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Friday, December 19, 2014

Advent Journey

Our Advent practices vary from year to year.  The Advent wreath and candles change. I choose different books to read from.  But we always set up the Advent calendars (we have several) and our grandchildren love keeping us "up to date" with them.  Here, Skye is adding a little wooden figure to the tiny numbered peg where it will hang, joining those already there and waiting for the rest of the nativity scene to join in this little folding wooden box. In recent years, I have added a daily post during Advent to another blog  These and other practices help me choose wonder and joy in the middle of all the lists of things to do at this time of year. It is my gift to both myself and my family.

What traditions are important to you in all the busy preparations for Christmas?  How do these change your "list?"

Thursday, December 11, 2014

First Christmas

Nora is discovering Christmas for the very first time this year. Her eyes are full of laughter and wonder and she delights in every small new thing she has never seen or touched before:  twinkle lights, red balls, music boxes that tinkle "Joy to the World."  I remember holding her Daddy up to find joy in the same things, some of them the very same when we stand in front of the Christmas tree at our home. We enjoy all the sights and sounds and the fragrance of cinnamon and cloves, press our hands to window glass to feel the cold, and sing the simple carols.
This is my 74th Christmas, but in her delight, I find all of it new again.  Thank you, Nora.   Merry Christmas!

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Christmas Past, a Story

                                      1970 -    Joe's paper sculpture angels, at our house on Willow Green in San Antonio, Texas.  This is the only picture I have of them, and they got folded and hidden in one of our moves!

Recently a group of friends gathered for a meal and story sharing. We each told a story of a Christmas remembered. How valuable it is to hear each others' stories! Most of the stories were fond memories of a childhood Christmas experience. So much of our family preparation for and pleasure in Christmas includes ways we have done it before - stockings, and where they are hung, manger scenes and where they are placed, tree decorations, taken out of the box one by one with memories of each, carols around the piano, lots of family around for help and hugs, and cookies baked from recipes so old they are spattered and yellow.

I recounted the tale of our first married Christmas, when Joe and I were far from family and were beginning our own Christmas traditions, starting from scratch for Christmas decorations. I told part of this story in a previous post.   Our First Christmas

In our conversation and shared storytime that recent evening, I also told of disappointment (we would have to go back to Texas the first of the year), of grief due to the death of my beloved grandfather and the fact we could not leave in time to drive back to the funeral, of uncertainty for what the future held, and some of the ways those beginning traditions and stories have played out in our lives. Since that first Oregon Christmas, except for the Christmases we celebrated while living in Indonesia, we have always had some of the decorations for our tree that hung on it the year before. Those years from 1987 to 1991, all of our Christmas decorations including family stockings were mistakenly sent to storage when our overseas shipment was packed in California! That was one of the first boxes I looked for when we got the storage shipment back in 1992!

Even though the beginning Parker family Christmas may have seemed like starting from scratch, it was not entirely. We each brought to our marriage a faith that had been nurtured in our families of origin that was the reason for celebrating Christmas anywhere, at all. The trimmings for the tree, our handmade gifts, the clever folded angels Joe cut from paper for me - all of those were not just traditions carried on from the past, they signified the reason for those traditions:  the coming of God to be with us in the form of a human baby, to show us how to live and love. Fifty one years and many many Christmas candles and carols, evergreen trees and manger scenes, stockings and presents, boy grins and grandgirl giggles later, the traditions are precious, and the Christmas Story remains the same.

Friday, November 28, 2014

Cranberry Thanksgiving

Yesterday 8 year old Maddie and I made cranberry sauce for Thanksgiving dinner by adding 4 cups of fresh glistening cranberries to 1 cup sugar dissolved in 1 cup water (brought to boil) and adding the zest of a large Meyer lemon which Maddie had just picked from our tree!  She is a good lemon picker and very good at zesting!  All 13 of our family gathered to enjoy our feast; our cranberry sauce was well enjoyed.

My early years included cranberries simply as a jellied sauce in a can that was opened at both ends to push out a can shaped mound that could be sliced.  This was passed around with chicken and dressing at Thanksgiving and Christmas dinner.  I remember eating any leftover cranberry sauce on toast for breakfast along with a sausage link. Sometime in the next few years, cranberry as a color became popular.  It was the color I chose for our Christmastime wedding in 1963.  I designed and made my wedding gown, and also chose cranberry faille coat dresses with white organdy colors for my bridesmaids. Four years later, my mother made me a cranberry suede cloth dress with a square neck and an empire waistline - a generous one because it was a maternity dress.  On the sideboard in my dining room is a cranberry glass dish given to me by my grandmother, along with 2 small cranberry glass vases.

My affinity for the color and the berry has grown - I have almost always included the color cranberry in decorating our home, and have a good number of ways I use the berries in my kitchen!  A well-loved book we enjoyed with our boys when they were little (and still enjoy with our granddaughters) is titled Cranberry Thanksgiving, referenced in posts in this blog as well as my kitchen story blog - links are below.

Do you like cranberries?  I would love to hear your favorite cranberry stories!

Saturday, November 22, 2014


                               Nora and the knitted lace and satin coverlet I made for her.

