Holiday “Doings” at the Buxton’s

A few days before Thanksgiving, I opened the closet in the study where much of our Christmas decorations are stored and began setting out boxes. At ground level of our front deck, I ducked my head, walked under, opened a storage door and pulled out a couple of boxes that hold outdoor lights. Never before Thanksgiving had I festooned our home for Christmas. This was a first–a glorious first. I reasoned (in case someone would complain, which they did not) that last year because of my cancer surgery, my Christmas celebration had been limited. I’d make up for it this year.

What a season it has been.

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Rebecca brought up a lighted bare-limbed tree and felt leaves on which each of us could write down one blessing, and at the table before the sumptuous Thanksgiving meal, we read aloud our thanks. (Imperial Sir Winston knows he is a major treasure in our lives, and thus positioned himself.)

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The weather described perfect winter holidays. Cold, foggy and snowy. Some of us piled into our trusty Jeep and drove the mile or so down to the lake, where Andrew and I braved the cold and ice to take pictures.

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A soup so great that at the end my guests were tipping the huge crockpot to scoop out one more bowl was central to the food we served at our “almost annual” neighborhood party the first Saturday of December. Twenty-six relatives and other friends graced our home.

dsc_5259Among them was this gorgeous baby boy who resides with our new neighbors who live just around the corner on the street that leads to the woods.

dsc_5153            Mrs. Claus dropped by, as did the “real” Santa, another new neighbor, but I didn’t get a good picture of him. You know how sneaky Santa can be sometimes

And . . .wonder of wonders . . .for a few hours before Christmas Day was done, each of my children was here in our home.

Before we opened our gifts that Sunday morning, our patriarch led us in a simple time of worship. He wept as he spoke of the love of God, and for the love of his family. Each of us, except the very youngest, told words of love and blessing. Jerry asked Nate to read from Luke the story of the nativity.

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The gifts were distributed by a very skinny Santa. Gentry is 6’3 and almost 19 years old. These are his legs.

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Our gifts to each other were simple, for we are a simple family, and are old enough and wise enough to understand value and deep joy lie in places other than within the contents of beautiful boxes tied up with elaborate bows.

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Even a couple of greats showed up with their dad, Chris, and because we were out of beds, they joined the others who had stretched out camp bags and quilts, or snagged a couch for sleeping on Christmas night.

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dsc_5441Winston (and us) was blessed to have four of his dog cousins join us for the holidays. He liked some of them; others, sadly, he did not. You’re seeing Charley here, who lives with Andrew and his clan in San Diego.

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During all the holidays, no one had won a game of checkers against Cole. He is the family champ. On the day before they were to leave after Christmas, he challenged me to a game. He had beaten me badly during their Thanksgiving visit. Embarrassing, and I had escaped him . . .until now. Guess what! I beat the little rascal . . . whipped the socks off him. He grinned, and said, “Want to play another one, Granny?”

You must be kidding, I thought. “Nope, I think not,” I very wisely said.

The deed is done. The 2016 holiday season is finished, and we have moved seamlessly into the year of our Lord Twenty Seventeen. None of us know what the days ahead hold. Both joy and sorrow will visit us; success and failure; good days and bad ones; laughter and wretched tears. For us, the extended Gerald Buxton family, we put our trust, our confidence, and our faith in God, in Jesus Christ, the righteous

Blessings to you and yours.

Of Christmas Past

On my Facebook site a few days before Christmas, I posted the following:

Year by year it became increasingly obvious that it was easy for some of our family to gift each other lavishly. Year by year it became increasingly obvious that to exchange gifts with their siblings and ever-increasing number of nieces and nephews was financially straining for others. Year by year all of us concluded that Christmas had become too mercenary, and that despite our words to the contrary, the season had become centered more and more on gifts, rather than on the celebration of the birth of Jesus.

Last year, to contribute to alleviating the situation, we began a tradition that I believe helps us to celebrate Christmas as it really should be done. We continue this year. We have agreed to limit gifts among Jerry and me and our children, the siblings, their spouses, and their children to: handmade items, something we already possess, a purchase from a thrift or a 99 cent type store. It’s a challenge, satisfying, and lots of fun.

Today I want to show you a present I received; absolutely wonderful, but well within the rules of the “game.”

