Birthday Number 86

Occasionally the celebration of a significant event aligns so well with the vision in my head that its conclusion brings about glowing chatter, face-stretching smiles, and a sated sense of perfection. Such were the days surrounding Jerry’s 86th birthday.

It began with The Nieces.

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Three of them live in Louisiana, the other two in Texas. “We’d like to come out and visit Uncle Jerry for his birthday. Would that be a convenient time?”

Of course it would, so although I hadn’t planned to throw a party, that these dear ones would make that long trek to California certainly called for a major celebration. I told Jerry I had decided on a birthday party, but I told him nothing of the trip his nieces would be making. Debbie flew to San Antonio, Nita and Pam drove to the area in Texas of Linda and Sharon’s homes, where, with their mounds of luggage, they all piled into Linda’s van and headed west.

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Rebecca and Holly beautifully decorated the room we reserved at The Claim Jumper in San Bernardino. The party was scheduled for 2:00 on Saturday and all the guests had arrived when I drove Jerry into the parking lot. My children knew of the secret guests, passed the word to the others as they arrived so that the only ones seated at the table when Jerry walked into the room were his dear nieces. He was stunned.

The party was perfect in every way. The food was delicious, pristinely presented, and served without a flaw. The guests consisted of a sweet mix of family, ministers, neighbors, and other friends from Crestline. During the meal various persons stood and in moving ways–sometimes humorous–spoke accolades to Jerry. It was a glowing, memorable afternoon.

Although we would be a bit cramped, the nieces and Michael and his wife went home with us, filling up all the guest rooms, and throwing down mats and blankets for sleeping. We had a blast.

Jerry opened his gifts.

DSC_9313We ate breakfast . . .and more meals. We went to Stater’s, bought a whole brisket, and Jerry cooked it all Sunday night. On Monday we feasted.

DSC_9315Some had to leave. Others came.

DSC_9343We did lots of this.

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On Tuesday morning, these precious women headed home, to their families, to their jobs. They left behind magnificent memories of hugs and kisses, of deep and meaningful conversations, of  tender tears and of uproarious laughter. Jerry has said more than once, “I just can’t believe they drove all the way out here to celebrate my birthday.”

There are some really fine people in this world. Several of them belong to the Buxton family.

 

Stephen Forrest Buxton

Sixty.

Sixty years ago in the delivery room of St. Luke’s Hospital in Pasadena, Ca. Stephen Forrest Buxton yelped his way into the world, and into the hearts of his mom and dad. Jerry and I became parents that December evening, we knew that. What we did not know was the depth of the  treasure that had been lent to us by God.

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From the beginning Steve loved people, and people loved him.

On his report cards, his teachers noted his considerable intelligence and his propensity to chatter. He was a communicator. He communicated with his dad and with me. After a date, or a youth activity, he often would come to our bedroom and talk with us before going to bed. As do many teenagers, he struggled. As do a few, he persevered. He listened to the voice of God. He became a preacher.

And now he’s sixty.

His love for people, his generosity, and his caring ways extend to Jerry and to me. A few months ago to commemorate our 60th anniversary, which we did not celebrate at the time, because of health issues, he financed a trip for us to Africa, Florence, Italy, and to Rome.

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He is a skillful, passionate preacher. Proof that this is not just a mama’s biased observation is that he has preached virtually all over the world.

DSC_6976I bless that long ago day when you were born, Steve. I am vastly thankful to be your mother.

Happy Birthday!

Our Days of Christmas

Early, it began. We scheduled our (almost) annual Christmas party for the first Saturday  in December, and because it was so close to Thanksgiving some of my children and grandchildren who were here for the November holiday helped with our decorations, especially the outside lights that need to drape over bushes that are difficult for either Jerry or me to reach.