I  am glad we have a day called Thanksgiving. I am blessed to gather family around our table to share prayers of gratitude and a meal we have prepared together.  I am also glad to practice being grateful and saying thank you every day. As part of my early morning quiet time, I keep a gratitude journal where each day I write 5 things for which I am thankful I write down what comes to mind without editing or spending too much time trying to say it well!  This has been a year full of paying attention to God's good gifts, being astonished at beauty and blessings, and wanting to tell about it.* As I look through the pages of that journal and browse all the photos, I have chosen a few things to share with you from these days of 2014.  I chose the photo above for the way it shows being covered.  I feel covered with the love of my family and God's good grace.

I am thankful for...

my forever friend, Joe

the miracle of new life:  Nora Opal, arriving this Spring

my word for 2014: Release

healing for hurting hearts

 knitting lace that I started in 1973!

winter garden harvest - cabbages, cauliflower, and a tree full of Meyer lemons

Skye's love of cooking and being with me in the kitchen

fragrance of a single gardenia

lessons from seeds

Grandma's rocker near the fireplace

March 16:  Maddie's 8th birthday

March 19:  Nora Opal arrives!

our rose arbor in full bloom (the survivor rose, Peggy Martin)

singing songs my mother and grandmother sang to me for  Nora while I rock her

our back porch

dawn sky, peaches and spun sugar

harvesting figs

old cookbooks, heirloom recipes

morning glory blooms at my kitchen window

August 19: Jordann and her birthday doll

the warmth of copper as it catches light

handwritten thank you notes

our porch swing

glimmers from the past - old family photos

November 19:  Skye is 12!

*this refers to my favorite quotation from the poetry of Mary Oliver:
         "Pay attention
           Be astonished
           Tell about it."

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Another November 14

Today is my 74th birthday, and I have received hugs and phone calls and cards telling me Happy Birthday. I feel loved and cherished, but mostly I feel overwhelmingly grateful for celebrating another year with those who provide these sweet greetings, and look forward as I give thanks for the days and months to come in the year ahead.  It occurs to me that I have never really had an Unhappy Birthday!  I have had birthdays celebrated in Jacksonville, San Antonio, Houston, Dallas, and Plano, Texas.  But I have also celebrated my birthday in Oregon, California, Jakarta, Indonesia, and Singapore.

 On the evening of November 14, 1991, Joe was in the U.S. on business, Ben (17 at that time) and I had gone to Singapore for him to have minor surgery. He needed to stay in the hotel room and rest, so I left him for a few minutes and slipped outside to watch as the president of Singapore made a speech and flipped the switch to turn on the millions of  Christmas lights and displays that fill the shopping district of Singapore for the holidays.  It is one of the most spectacular (and completely commercial) extravanzas in the world!  I stood for a few moments, surrounded by thousands of complete strangers in a world that was bent on extreme celebration, and then quickly hurried back to my hotel room and my son, knowing then as I know even more all these years later that I feel most celebrated in the light of the love of my family.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Finding a Keeper

In recent efforts of cleaning and clearing, I went through a box that contained things left behind by my mother.  As I looked at papers and dates and tried to decide what needed to be thrown away or passed on to someone else, I found a number of things that my mother herself probably once held and decided what to do with, because the dates were from years when she was a child.  I found myself thinking of the reasons first my grandmother and then my mother kept certain things.  One little pink booklet came apart at the binding when I turned the pages, but all the pages contained glimpses of life many years ago. The booklet was titled Catalogue and Premium List of School and Community Fair, Bullard, Texas  At the bottom of the cover was the location and date:  Bullard School Grounds, November 10-11, 1922.  

I was intrigued with the little book as I looked through the pages which listed sponsors and advertisements and the list of exhibits and competitions like Best pound of butter, Best bronze turkeys, Best dozen tea cakes, Best counterpane, Best tatting, and Best baby!  Of most interest to me were 2 sections where pages were missing.  Both times, there were penciled notes in my grandmother's handwriting that indicated numbers of items from the missing pages.  My hunch is that these were categories in which some of her craft or some competition entered by a son who was a winner!  Since my mother's brothers were only 4 and 1 that year, that would have been her oldest, Vinnon.

33 1/2    Best display potted flower  (which won wallpaper, given by Huges, hermer? & Son Tyler, Texas - value $3.50.

79  Winner of Mule Rase (which won mds. (merchandise?) given by Adam Wall, Drug. Co., Tyler Texas - value $2.50)

80  Winner of Horse Rase (which won mds (merchandise?) given by Walsh Hdw (hardware?) Co. Tyler, Texas - value $2.50)

Then I saw that on the front of the booklet was printed in pencil in small neat letters: VINNON TERRELL.  I looked again at the date.  And I understood why my grandmother kept the book.  I knew why my mother kept it. And why I will keep it and pass its story on. I put together the name and the date and remembered.

Vinnon was Ky and Clyde Terrell's firstborn son, born in 1909 so he was 13 years old in November, 1922.  He was killed in a hunting accident on Christmas day of that year.  He went hunting with a neighbor boy who got him back to that family's front porch where  Vinnon scrawled a goodbye note to his mother and father. I have seen the bloodstained note and heard his story all of my life. In the same box I found pages of his handwriting and schoolwork. My grandmother kept these things and her memories of her first son.  I never heard her whine or complain or bewail his loss, but I heard the story of the way his short life blessed her.  She knew raw grief then, and in many other ways later in her life but when I think of her I think of generosity and faith, of love and nurturing, of courage and determination.  And that she always grew flowers. I am glad you won the fair prize for that, Grandma!

                                       Opal Terrell, Travis Terrell, Vinnon Terrell  circa 1921