Food Holidays Life My Family Photography

Jerry’s Birthday

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Because he has been so sick–housebound for four weeks, except for our trips to the doctor–we knew the celebration of Jerry’s birth today would be a simple one. We hadn’t heard that any of the children would be able to be here . . when on Monday as I returned from the post office, Jerry handed me his phone. Steve was on the line, and within the hour he and Dearrah would be coming to visit, and would spend the night!

As I scurried about the kitchen and had decided to cook a ham that was in my refrigerator, Steve called again. “Don’t worry about food. We’re bringing steaks.” Within a couple of hours he and Dearrah had arrived as had also Rebecca and Nathaniel, as had also 6 untitled (2 of 16)of the thickest steaks I ever saw, cards, and a huge cake. We had a feast. Steve and Nathaniel cleared off the back deck grill where it had recently been covered with snow, Steve prepped the steaks, then grilled them, Rebecca peeled potatoes, Dearrah set the table, I made a salad and soon we sat down to feast.untitled (3 of 16)

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Jerry was so touched by the surprise celebration he was crying. It was a wonderful visit. Rebecca and Nate stayed until around 9:00 in the evening, untitled (8 of 16)and Steve and Dearrah didn’t go home until 2:00 this afternoon. While Christmas and Thanksgiving family gatherings are wonderful, we cook and clean and feel such pressure, not always do we get to just enjoy each others presence. There is something precious about quiet hours of talking and remembering with no rushing about, no pressure: Priceless, unforgettable moments. Those are the kinds of hours untitled (12 of 16)we spent today. Simple food, toast, a bowl of cereal, a bite of cold steak, a sliver of cake. Nothing pressed us, except our love and affection for each other.

And then Steve prayed for his dad. Dearrah and I joined, and then they were gone.

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Christmas Family Food Friends Holidays Photography

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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Christmas Culture Grief Holidays Photography

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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Christianity/Religion Christmas Flowers/Gardening God Holidays Photography

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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Children Food Holidays My Family My Home Photography

Favorite Thanksgiving Leftovers 2012

The “least-favorite” leftovers from our abundant meals during the days of Thanksgiving have now either been eaten or tucked away in the freezer.

My favorites have been looked at repeatedly, their surfaces smoothed out for careful reading, and their images captured here. My favorite leftovers: Hands down.

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Food Friends Holidays My Family

My Happy 74th

On Monday, the day before my birthday, Jerry gave me a card that was so touching, I cried. He had bought a small cake that said HAPPY BIRTHDAY, SHIRLEY, so on the 23rd, just Jerry and I ate cake that started the celebration of my 74th birthday. By the 27th I had heard from dozens of friends and all my children–cards, calls, gifts, food, hugs and kisses.

Sometime on Tuesday, a lady walked onto our front deck, and when I answered the door she handed me a magnificent arrangement of flowers that looks exactly like a birthday cake. Steve and Dearrah had sent it.

Shirley's 74th

My dear friend Holly and my sweet daughter, Rebecca, outdid themselves when on Thursday we met at the Redlands Bowl for an open air performance of Oliver, a dramatic presentation based on Charles Dickens’ work Oliver Twist.

It amazes me that until recently I had not been familiar with the Redlands Bowl and the outstanding gift they give to our Inland Empire community. During the summer they offer programs on both Tuesday and Friday nights (sometimes more often), orchestras, dramas, community sings, small music groups, etc. There is never an admission charge. Incredible, since they often present world-class artists.

Rebecca and Holly arrived at the bowl around 4:00, telling Jerry and I to come around 6:00 when we would picnic on the bleachers. The play began at 8:15. As I walked down the bowl steps to where they were, I saw that they had carried this huge patio umbrella, along with one of those enormously heavy stands, where they had taped balloons and signs wishing me a happy birthday. I was shocked . . . touched . . . and happy.

Around 6:00 Patrick and their boys arrived with the rest of the food. We dined on chicken! Delicious! Chick-fil-A chicken, to be exact!

By the time the production began, every seat was taken and there were scores of people on the lawns in folding chairs. Picnics were everywhere. It was wonderful!

Capping the evening off was that I saw lots friends who also had gone to see Oliver–friends from as far away as El Cajon.

No one makes better cookies than does Rebecca, and she brought bags of them to share. Spicy oatmeal birthday cookies, elegantly wrapped and tied with raffia!

Thank you, everyone, who had any part in making my birthday so special.

Thank you, God, for giving me 74 years. My life has been exceedingly rich; I in no way deserve it.

PS  Those who live close to Redlands have a chance to see this fine play. One last production tonight. Click on the link above to get all the information.

America Children Christianity/Religion Holidays Honor

My Tribute to Soldiers

I pay tribute today to those loyal and courageous men and women of the military forces who have died in defense of our exceptional country, the United States of America.

I pay tribute today to those loyal and courageous men and women who have given themselves in defense of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. . .

. . . . .such as Pastor Delmon Sansom of Phoenix, AZ. whom I observed last evening as he waged war against satan, a cruel enemy of Brother Sansom’s tiny daughter, Reannah . . . and of his son . . . and of your son . . .and your daughter. With heads bowed, we fight!