20150116-untitled (4 of 10)This was from Andrew and Shawnna, an oil painting on canvass they had bought some time back at a thrift store. It is stunning, the streaming light from the buildings and the streets remarkable; truly made me catch my breath when I first saw it. The painting is large, and I had a difficult time deciding on a place to hang it, but finally chose this spot in our study that leads to the back deck.

20150116-untitled (5 of 10)20150116-untitled (7 of 10)Attached to the painting when they bought it for $10.00 or so, was this paper that indicates the previous owner had purchased the piece in 1972 and had paid $145.00 for it. The name Beltrane is noted–not sure if that is the artist’s name or the buyer–rather suspect it to be the name of the buyer.

20150117-untitled (9 of 10)We will continue with our gift exchanges in this way, for it has proved to be successful, and I believe helps us to focus on Christmas as should be done. The process calls for thoughtfulness and planning. To Andrew I gave a set of DVDs from Because of the Times 2011, which I had watched numerous times. That cost me nothing, and I believe will be a real blessing to Andrew.

Life consists of so much more than frantic shopping, long check-off lists, cards sent because “they sent us one,” maxed-out credit cards that take ’til July to pay off . . .all that kind of thing. Rather, throughout the year we should insist on time to really live, to think on Jesus, on our loved ones, to truly remember the “reason for the season.” What say you?

Of Home, Family, Friendship, and Food

Our house is on the large size, rather more than Jerry or I need in our later years, but for the most part we enjoy having it, for often we have others here with us in Crestline, including our family of four children and all those who now trail along with them, including grandchildren and great grandchildren.  Friends. Neighbors.

20141225-untitled (79 of 114)We’re into our fifteenth year of living in these beautiful San Bernardino Mountains, and I’m not exactly sure in which one of those years we met Robert who lives down on the part of Wabern that merges into the woods. We were walking when we met him–sure of that–for it was years before we coaxed him into our home, so our relationship was cultivated as we walked past his house, and as we lingered to talk if he happened to be outside. I estimate his age as being in the late 40s, he’s of a reserved nature, of few words, and he shows a kind spirit. During these years Jerry had a serious heart attack even to the extent of a cardiac arrest in the ambulance as it headed to the hospital, and of course over the years, we told Robert of Jerry’s severe accident in 1994, and sometimes we discussed his residual problems, so maybe because of those things Robert assumed a posture of gentle concern for Jerry. Robert’s dark hair is styled into a ponytail that flows down his broad back. He is a recently retired operating room nurse. Sometime throughout these years, he married Jennifer, a charming, friendly young woman.

Much goes on at our place; a fair amount includes Winston, our grandchildren, and food.

20140805-untitled (62 of 187) 20140821-untitled (165 of 187) 20140824-untitled (171 of 187)Some of our oldest friends, both in age, and in the length of friendship, are Sam and Lil White. They live in Arizona now, and because he understood they would be by themselves for Thanksgiving, Jerry drove to Arizona and brought them to our home. They are each 92, vigorous in mind, but failing in their bodies. When Jerry had helped Lil into the house, she immediately sat down in a chair near the door and began crying. “What’s wrong, Lil? Why are you crying?” I asked.

“Happy, Shirley. These are tears of joy. I’m so glad to be here.”

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During the Christmas season nearly every year, Jerry and I host an open house for our friends and neighbors. 20141213-untitled (97 of 119)Usually we have around thirty people or so attend. I cook lots of food.

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This year Robert and Jennifer came. (Not pictured.) As they prepared to leave and as I gave them a small gift, wrapped up in a tiny beautiful Christmas bag, I sensed they were very touched. Something about people loving their neighbors enough and loving Jesus enough to spend a bit of time and money and arrange for a winter’s evening of joy for a couple dozen people touched them deeply. I could tell. I don’t understand it, for lots of people go to lots of parties, and Robert and Jennifer are certainly not backward people. Perhaps I had just forgotten, though, maybe I had not fully understood, how sometimes an open door, a hand on the shoulder, a slice of cake on a fine plate, a direct look in the eye can move another human.

A couple of days later, Robert and Jennifer knocked on our door. They brought a gift, a tiny holly plant wrapped in festive paper, and as we sat together on the couch, Robert said, “Thank you for inviting us. Thank you. We had a wonderful time.” I believe both their eyes glistened.

