.  A ’72 Chevy pickup, an ’85 Jeep, his big truck, Stanley the ’61 Scout and my favorite, his 1970 mini-bike.  He bought the mini-bike brand new when he was 10.  Later on after the engine blew up it wound up at his Grandpa Chapman’s.  After Alex was born, Grandpa re-built the engine for him – when he was four months old!   Grandpa was a vehicle guy too, I remember when he and Grandma came to visit us  in Tucson.  We lived in our tiny first apartment and they drove down and stayed in their motor home.  He was telling Rick all about the “twin turbos” he had put on his motorhome so it had more power and could “race up those mountains.”  Maybe that’s where Rick got his “need for speed?”

I guess everyone collects something and it could be a lot worse than old vehicles.  Rick reminds me that I have quite a collection of old china, and “other old junk” as he puts it.  But really, who can’t distinguish the value of vintage china and kitchen implements and a bunch of old cars!  It must be a guy thing.

Neither ice, nor snow . . .

We left the ranch to drive to California for Christmas on Sunday.  We had planned to leave Saturday but a big storm was brewing so we waited a day to let the weather calm down a bit.  We got a light snow on Saturday before we left and it was really sunny and beautiful.


We brought the Scout home again so Rick and our friend Whitney could work on it while we are here.  It is the perfect ranch vehicle, but it does have a tendency not to run quite right all the time – I guess that happens when you are 47 years old.  I was actually getting used to the sputtering and loud backfires (quite entertaining at the post office), but Rick tells me that is really not a good thing.  There is a re-built engine waiting for it in California.


The weather forecast was for snow showers along the way through Washington and Oregon, but it turned out to be one of the worst storms in the last twenty years or so.  What timing we have!  The road (I-5) was not too bad through Washington, it had been plowed and de-iced and so was fairly stable to drive on.


When we got to Oregon, and especially around Portland, the weather and roads took a severe turn for the worse.  They did not seem very well equipped to deal with the icy roads, freezing temperatures, howling winds and blowing snow.  The roads were very icy and slippery which is kind of spooky with all the bridges you have to cross to get through the city.  We made it to Salem where we found a motel open and spent the night.


The next day things had calmed a little as far as blowing snow and wind, but the roads were still very icy and slippery.  The temperature when we left Salem was 22 degrees.  There was pretty much one groove down the middle of the road – lanes were not visible any more.  We saw more vehicles spun out and in ditches and just abandoned in the middle of the road than you can imagine.  And this on I-5 – a major interstate freeway!  We stopped counting after seeing 25 tire chains in the road that had come off the vehicles. Rick crept along about 30 – 35 miles per hour in 4 wheel drive for most of  500 miles, and we slowly headed south.  We came to valleys where the roads were much better, then back up into the mountains and ice.


We were fortunate that traffic heading south was fairly light.  Northbound, traffic backed up for miles as two semi-trucks skidded to a stop blocking both lanes of travel.  The trucks didn’t have the required chains on and so they blocked the entire northbound side of the freeway.  Everyone behind them waited until they got their chains on and could move again.  Manuevering of any kind was tricky, and abrupt moves really dangerous.


I have not always been a fan of Rick’s huge truck (Big Bertha I call it) as it is very awkward to climb up into, drive, park and maneuver around town.  It was great to have it on this trip however.  The dual wheels gave us extra stability and the 4 wheel drive was a necessity in those difficult conditions.  The Scout was a slushy mess after being pulled through all that, but made it fine.

The drive that usually takes 20 – 21 hours took 29 hours this time.  It was a very long couple of days, but we are very thankful to be home safe and sound.  And I will try to say nice things about Big Bertha from now on.

Happy Birthday Alex!

Today is Alex’s 23rd Birthday.


Since his birthday is so close to Christmas, we have celebrated his Half Birthday – June 13th – since he was two.  For a while when he was little he wanted to add a year to his age every six months.


He’s finishing his degree at Cal Baptist and then will be loose in the “real world.”


He’s a good guy and we are very proud of  him.  We will be seeing him next week when he is home for Christmas.

Happy birthday!

Presidential Visit

No, the president did not come to Marblemount.  President Bush did speak at Texas A & M this morning and Megan was there along with thousands of other Aggies.  The former president Bush was there with his wife as well.  George H.W. Bush’s  presidential library is on campus at A & M and it is pretty common to see he and his wife Barbara at Aggie events.


Megan said she was surprised by the president in person.  “He was actually smart and funny.”  Hmmm . . . could it be that people (especially conservative Christians) are not always as they are portrayed by the news media?

