Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Going the Distance

Brian has been attempting to teach me how to steelhead fish for about a year now.  I would love to say that I'm getting the hang of it, but that would be a lie.  The more time I spend in waders, wallowing in ice cold waters, I realize how much about this sport I do not understand.  I know enough now to know it isn't easy and that I do plenty of things wrong.  It's easier being ignorant -- then one can enjoy oneself, not realizing how stupid one looks.  Or the fact that in one year I have yet to catch a fish. 

Last weekend Brian and I headed out for some time on the river.  We waded and hiked and found what looked to be a lovely spot.  I casted.  And casted some more.  Some. More.  Nothing.  I kept watching the things that my handsome instructor had warned me about -- my pole, my bobber, my line.  Not so good.  I kept trying to fix my errors.  On top of that, everything else was so distracting.  There were geese, and a beaver, and a multitude of bobbers floating orphaned down the river (must have been other wives out there losing their husband's tackle).  When I finally hung up my line on a rock and the hunky instructor had to free it (lest my bobber join the others on an oceanic migration), I gave up.  I put myself in time out and pouted along the shore while the real fisherman in the family continued to work his fishing magic.  The only thing I caught that day was a crawdad...that had no pincers.  Pathetic. 

I lamented all the way home about not being able to learn this type of fishing.  Maybe I'm  too old to learn new things.  I have plenty of activities I enjoy that I know how to do.  Perhaps I should stick with those and just tag along and observe instead of participating.  We unloaded our gear and headed outside to work on weekend projects.   Brian started laying out fencing for a repair that needed to be done.  I sat on the woodpile, still grumpy, and finished my coffee.  I noticed that the pile of firewood had started to cure and looked dry enough to split -- thanks to our unseasonably warm weather.  I dug out the splitting tools and started taking whacks at some of the rounds.  At first it was slow going and I didn't make much progress; however, I've had lots of practice over the last couple of years and I adjusted my technique.  Soon enough a little pile of split wood started piling up.  Encouraged, I kept chopping.  I chopped and hacked for over four hours.  The boys even caught my enthusiasm and joined in for a bit.  The whole time I blew off some steam  and found contentment in my accomplishment.   The more I did, the more I wanted to do. Success!

Finally I was worn out.  I stepped back and admired...yes pile.  Then I made the connection and heard that quiet voice reminding me of the distance He has carried me.  I remember being so frustrated after Marc died.  I was left with having to chop wood and kindling all by myself.  I had never done it before.  It was frustrating to learn, but rewarding when I figured it out.  A lot has changed since this post.  I chop lots of kindling now.  And firewood.  Not only that, but my boys have learned.  I was able to teach them and it is so fun to watch them contributing like adults.  Men.  Ugh.   It's amazing to me to see how far we have come.  Sometimes I just need to take a step back and survey the valley from this mountaintop....and give abundant thanks. 

So, this weekend I'm going to take a deep breath, find my humility, and cast my line for steelhead again.  Maybe I'll catch something.  Maybe I won't.  But, I know if I give up I'll never have the satisfaction of knowing that success. 

 Catch of the Day...
Crawdad sans pincers. 

 The most patient and kind fishing instructor EVER. 
Also chivalrous....he won't even wear his good waders and gear when he's with me.  He wears these dumb LEAKY hip boots.  Why?  Cuz I don't have a fancy set up and he won't enjoy the luxury of Simms waders without me.  Don't try to understand the logic folks.....

Toddler Adam.  Checking out the wood pile.

Teenage Adam.  Delving in to help his old mom.  
How far we've come.

 My glorious woodpile.
Complete with heavenly light streaming down on it.
Hallelujah! Amen. 

With love and gratitude....

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

The Best Gift

I wasn't going to post anything regarding Valentine's Day this year.  Being my practical self I figured I had posted last year.   Since my feelings haven't changed, that should suffice....right?  As I was settling into this logical thought process,  I had a revelation.  Perhaps this is how the fun fades from a a relationship.  It's not that the loving feelings change.  It's not that appreciation or admiration wanes.  It's that we've said  all the sweet things so many times over the years.  What more is there to say?  Why say the same things over and over again?  They know, right?