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Thirty-eight persons showed for the party, the crew including family, ministers, neighbors, and other acquaintances from our beloved Crestline. Jerry smoked a 19 pound brisket, I cooked a huge pot of pinto beans, and several pans of Mexican corn bread. Of course we had a tray with great cheese, nuts and fruit. A fine array of tenderly baked sweetness and my “go-to” punch of eggnog and cranberry juice rounded out the food. The variety of guests who came and their jolly interaction with each other produced a joyful party that extended from the arrival of the first one to the departure of the last. Although sparkling lights, whiffs of cedar branches, and a beautiful presentation of delicious food certainly contribute to a great party, it really is the people who are the core of such a gathering. Jerry and I talked about that later, and noted again how blessed we are with exceptional family and friends.

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Andrew, Shauna, and three of their children came to our home the week before Christmas where he spent a couple of days doing repairs to our house. Water had leaked behind the siding and caused significant dry rot on the front of our house that faces the lake, so he and Gentry pulled off the siding, repaired the leak and replaced the ruined lumber and the siding. While all this was going on Ella and I made gingerbread men. Hmm…they turned out to be a sad lot, but we loved them anyway. (Isn’t that how it is with those we love? People I’m talking about now, not cookies.  Maybe they’re not quite perfectly shaped, or perhaps a crack or two shows up, a limped walk, a drooped head . . .yet they’re ours and they’re sweet and special, and we guard them and love them, and pray for them.)

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A couple of weeks before Christmas Day, my brother Nathan surprised me with a phone call telling me that he and his family wanted to visit for a day or two, so here they came on the 21st, and what a great time we had. What a delightful family; sweet, intelligent, accomplished, ambitious, and God-loving.  Only one negative thing about them. They make me look like a midget!

DSC_9010Came early Christmas morning when traditionally we exchange gifts and only one of our children was with us, Andrew and his family. Rebecca and Nate arrived around 10:00,  Michael was quite sick and could not come at all, and Steve will be visiting us later in the week.

DSC_9038Andrew’s gifts to us were exceptional. Two reasons: They were handcrafted by him, and they are beautiful. He presented me with a professionally framed and matted photograph of his dad, which he had taken in an earlier visit. A priceless gift. Andrew also made the knife Jerry is holding, a new skill Andrew is developing. He also made knives for each of his brothers.

When Rebecca arrived she handed around gifts for everyone. Always thoughtful and generous is my only daughter. She is a treasure to her dad and to me.

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In the middle of the afternoon, Jerry called us to gather in the living room where he spoke, encouraging all of us, especially the grandchildren, to be upright people, and to love and obey God. He called on Chloe to read Luke’s beautiful words depicting the Christmas story.

DSC_9062We cooked. We ate.

DSC_9051DSC_9067Cole’s gift to his family was a game named Baconopoly. I played with them a couple of times as did their dad. They loved that game and played it multiple hours

DSC_9076Once when we were playing yet another round, I looked about the room, gazed at the sparkling eyes, the grins, the occasional spat over a move,  and considered the quite firm draw that board games has on families. I reckoned again the inestimable value of families and friends who eat and play together. It’s really not the prime rib, or the bacon trivia, or the yeast rolls. It’s not even a carefully selected treasure of a gift. No, it is time and love and connection.

And so, these few days past Christmas, I, as did Mary, ponder these things in my heart, and know how very blessed I am.

And to my readers, I wish you every blessing of God. May 2018 be a year of joy and of peace. I would love to hear from you.

Safari

The Nairobi area has experienced a significant drought, so the rain that pelted us at the airport on Tuesday evening was quite welcome, even to the animals that roam the lush savannah lands of southern Kenya. We saw hundreds of them during our safari, sleek, healthy, and beautiful. It was a breathtaking moment as we motored down a dirt trail, saw a spotted neck rise above the trees and a face thrust about, so that we could recognize this being  as an elegant giraffe. They are huge animals, ranging from 15 to 19 feet tall.

DSC_6288The landscape itself was magnificent. The weather glorious. In certain places it was safe for us to leave our vehicles and walk about.DSC_6487Indeed one of the rangers offered to guide us to a spot where a crocodile had recently hatched 15 babies.

DSC_6467DSC_6473Zebras seem impossible. They are so fine, so perfectly stripped. Sophistication with a mask on. We saw herd after herd of these beautiful creatures.

DSC_6369This fella fixed his eyes on me as we paused to consider his handsomeness.DSC_6353What of these horns?