Art/Architecture Holidays Photography video

To Write

I believe it was in Austria that I bought this small piece of Swarovski crystal, and because I am a writer, its significance–its symbolism, if you will–attracted me. For thousands of years quill-pens and ink were used by those who would set down their thoughts or who would write descriptions of their lives and of their being. It is interesting to contemplate that only late in the 19th century were writers able to lay aside such primitive instruments. Shakespeare, the writers of the Bible, and even Thomas Jefferson used quill-pen and ink to scribe their work.

Such creation was careful and deliberate, carrying weight and consequence, signifying thought and contemplation. Today, (as I do at this moment) we easily dash off strings of words, sometimes with less than thoughtful reflection.

During this season in which we celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ, in which many of us pick up pens and write a few words in the Christmas cards we will mail to family and friends, let us think deeply. May we choose carefully our words, and with our finest pen, or cheapest ballpoint, or by strokes on a keyboard tell those we love that indeed we do.

A blessed and merry Christmas to all.


Note: An interesting video from Swarovski is here.

Christianity/Religion Family Holidays

My Favorite Leftovers

Not claiming to remember each one in particular, I yet believe this Thanksgiving has been the best of my life–at least I cannot think of such an occasion that supersedes this one. From time to time, an event argues to be poetry; its being smacks of moonlight slanting at sea water or cottages set in deep meadow. Such celebration becomes the benchmark for future events. These past few days have been of that kind. (Always extremely thoughtful and polite, Melina brought these adorable owls and turkeys. On her site, she tells how to make them.)

The pleasure began early, when last Sunday evening Andrew and his family arrived, wagging in luggage, grinning, hugging, and with the five children quickly scattering about our home since they visit here frequently and know they have the run of the place, including the “secret room,” the game room, and the picture room. Actually, the earliest pleasure had been the moment  I knew all four of our children would be coming for Thanksgiving. Already I knew my brother was flying in from Chile, my step mom was coming from Missouri, and two of my nieces were traveling from Pennsylvania. It would be a rare Thanksgiving. (Pictured here are my children, their spouses, my brother, Farrell, Jr. on one end, my step mom on the other end.)

Although we strayed a bit from the master scheme, I had planned all the meals, beginning with chicken tacos on Sunday evening, roast beef on Monday, ham on Tuesday. . .Yeast rolls ready for the oven were in the freezer, as were three pie crusts, cookie dough of four varieties, frozen cranberry salad, and Miss. Hulling’s squash and apple casserole, a dish so delicious that from the cafeteria where I first ate of the delectable concoction, I bought a cookbook just for that recipe, and without which I cannot image a Thanksgiving dinner in the Gerald Buxton home. On the bread shelf was a bulging bag of crumbled cornbread and a few biscuits ready to be developed into dressing for the turkey and over which would be spooned giblet gravy.

We had The Plan. I had cleaned every nook and cranny of the house (well, almost, for to be honest, I can think of a few hidden spots that could stand a bit more “spit and polish”) made lists, arranged tablecloths, napkins, centerpieces and considered seating arrangements. I had shopped. A lot. More than once. Yet, when Rebecca called on her way up and inquired, I said, “Yes, please stop at the grocers and bring these things,” as I read from the list in the little book that resides on the shelf near the fridge.

On Monday morning, I was disappointed to learn that Andrew had to go to San Diego to finish up some of his jobs (construction work), and would be back by Tuesday evening, but while it was yet daylight on Monday, here he came, some development having given him the option of being here the rest of the week. Yes! On Tuesday, a baking mood enveloped him and Gentry. They took over the kitchen and produced some tasty goodies, including these fine sugar cookies. Then–if you can believe it–there was a distinct possibility we would run short on butter, so off to the store again went Andrew. Butter, more milk. . .

By Wednesday evening everyone had arrived–from San Diego, Lake Havasu, Chile, Missouri and Pennsylvania–we were all here. Festivities swelled into high gear; from the game room the youngsters brought down puzzles to spread about on the dining room table and stuffed animals were retrieved from the secret room to be scattered about the house. (Pictured above are my niece and great niece, Sandy and Moriah, and my beautiful daughter, Rebecca.) We ate. And again, we ate. Spaghetti and meatballs on Wednesday served up with the most delicious bread of Melina’s preparation, hot from the oven, running with cheese and herbs. Sandy, my niece from Pennsylvania, had presented herself at the door with large boxes from The Cheesecake Factory, and because my ample fridge was bulging, we utilized my  “winter refrigerator”–the back deck table. Three ice chests also sat there for two turkeys and a massive prime rib roast were doing their deal with brine solutions and handsome rubs.

Balderdash–the funniest family game we play, and from which uproarious laughter has been known to cause the temporary, but absolute, loss of breath. Some also played Apples to Apples, Scrabble, and upstairs the youngsters played some kind of card game, and maybe Twister, for I recall seeing parts of that game once during these happy days.