After really thinking about it, I guess I have to make a confession.  I NEVER tire of hearing my husband tell me that he loves me.  I am always so happy to see his daily texts and to take his calls.  He tells me I'm an amazing wife.  He tells me he loves me and that I'm the best.  He compliments me frequently -- whether it's my cooking or my figure.  That never gets old.  Despite feeling self conscious and awkward....I like it.  He makes me feel special and safe. And it's not just his words.  He isn't all talk.  His actions show me every single day that I can count on him.  He doesn't let me down.  So, if his words of affirmation make me feel so great, why wouldn't the same be true for him?  Why would I ever withhold any positive or kind word?  There is no reason on earth to be stingy with words of appreciation and admiration.

It's in that spirit that I am writing this post.  I  want to make sure  I don't ever stop expressing my gratitude, respect, and love, for my husband.  He has been a tremendous blessing to me and the kids. Last year I wrote this post about him.   Another year has gone by and I remain grateful and happy to be his wife.   Not much has changed.  He is still the same great guy -- I just love him more.  I still dislike and find no use for Valentine's Day.  But, I still feel abundantly loved by my husband....on Valentine's Day and EVERY day.   I still love the same wonderful qualities about Brian. He's kind, thoughtful, hard working, affectionate, and supportive.  He makes me laugh -- even when I would rather not.  He is a gift to me.  Life would look a whole lot different without him in my life -- not nearly as happy.  He didn't have to choose me.  He didn't have to take on more children and responsibility.  But he did.  And because he did, he made so many things infinitely better.   I just hope he knows every single day how much he is loved and very much appreciated for all the good he does for everyone.  Like I said....he's a gift.   Lord, let me never forget it...and let me never take him for granted!

No bells and whistles.
It's still love in pastel yellow.....

As always....feeling lots of love and gratitude....

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

My Cups Run Over

I'm not big on collecting things.  I can't say I've ever had an official collection of items that I treasure.  I tend to get overwhelmed quickly by clutter and anything of mass -- my reaction being to pitch stuff out....not to keep it.  So, I was amused this week to realize that I am the owner of a collection.  And, much to my chagrin, I kind of treasure it.  It's been a long time in the making and it wasn't intentional.  It just sort of happened (and no, it's not my numerous children....I know how those happened and they were all intentional...for the most part).

Here it is.  I collect mugs.  I have a cupboard full to overflowing with mugs!   Now, before you roll your eyes and get all disappointed that it's nothing more profound, bear with me.  These mugs represent more than just pottery in a cupboard.  They are gifts from friends and family.  Each one takes me to a special time in my life.  When I sit down and have a cup of coffee I am reminded of life's twists and turns.  I get to remember where I've been, how I got here, and who I got here with.  The collection is random, eclectic, and quaint.  It reminds me of how amazing and varied my relationships are.  I laugh at the variety within the collection -- each one as unique as the person I associate it with. 

This is Brian's cup.   It used to be mine.  My mom gave it to me when I graduated college and was struggling to carve out a career and a life of my own.  I can remember clearly being so broke that I only had $5 left to my name after I paid all my bills.  I had to get really creative with that 5 bucks!  This little mug sat on my desk for years.  It always reminded me not to give up hope.   I'm glad I didn't give up -- the fight has always been worth it.  I'm so grateful for my mom and family that always encouraged me to hold on tight to my dreams and hopes.  My dreams look different now, but I cling to the same Hope.

My friend, Kathy, gave this to me.  She worked with me right out of college and became my roommate.  We both struggled as new college graduates, working at the same miserable job.  She spent her spare $5 on me for a Christmas gift:  This mug.  I still use it frequently and remember her every time.  I don't know what happened to her.  When I married Marc we parted ways.  She moved out of town and we lost touch.  So, Kathy, if you're out there and reading this -- Thanks for the friendship and memories.....and mug! Hope you're doing well!

This is a mug I use frequently.  It was Marc's.  His sister Michele gave it to him for his 36th birthday.  It's a huge, heavy thing.  We acquired two more from the same artist over several years, but his one is my favorite.  It holds a LOT of coffee...something I need to keep going these days.

These two mugs were made by my friend, Elo.  She made them at a craft get-together with our friends.  I couldn't go.  Marc was sick.  She stepped in and made mine for me.  Mine has a picture of me riding my lawn mower.  Marc's shows our family hiking.  I love these mugs and I have them prominently displayed, but I refuse to use them.  They haven't been used.  Not once. 