DSC_6388“There’s a lion down the way,” someone in another vehicle told us once as we stopped for something. “A recent kill.”  The lion had killed a cape buffalo that lay beside the road. The lion was a few feet away in some bushes, but unfortunately we could not see him well. We did see his chest moving up and down, breathing hard as he digested his tasty meal.

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A bit of a tourist trap threatened to snag us when after walking with a guide down a trail we were led to this little business venture by some ambitious Maasai. We smiled, fingered the trinkets, but I don’t believe any of us bought anything.

Adventure personified–the day of the safari in Nairobi, Kenya on the continent of Africa.

Dancing with the Maasai

Jet lag is a reality as is demonstrated in my own life by the fact that it is now 5:06 am on Tuesday and that I have been awake since 2:00 and up since a bit after 3:00. Our delightful 12-day trip to Africa and Italy  ended on Friday with a smooth landing at LAX. Rebecca and Nathaniel were there to drive us to our home, and when I opened the car door there was Winston, our great dog, wagging his tail–indeed his entire body. Bek had tied a big red bow around his neck, and he wore a sign that read Welcome Home. Jet lag tends to be worse as one travels eastward, as certainly was the case with our entire group our first few days in Nairobi. Many of us were awake for long periods around 2:00 in the morning. East to West typically is less taxing, and I have done very well until this morning. So, since I hate to lie wakeful in bed, I’ve been up drinking coffee, reading, praying, and reviewing this glorious trip.

DSC_6255On Thursday two vans picked up our group of 11 to take us to Nairobi National Park for a Safari. After our drivers had parked the vans and before we entered the safari area, we joined with a group of persons who were entertaining near the admission gate. I first went into a restroom and when I came out, there was Jerry right in the middle of the dancers, who I learned were of the Maasai tribe. Many Maasai live in the Kenya area. As we traveled into the city proper one day on what is considered a main highway I was startled to see numbers of cattle roaming about. I learned then that the cardinal means of living for the Maasai is cattle herding, and that they consider any open ground as fair game to graze their herds.

DSC_6256They are beautiful, tall lean people who are extremely agile as is demonstrated by their high leaping and jumping.

Someone pushed me into the dance group. The dancers circled us and dressed us in their garb and soon began chanting, leaping, and dancing. Jerry and I did our best to dance the African steps, but a couple of videos I have seen of our efforts were little short of abysmal.

DSC_6273DSC_6264DSC_6267The dancers gathered about Jerry at the conclusion of the dances, and as he dug around in his pockets for tip money and considered a shilling of 10, they indicated no. Two 10s would be better. And so it was!

The People, The Market

We’re so attached to Winston, that both Jerry and I were sad when we dropped him off at Rebecca’s, but he’ll be fine, for Rebecca’s dog, Paisley, is Winston’s sister, and they love being together. Sweet Nathaniel loaded our things into his car, and we were off to LAX. Horrendous traffic, but finally we were there. Met up with Steve and his group, checked documents, obtained boarding passes . . .and we blasted into the sky on a magnificent 747. I’ll never get over my amazement that such creations holding 400 people can move with great precision across the globe.

A trip such as this one has been described as brutal, for it calls for virtually traveling from one side of the world to the other. A few details may help you see this. We left LAX at 11:00, flew up the coast to San Francisco. From there a ten-hour to Frankfurt, and from there to Nairobi, an 8 hour flight. By the time we arrived in our room, it was Tuesday evening, and we had left our home 24 hours before. It definitely was the longest time of air travel for me, but I was surprised at how well I felt when I plopped into a comfy bed at midnight. Worth every second of the grueling day.

Before I finish writing of this trip I will endeavor to express my love and appreciation for our hosts here, Brother and Sister Aston Ngota, and will strive to describe to some extent the compound here; the printing room, the beautiful church, the kitchen, the chickens, the building in which we have a 2 bedroom suite, as do Steve and Dearrah. Gracious and godly people.  Brother Aston and his staff picked us up at the airport, midst a mild cool rain; Sister Aston met us at our rooms in which she had placed hot chicken soup, fruit, sandwiches and other fine things.