Steve bought and cooked the spectacular standing rib roast in the house oven, while in a Chinese turkey roaster, Mike cooked the two turkeys he had bought in Lake Havasu.

Chloe whipped up the mashed potatoes, Shawnna added her famous green beans, Melina’s chutney, the dressing and gravy were finished, the rolls cooked . . .

Black Friday sales snagged some of the bunch, some had to make airport runs, and while they were gone down the hill, others of us–the wise ones– began thinking of food–in particular the large prime ribs which Steve had removed before slicing up the meat the day before. Light the grill, he said to his dad, and in a short while we were sitting around the kitchen bar chowing down on prime rib bones; succulent bones–some naked, some with a BBQ sauce Steve had whipped together. One rib was left in the pan, when my brother and my step mom knocked on the door, and perhaps looking slightly sheepish, probably with BBQ sauce on our faces, we insisted Junior indulge by taking the last rib. With little persuasion, he hiked himself onto a bar stool.

I would speak of the killer French dip sandwiches we had on Saturday with the remaining beef, or of the straight from the oven oatmeal and ginger cookies we ate gathered about the oven, or of the apricot and cherry stollen, but I must stop. This has gone on too long and I want to speak of leftovers . . . except that first I want to show you a picture of my granddaughter Sarah who came to visit on Friday afternoon. . . and the light was streaming through the window perfectly, and she is so beautiful. . . and spontaneously she arranged her arm and smiled.

Some believe leftovers are the best: I agree. My favorite leftovers, however, are not what one might expect. They are neither of roasted meat or dressing or gravy or warmed yeast rolls or chilled pumpkin pie. My favorite leftovers are those in my mind; the memories I retain, the sights and sounds of my children now grown, and of their children still small and middle-sized, but then there are Chloe who is 16 and Gentry who is taller than his Pappy and whose voice has changed since last Thanksgiving. . .who is almost a man, and Sarah with Gage, our only great-grandchild who was able to come for Thanksgiving.

My leftovers include visions of every bedroom full, Mike and Melina sleeping on a blow-up mattress on the floor in the game room, couches full, and youngsters dragging around quilts and pillows as someone made them a bed somewhere. My leftovers call up the crooked wreath on the stair wall glimmering with Christmas lights, but with a few ears of Indian corn tied on as a nod to Thanksgiving. Wood stacked. Wood carried in. Blazing fires all day and into the night.

My favorite leftovers are memories of Jerry speaking to us, and his becoming teary, and his prayer before we ate our beautiful meal; of the moments we  gathered about Shawnna–adults and children alike– to pray, as she had been sick for a couple of days. My favorite leftovers include the short conversations I had with some of you, my children, about God and His work and our place in it. My favorite leftovers are recalling the spontaneous hugs and words of love I saw you give; of hearing that Jessica must be admitted to the hospital and that in a short while we would have our 9th great-grandchild, and that Mike’s face was worried, and that he said we should pray for her. My leftovers include Andrew–the last to leave–as he sat with his wife and children in the living room and asked Jerry and me to pray for his family.

Leftovers. Abundant, delicious leftovers. In my mind. In my spirit.


Trunk or Treat, Old-Fashion Halloween and Christians

“Trunk or treat,” I kept hearing of, and reading about, and wondering what in the world it was, until finally I read in a local on-line column where someone corrected a person for using the phrase, “Trunk or treat.”

“It’s not Trunk or Treat, you know. It’s Trick or Treat.”

The reply came quickly:

“No, it’s called Trunk or Treat. People bring their cars, SUV’s station wagons, and open up the back and the kids go from vehicle to vehicle. At least 4 church up here do this, have been doing it for some time. There are also booths set up and hotdogs available, etc.”

From Rim of the

So now I knew, and it roused in my mind again this issue of Halloween and what a great time I had, when as a child, my siblings and I rousted about in the streets of Springfield, Mo. I checked my blog history and found that four years ago, I wrote about such occasions, and also discussed the issue of Halloween and a Christian’s response to the holiday. I think you’ll enjoy reading it.

Halloween was an exciting part of my childhood, and our neighborhood became a joyous mill of children, costumed mostly in our parent’s clothes with our grinning faces covered with stiffened-cloth masks painted to look like a ghost, a cat, a dog, or maybe a clown. I recall when really scary witchy rubber masks came onto the market, but they were too expensive, and although we gawked at and pawed over the rubber ones in the dime stores, we were only able to purchase the cheap ones. We certainly never bought any complete commercial costumes; actually I don’t remember that such things were available, but they may have been. It often was turning cold in Missouri on Halloween and we wore sweaters under our scary clothes to keep our scary bodies warm. We dashed through the neighborhood alone, three little children, and said Boo! loudly, and tramped up porch steps and shouted “Tricker Treat!” and waited for the front doors to open and the Mama or Daddy of the place to hand out the treats. Our neighbors would show fright at our ugly faces, then try to guess who we were. We made scary noises deep in our throats and giggled and sometimes pulled back our masks to laughingly reveal ourselves.

The remainder of the post is here.