This mug was also handmade by my friend, Mel.  Mel and I have been friends for over thirty years.  She has seen me through most of the stages -- awkward and otherwise -- of my life.  When I married Brian I became an instant grandmother -- much to everyone's amusement.  We laughed about me being called "Grandma."  Sigh.  Wasn't planning on that term of endearment at age 40.  Mel came up with the nickname "Meemaw" and made me a darling mug for me to celebrate my new status.   Unfortunately the trendy name did not stick.  Grandma it is.  But, I have this cool mug and it makes me chuckle every time I see it.  

This mug was handmade by Kami.  It was a Mother's Day gift and I love it.  She did a beautiful job and it means so much to me.  As a step-mom I was so touched that she would honor me with a gift.  Being acknowledged at that level....was...well....WOW!  

Kami also got me this sweet little mug at Starbucks.  I'm infamous for being thrifty and had been eying this mug for weeks.  I just couldn't justify spending the money.  Kami took note and kept tabs on the price. She managed to buy it for me on clearance and surprised me.  I just think it's cool.  I probably wouldn't have bought it on my own.  So, when I use it I feel totally spoiled and frivolous!

This hot little number was a gift from Adam and Ben at Christmas.  There are no words.  It makes me laugh...hard.   Haven't quite figured out how to drink from it yet.  I try to class it up by drinking tea in it -- Earl Grey nonetheless.  It takes up two spaces in the dishwasher.  But, I love it.   It's from two amazing men that I adore and they picked it out just for me.  It's impractical, it's pink, and it makes me smile.  These days that's enough!

This travel mug I picked up when I was in Indiana this fall.  My uncle passed away suddenly and I was able to attend his funeral and spend time with family.  During that week my sweet aunt and I ducked out one morning for a talk.  I have always had a special place for my aunt in my heart -- she has always understood me.    Watching her grieve her husband of 52 years was difficult.  Though we have been through the same loss, I felt totally inadequate to comfort her.  We drove around town just chatting and ended up at Dunkin' Donuts.  We don't have DD in our area anymore.  It was fun to stack my aunt's coupons (she is also infamously thrifty) and come away with free coffee, jelly filled donuts, and a mug.  I will always remember that time with my favorite aunt.  Despite the fact we were grieving we had a great visit, several laughs, and many donuts.  I won't ever forget that day or that time with her.  Special.

Well, there's a lot more mugs in my cupboard -- some old, some new.  Life's kind of like that, though.  Loved ones and memories accumulate over time and before you know it you've got a beautiful collection.  I am always humbled by how blessed I am to have so many amazing people in my life.  I give thanks to God every day for his abundant mercies and gifts.  My cup runs over....

With love and gratitude....

Monday, December 29, 2014

Better Memories

I haven't posted since September.  I promised myself after we got all the kids back in school that I was going to rein in my tendency to overschedule and overextend myself.  Things have been so busy for....years.  Life continues to come at us full force and I have struggled with getting overwhelmed.  Some folks thrive on having full schedules and activity.  I am not one of those.  I have always enjoyed a good measure of solitary time.  I like having time to drink a cup of coffee in a cup that is not a travel mug.  I like watching my horses munch their hay, petting my dogs, and puttering in my garden.  I like keeping my house organized, fixing stuff instead of replacing it, and dropping handwritten notes to loved ones.  I like a slower life. 

I made some significant changes this year with the support of my husband and kids.  I said no to many things that I could have fit in my schedule, but knew would stress me out. I neglected this blog.   I did not host Thanksgiving as I have for my entire adult life.  I only spent 20 minutes at the mall shopping at Christmas -- everything else came by mail.  I didn't do Christmas cards.  I didn't bake every version of Christmas cookie that has become traditional in our home -- I picked three recipes and called it quits.  We missed church during the Advent in lieu of staying home as a family to rest. Instead of church we piled on the couch and watched The Nativity.  I felt no guilt...only peace and relief.  Christmas day was a change, too.  We did not allow any company until the afternoon.  Instead of an enormous formal dinner, we opted for ham and two sides on paper plates (gasp!).  Again, no guilty feeling.  Again only peace -- especially after I saw that everyone was content with the changes and that nobody went hungry.  It was a really great day!

I think sometimes we get the mindset that we have to do it all and do it all the time.  I'm taking a break from that mentality.  As a Christian I'm supposed to reflect Christ in my thoughts and actions.  A stressed out, exhausted mama rarely exhibits the love of Christ.  I have come to the realization that only God is capable of all things.  I am not. 