20150112-untitled (25 of 25)This has been a difficult post to write, and I’m not sure even now, I have expressed what I am feeling. Hope you “get” it. 🙂 Did you? Please tell me.

Roll Out the Pumpkin Rolls

One of the joys of Christmas–at least for me, and I suspect for many people–is that of cooking great food, and especially so if there is a big group of loved ones together in the kitchen who join in the peeling, chopping, untitled (3 of 12)stirring and baking. That’s the best way of Christmas cooking, even when it involves cookies that disappear as fast as they are taken from the oven. The second best way of cooking for Christmas is to do it alone, but in glorious anticipation of sharing with friends and family. I’ve been doing a lot of that latter kind lately, and my freezer is full of cookie dough of four different varieties, fudge, and date bars. On Thursday, I rolled out pumpkin rolls. Jerry doesn’t like to lick the beaters or the spoons, and there were no grandkids about, so I was forced into my own lickings. Not a difficult challenge.

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I prepared five of them and while they were cooling, I did this: Our weather has been frigid, with snow still on the ground. I stuck my feet into a pair of boots, pulled on a heavy jacket, and grabbed up a butcher knife. I went out the back slider, onto the deck, and into the back yard, where at the edge is a row of towering cedar trees. I reached high, pulled down a lower branch, and with my butcher knife sawed off a couple of green boughs. Back inside the house, I gathered up ribbons, paper, ornaments, and along with the cedar cuttings, I prepared five beautiful pumpkin roll packages. Yesterday, we drove to San Diego and gave them all away.

We knocked at each place and had four wonderful visits. We found our dear ones of the fifth house to be not at home–we had not called them–so by the front door, on a chair, we left their gift. On a little card I had taken with me, I wrote: With love, From Santa.

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One more thing. Are we not blessed people? Abundantly blessed to have a little bit of flour, a few eggs, and a can or two of pumpkin so that we not only have provisions for ourselves, but have excess so that we can wrap up some of our love and pass it around to a few who are dear to us.

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Faces of Christmas

In my spirit, and in my emotions, I am bloody and raw. I expect that because of the recent murders of 6 adults and 20 children in Connecticut the majority of our country have the same tattered feelings as do I. The images of those beautiful, innocent children that are widely posted now, and thoughts of their grieving families made my viewing of a children’s Christmas program on Sunday especially touching. Our children are so vulnerable, so precious. They are beautiful.

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“Are you telling me there were real angels up in the sky?”

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With a voice as clear as a mountain stream, as light as a gossamer cloud, she sang of the magnificent story of the Christ child.

untitled (42 of 90)“You mean they put baby Jesus in a manger instead of a crib?”

. . . and so . . . life goes on. Our children. The children of the world.

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Many additional pictures of this event at my Flickr account.

Anticipation

Enough light has slanted our way–I can see its pink edge over the eastern ridge– so that the dark night has been pushed aside, and from my dining room window I can see the form of wind-whipped trees as they bend from the power of the approaching storm. We will have rain today, perhaps thunderstorms. Tonight the arctic storm that is moving down from Alaska will drop four to six inches of snow at this level in our mountains, with much more predicted for the higher elevations.

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I’ve been anticipating this storm from the time many days ago when its trajectory was unclear and the weather prognosticators were saying maybe. I gather storms, especially those whose clouds embrace snow, and I urge them my way. As I think I have written before, I’m not sure why stormy weather appeals to me, but that fact is settled: it does. Once, years ago, when Nathaniel was up here, and at midnight would be his birthday, we stayed up to celebrate, and we watched a storm pound about our house here in Crestline. A three-stanchioned yard light was beaming, as was a porch light, and that made it easy to see the slanting, blowing snow, but occasionally, we would open the deck slider, and push out our heads to see better and to feel the wind and to stick out our tongues so that snowflakes would settle there.

Anticipation. Yesterday, Jerry carried up more wood and stacked it on the deck wood rack, then covered it with a tarp and tied it. A few days ago we stored the remaining yard pieces, including all the chair and swing cushions.