Here is a news account:

COLLEGE STATION, Texas (AP) — A reflective President George W. Bush told graduates of Texas A&M University on Friday that popularity is capricious and what matters is whether they think they’ve done what is right.

In the final commencement address of his presidency, Bush commiserated with graduates who don’t have a job, spoke wistfully about his affection for Texas and described the “tremendous privilege” of serving as president for two terms. Bush leaves office in 39 days, with President-elect Barack Obama to be sworn in on Jan. 20.

Bush made no mention of the failure of a bailout package for the auto industry after his lobbying of Senate Republicans or the latest dire economic news, developments likely to be a coda on his eight years in office.

An Associated Press-GfK poll this week showed just 28% of the public approving of the job he is doing, about where Bush has been all fall. Among Republicans, 54% approve, a low figure from members of a president’s own party, including only 26% of whom approve strongly.

Bush told the graduates to pay no heed to those who recommend something more popular.

“Remember that popularity is as fleeting as the Texas wind. Character and conscience are as sturdy as the oaks on this campus,” he told the graduates and their families at Reed Arena. “If you go home at night, look in the mirror and be satisfied that you have done what is right, you will pass the only test that matters.”

In these final weeks, Bush has engaged in a great deal of self-reflection, and he reminisced on Friday about memorable moments of his presidency, with travel to 74 countries and nearly every corner of the nation. He talked about sleeping in Buckingham Palace, feasting in the desert of Abu Dhabi and flying on the presidential helicopter Marine One into cities large and small.

“These days I’m asked a lot about my time as president. Some days have been happy, some days not so happy. Every day joyous. It’s been a tremendous privilege,” he said during his 23rd and final speech as president to a graduating class.

He joked about his post-presidency prospects.

“To those of you with jobs lined up, congratulations. To those of you not exactly sure what comes next, I know how you feel,” he said.

Bush, who wore the light blue gown of his alma mater, Yale, alluded to several Texas A&M traditions and said he was thrilled to be in Aggie land. He said Texas was where he met his wife, Laura, and where his daughters, Jenna and Barbara, were born.

“And next month, when our time in Washington is done, Texas is where we’re coming home,” said the state’s former governor.

Bush received a brief introduction to the 3,700 graduates at the College Station campus from his father, former President George H.W. Bush. Also present was his mother, former first lady Barbara Bush, who was released from a Texas hospital 10 days ago after undergoing surgery for a perforated ulcer.

“I am thrilled that our son the president is speaking to you today,” she told the crowd.

Said the president to the woman often referred to as the “silver fox:” “Mom, I’ve been meaning to say this publicly for a long time. Thanks. Thanks for the gray hair.”


Private Property

 It seems like such a simple concept to me.  I stay on my property and you stay on yours.  If  invited, we may visit each other. 


 We will even put up brightly colored signs and markers along the borders to help you identify that this is our property and not yours.  What is difficult about that?   


We will add a large cable attached to posts that you will have to go over or under to get onto our property so you don’t wander in by “accident.”  


And yet, in the little over two years we have owned this place we have chased off hunters, mushroomers, birders, walkers, and quad riders.  And those are only the ones we caught.   Faces have been shown to identify the guilty.


Another thing I don’t understand is that when you catch these people on your clearly identified private property, and ask about the cables, signs and trespassing, many are not apologetic at all.  They all do give you a variation of the same theme.  “I have been hunting / mushrooming / riding / walking  here for the last 5 /10 / 15 years.”  Since this property (and the surrounding ones) has been private for at least the last 15 years I respond that they have been trespassing the whole time.  This does not phase them.


Some are a little more creative, if no more law abiding.  This guy told us that this was NOT our property; in fact it belonged to the Department of Natural Resources.  And he could prove it by a small metal tag affixed to a tree on the private property behind ours, so our signs were posted illegally and we could just stop harrassing him and he would go on hunting, because  ” he was not bothering no one.”  I am not exactly sure who the Department of Natural Resources is, but I do know they don’t pay the property taxes – or anything else  – here.


This bow hunter didn’t like me taking his picture.  What I found really amazing about that is on his big 4 wheel drive truck parked on our land, he had a camera on the dashboard with a big sign that said if you got within 20 feet you were under video surveillance.  He had the gall to tell us (while we were escorting him off our property) that he had a real problem with people breaking into his truck and getting into his things.  Apparently he found no correlation between the two situations.  I just don’t get it.