The picture below is of the building in which we’re staying, looking back on the trail that leads to the kitchen where we have been served delicious meals.

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The conferece does not start until Friday, so we have a couple of days for some sight-seeing. Wednesday the church graciously supplied two church vans, along with drivers to show us around a bit. Highlight of the day was a visit to one of the markets.

An interesting moment occured when the young girl in the white shirt pictured above beside me complained that I did not buy anything from her stall and that I was just taking pictures and would probably charge for them. I am careful of people’s feelings when I take pictures in such situations, and if I am close range to a person and want to photograph them, I ask their permission, as I had done of the lady in the booth to which this young girl referred. Steve joined the conversation and offered to have me photograph them. They declined, then their vibrant friendly brother pulled on a hat and said, “Take my picture.” I did and told him I would send it to him if he gave me his email address. The conversation with all of them became sweet and tender as you can see. Bottom line: We gathered about them, Steve led in prayer, and they have promised to attend one night of the conference.

Thursday plans: A safari!

A Day of Beauty

A couple of errands I needed to run led me traipsing about the majestic San Bernardino Mountains today, in particular through Crestline and Blue Jay, then into Lake Arrowhead. The weather was perfect; azure skies against which now are flung golden leaves and red and scarlet.

dsc_4633dsc_4638Along the roadway I traveled, a rusted truck stays parked. Today I noted a person near the pumpkins that were in the back of the truck, so I pulled in beside it to say a friendly hello to my fellow mountaineer. As I drew closer I was surprised to see other “persons” in the truck cab. They were of a friendly nature and didn’t seem to mind my snapping a few shots.

dsc_4628dsc_4630A splendid cabin set nearby, and once a young man walked close to me, and asked if I needed help. “No, just taking a few pictures. Thank you,” I replied.

“Have a good day, Ma’am.” He grinned and returned to his work.

Within a couple of hours I was home again. I’m quite interested in our world, try to stay abreast of what’s going on around me, and of course current news reports are jammed with accounts of our election progress. No one asked me, but I’ll tell you anyway; the whole thing is a mess. I’m sad at the depths to which our glorious country has fallen.

So . . .tonight I checked out of all that. Jerry built a roaring fire from eucalyptus wood our son Steve brought to us a few weeks ago. Indeed, it is glorious. The perfect ending to a beautiful day.

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Is Fall My Favorite Season?

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Jerry went ahead of me into the lodge where we would eat lunch. “Let me tromp around a bit with my camera. I’ll meet you inside in half hour or so,” I had said to him.

Beams of noonday sun danced among newly fallen leaves, fiery orange and yellow. Acorns and pine cones and wispy weeds with seed heads of harvest lay spread about, and I reflected again: autumn is my favorite season . . .but again there is majestic winter . . .the pulsing bud of spring . . .the languid sweet days of summer . . .

And you? What is your favorite season? Can you decide?

The Fall of the Acorns

dsc_4599Through the night they fall from high oak trees, clang onto our roof, then bounce onto one of the decks, or onto the driveway that leads to the house. In the morning Jerry will sweep them up . . .again. The winds have increased, the temperature has dropped. Autumn, beautiful autumn, has arrived. The scent of ripening pears from our tree in the back floats through the air. The pears are perfection. Sometimes we eat one out of hand, or again on a small plate beside a slice of cheddar or a scoop of goat cheese.

Day 11 of 16 with the Grands *The Savages are Restless*

A touch of tension in the ranks today. Youngsters appear to be growing bored and are pushing the limits Pappy has set for using the computers and the iPads. “Two hours a day is your limit,” he growled a little bit.

“Go upstairs to the game room and get out a game or two. Find something we can all play, and I’ll play with you,” I told them.

So, for much of the afternoon, we four played Phase 10. I love games, so it was not a sacrifice for me . . .except that finally I was a bit bored.

Yesterday I developed a sore throat and an ear ache; today I finally admitted to have caught a cold. Quite a surprise, for it has been years since I’ve had either a cold or the flu. Not bad, though, I’m still functioning.