It is the season of anticipation, for did not the holiday begin with anticipation.Think about it. An angel visited Mary with an astonishing message that would forever change the world, and when Mary went to visit her cousin Elisabeth, Elizabeth’s unborn John the Baptist leaped for joy in her womb. What an astounding conversation those two women had, and Mary said, “For he hath regarded the low estate of his handmaiden: for, behold, from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed.”

And then she waited, and pondered, and anticipated, until that star-struck night in the stable when shepherds knelt at the manger and the sky over Bethlehem was alive with the rhythm of angels.

She Can’t Swallow

“She has suffered a severe stroke and can no longer swallow.”

Can’t swallow? I thought. Gave the notion some time, and considered such a disability and its awfulness. Suction tubes. Dependence. Embarrassment.

Can’t swallow anymore.

I don’t believe I know this person, for she is a facebook friend of a friend sort of thing, but I was stricken when I read of her.

Here it is the Christmas season. We’re planning and cooking and wrapping gifts and hanging twinkle lights. We drink untitled (28 of 34)eggnog and write on cards and wait in line at the post office to buy stamps whose style we have selected from a poster the clerk  indicated, and that way we get to decide whether to buy Santa Claus or the baby Jesus or something in between.

We writers do the writerly things of edits and proposals and agent chasing and dreams of bestseller lists and the scribbling of another draft and wrestling with fears of rejection, or an even untitled (34 of 34)worse agitation, perhaps, when we think of the resounding thump of no response, for have they not said on their site, “If you haven’t heard in 4 to 6 weeks, consider . . . ”

We photographers talk of light and settings and film and digits and lenses and focus and software and how much post-processing is okay.

And well we should do these things for life must continue.

Yet, someone has said, “She had a severe stroke and cannot swallow.

And so I say a prayer and my heart aches.

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Eden, a Lily, and the Manger

That I would notice is proof of creation and of Eden and of the sixth day. That I would question Holly as to the classification of the flower, and that I would even think to do so, is proof that God made me quite a different creation from that of a dog or an elephant or a monkey. For which of those animals give any indication of caring about Holly’s tiny, neglected (so she told me) plant?

That I would lift my camera, focus with care, and process such an image tells of God and of how He made me. Biological evolution, you say? Creatures squirming from the sea, ascending then into trees, evolving into chattering monkeys, and then into me? You say? You think?

Been around any photography stores lately? Did perchance you see a monkey or a dog customer? Even one–just one– orangutan peering around the corner, or through the show glass just a bit reluctant to walk up to the counter and inquire about cameras and settings and price?

That I would see the tiny flower, that I would note its struggle for existence, (for it is as small as a paper clip), and that I would detect its pressing to unfold from its confining sheath, and that I would process its image is of God. The eternal, omnipotent, all-wise One. The One who somehow was born of a woman and laid in a manger of Bethlehem.

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Patriarch

Patriarch, originally uploaded by Shirley Buxton.

A tradition in our home is that every Christmas day, from the second chapter of Luke, Jerry reads to us the beautiful story of Christmas. Usually he does it as we sit at the table before our meal; today about an hour before dinner, he called us together in the living room. He sat on a stool by the fireplace; the rest of us sat on couches and chairs circled about the room–two of our children, their families and I.

In less than three months, Jerry will be 80. He is our patriarch. We are blessed.

“Adore Him,” you say? “Is this CHRISTmas?”

I was furious when, on Facebook,  I read this; one reason being that the eight-year-old referenced here is my grandson, and the mother’s post concerned how her son was to speak in a public school in San Diego, CA.

My third grader has just informed me that they are now supposed to say “Happy Holidays” and the Christmas tree is to be a “Holiday Tree”.

Wrong. Just wrong. Also silly and unconstitutional. For the holiday season which we are experiencing today, culminates on  the 25th of December, an official United States of America holiday, which day is Christmas. CHRISTMAS. It’s called Christmas, not Holiday. It’s called Christmas because it is to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ.

Let us adore Him, the God of all the universe, who loving us so much, prepared Himself a body, and came to earth. Isaiah beautifully prophesied the event in chapter 9, verse 6.

“For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.

I recently became aware of the group whose music I’m bringing here. Please listen to this stunning rendition of  Oh, Come All Ye Faithful, an enduring, majestic song of the Christmas season. (If you have headphones, so much the better.)