By stepping back a bit this fall and Christmas season I was able to enjoy it so much more.  The old adage that "less is more" really became a reality for me.  I was better able to prioritize, was more productive and intentional, didn't fret as much as in years past.  I felt better, laughed more, and looked forward to the holidays more this year than I can recall in recent years.  I have let a lot of stuff go.  I have come face to face with my humanity and all my limitations.  I'm okay with it.  Jesus loves me just as I am.  What's ironic is that by letting go of my own agenda there is more time for His.  Funny how that works. 

Christmas Highlights....

Our family picture in front of our not-so-Christmas tree.  After this photo we decided against this tree and went for another. We were too lazy pose again with the actual article, so this is it!
Adam after cutting our actual tree.  Looking just like his dad!

Why we have children.  Starting to earn some dividends from our offspring investment!

I found this on a gift bag from a few years ago.  Made me smile and tear up at the same time.  Some things change.  Some things are constant.  This note has elements of both.
It was fun waking up Christmas Eve to snow!  Not common in Oregon.  It lasted all morning.  A great backdrop for our holiday preparations.  It completed our festive mood. quick as it showed up it was gone.  A great memory.....
We took a break mid week and did some horsin' around.  Sophie enjoyed a few minutes of rest with her buddy, Rosie.  

I can't tell you how much I love seeing this gal smile.  As a family we have faced some more hard news this year.  I admire my mother-in-law for her courage and grace.  She is one amazing lady.

It was good to see Tawny, Kami, Blaine, and Shayne.  With two out of state and everyone busy, it's rare for all of us to be together.  Grateful for the time we get!
My dad rocked the Santa costume this year!  He was made for this!  I can't think of anyone that is better suited to play this character.  My dad loves Christmas and has always delighted in the traditions and excitement of the day.  Thanks, Dad, for making our Christmas fun and blessing other kids with your energy and enthusiasm!
Santa would not be complete without his Missus.  Such a sweet elfin couple :)

The best part of Christmas was the following day.  Brian and I got to get away for the day -- courtesy of my sister-in-law, Deb.  She watched the girls so we could sneak away for some bird hunting and hiking.  It felt great to get outdoors and spend some time together....and burn off a few calories. 
On a sidenote, I need to thank my husband for giving me the ability to enjoy this holiday season.  It was truly his greatest gift to me.  Without his support and encouragement I would have likely stayed in my usual exhausted rut this season.  I am grateful for the changes.  I'm grateful for him.....
With love and gratitude.....

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Four Years

Marc Andrew Griffith
May 17, 1966-September 30, 2010

Well, it's been four years today that Marc passed away.  Four years.  Wow!  A lot can happen in four years.  A lot has happened.  The kids and I talked on the way to school this morning about where we were four years ago and where we are now.  We all agreed that we are doing great and that we are.....simply...happy.  Yes, we still have our days and our loss has marked us for as long as we live, but we think it has marked us in a good way.  I think Marc would be comforted to see that he is still missed every day, but that his absence has not destroyed our ability to live and move forward. 

We all have choices to make in this life.  We can choose to let our losses and sorrows keep us from living, or we can decide to live the precious time God has given us for good and His glory.  The kids and I agree that the best way to honor Marc is to live our lives fully; firmly rooted in God's promises.   I think the greatest lessons I learned from Marc's life were to love and to serve.  From his illness and death, I learned that life is short here on this earth.  None of us know what tomorrow may bring.  Be content in this day -- grateful for it.  In a couple of generations there will not be anybody left to remember Marc.  There won't be anyone to remember me...or you.   For most of us, our lives aren't defined by our broad monumental contributions.  They are defined by moments and choices -- speaking kindly, choosing grace, controlling our temper, minding our words, not gossiping, serving, making the hard choices, being generous, being patient, loving.  Life is in the   Life is all about the day God has given us.  What will you do with yours?




Remembering all the good that a well lived life can do. Marc -- thank you for the memories and your legacy.  We hope we would make you proud if you could see us now!

Sunday, July 13, 2014

All The Pretty Ponies

I am watching my girl grow up before my eyes.  I've realized as I have been riding with her this summer just how grown up she is.  I can remember her first horseback ride when she was just a toddler -- she was in love with horses from the start.  Now I watch as she rides without fear.  I am both very proud and very much afraid.......but mostly proud.  They grow up so fast!

Julia and Bonnie.  2014.
Finally a horse to call her own.

Julia and Marc's horse, Truffles.  2009.
Struggling to get that big stubborn horse to listen!  Truffles had a mind of her own.

Julia and sweet Annie.  2006.
This sweet pony got my girl hooked on riding.
I believe she has the hang of it!  These two are quite the pair. 

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Life. Keep it Coming.

Sometimes I have to just sit and count my blessings.  God's mercies seem overwhelming at times -- especially when I really start to think about them.  I marvel sometimes at the tapestry God weaves out of our lives.  Looking back on difficult times helps me appreciate how He has used our trials for good.  Lately we have been able to really appreciate the good.  In light of the valleys we have been through, the high ground seems so much more beautiful.  We are enjoying some sweet times and a refreshing perspective these days!

Over the Fourth of July weekend we went up the mountain to horse camp with John and Sheila & Co.  I've known John and Sheila for what seems like forever.  Before we had kids we hiked, camped, and hit the trails on our horses.  After I became pregnant with the twins we remained close friends, but the productivity of our relationship waned.  We used to be able to play and work together as two couples -- camping, hiking, riding, working on house projects, farm projects, putting up hay.  After the boys were born it has been years of juggling life's demands between the four of us.  First I was pregnant and breastfeeding.  The next year was Sheila's turn.  Then mine.  Then hers.  Mine again.  Hers.  As our brood grew we would take turns watching the kids while the more "able" mom helped with hay or projects.  Then we built houses.  We went first, then John and Sheila.  Marc got sick and he became the focus.  John and Sheila helped us during that time just as they always have done.  Then, Sheila followed suit with a devastating breast cancer diagnosis.  Life.  It just keeps coming. 

During this crazy time of our lives we have always been friends -- always circling round to help each other out and enjoying each other's company.  Every time we meet up we reminisce about the days when we would go on adventures, or work nonstop, without worrying about nap schedules or little ones underfoot.  We talked about the hope of future days when the kids would be old enough to join us on long hikes or horseback rides.  On our bucket list was the ability to horse camp again.  With small children and full lives it always seemed too cumbersome and hard to pack the kids, horses, and all the equipment.  "Someday," we said.  Someday.

When Sheila got sick we focused on her year of treatment.  At the end of treatment we vowed that we would go riding and camping.  The bucket list that we had put off because of life's responsibilities was now the reward at the end of a grueling treatment cycle.  Sheila finished her very last treatment this week.  She is healthy -- infusions complete and surgery behind her.  She is a survivor.  Life.  It just keeps coming. 

So, over the Fourth we made good on our promise to get out and enjoy our families and our animals.  We headed up to Mt. Hood with four horses, seven children, three dogs, and four optimistic (or naive) adults.  It was a great time!  Everything worked out great -- a success all the way around.  I kept thinking to myself during our trip that we actually did it.  I was amazed.  Wow.  After so many years and lots of challenging times, we actually got to enjoy what we love.  Who would have thought it?

Sheila and I took the girls out for two days of riding.  The second day was a fifteen mile ride!  I think I overindulged!  Ouch!!!  John took the older boys and did a twelve mile hike.  Brian and Kami took the two youngest kids and played at the lake and rested at camp.  By the way...a big thank you to my sweet husband for making this trip easy and enjoyable for everyone.  Without his help we couldn't have made this weekend a success.  He's amazing.  I did manage to get Brian out for a bit of a ride Friday night.  It was nice to ride away from camp for a bit of time together while the kids hung out at camp.  Sweet freedom.  Those moments are much appreciated.

Some pictures from then and now.  My how we have changed!


Sweethearts.  1999.  Awwwww.
John, Simon, and Skipper.
Our last trail ride before we had kids. 

Our last trail ride at Timothy Lake.  1999.
I was four weeks pregnant and hadn't a clue.  

Sheila and Allison over the weekend.
Looking good!

Julia and me.  Saddle sores and all!

A snapshot from my evening ride with my hubby.
Peaceful and anomaly for us. Sigh.
Last but not least....
We had another significant triumph over the weekend.   Like I mentioned, Sheila and I have spent the last 14 years swapping childcare duties so that one of us could help the guys.  This has been especially true during hay season.  When we arrived home from camping this weekend our hay was cut, baled, and ready to load out in the fields.  John and Brian had to work Monday so Sheila and I headed to the fields with the kids!  Everybody pitched in and we loaded and unloaded everything in just a few short hours.  Just us girls and our seven kiddos.  I feel like we have arrived!  Where...I don't know, but wherever it is I'm happy in this new place.  Life.  It just keeps on coming.....


How far we have come.....Wow.
Great friends and amazing kids.  Love each one of them!
With love and gratitude....