Sunday, December 25, 2016

Christmas! Yee Hah!

We have arrived at the point at which it makes more sense for us to travel for Christmas than our kids and their kids. That means we're officially old.
This year we did the lazy thing and drove the two hours to Jacksonville, on the North Carolina coast, where our daughter, her husband and their four kids live.  On the lead-up to the Big Day! we took walks, 
slid on slides, 
swung on swings, 
rode bikes, played Monopoly (warning: Paula cheats, I think) and wrapped presents.
Oh, and ate way too much of everything.  At every meal.  And in between.
Christmas morning finally arrived!!  The kids awakened at the usual zero AM, but house rules delayed the bedroom breakout until 7:00 AM, as determined by NIST-F1, a cesium fountain clock in the National Institute of Standards and Technology in Boulder, Colorado, and with which, I believe, every kid in the US is connected on December 25.  
You know, it's hard to predict what is going to ring someone's chimes.  Take duct tape, which when I last looked, was near the top of The 100 Things Least Likely to Appear on a Six-Year-Old Boy's Christmas List.  However, Brynn's younger son was ecstatic, being an imaginative kid who loves to make strange things with cardboard and other easily-obtained materials. 
I ignored the other list, The Top 100 Things Least Likely to Appear On A Refined, Beautiful Woman's Christmas List, and hit a home run.  That's right - WADERS!!
Wow!  Lovely!  Let me 'splain, as Rick Ricardo would have said.  Unable to tolerate any disorder in her gardens, Paula finds it frequently necessary to clean pine straw and weeds from around the pond in her Japanese garden. 
However, this is not without its hazards.  (Actual simulated picture of Paula falling in pond.)
Hence the waders, and believe it or not, she loved them.  
Also, being a Careful Person, who follows the rules, she read the Warnings and Instructions, in Spanish and English.  For waders?! 
I was the recipient of much generosity and thoughtfulness on the part of my family (more later).  On the other hand, I received this, yes, the ugliest watch yet constructed by man. I had successfully gotten rid of it back to an Elder who had 'accidentally' left it in the mission home in Huancayo after I made appropriately disparaging comments concerning it's utter ugliness and remarked that whoever sold it to him for about $2.00 must be still laughing.
He must have accidentally sent it to me.  I'll need to return it at some point...
It's been a great Christmas, and we hope yours is as joyful.
Dave & Paula

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Thanksgiving, a bit late

So, what do they call it in South America?  It's "Dia de Acción de Gracias," or "Day of Action of Thanks," or something like that.  They've heard of it, but it's no big deal.  
Unless you're a missionary from Brazil, and it's the first time for grilled turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, sweet potato casserole and pecan pie.  "OK, that's it," said he, "I'm marrying a North American."
Interestingly, such a meal had the same effect in the Southern Hemisphere as the Northern.
What a treat it was to go to my brother's place in Maryland for the first time since 2010, with the usual gathering of family and fun stuff.  My sister Kathleen brought husband Bruce and her Siberian Huskies.
They (the dogs) thought it was great fun for about five minutes, then it was work.
There was a birthday to be celebrated,

and new grandbabies with whom to become acquainted.
There were fun things to do,
and of course too much food.
My brother Mark is one of my very best friends.  He's an orthopaedic surgeon (he says that's how you spell it) with a million projects.  This one was making camping stoves out of soda cans.  The initial design was of course the subject of experimental improvement,
until voila! the Mark IV model gave the desired results, all for pennies for the materials, and about $4,358.00 for the combined going hourly rate for an orthopaedic surgeon and an OB-GYN.
Mark lives on a beautiful large bay off the lower Potomac River, and loves to kiteboard, a sport I am still struggling to master.  The winds were good, so we loaded up the kite/bike trailer and headed out to the state park nearby.  For full disclosure, I just watched.
We knew it was a great visit because we were exhausted when we finally left for home, and because I was full of ideas on how to further complicate my life, thanks to my brother.
We hope your Thanksgiving was as much fun.
Dave & Paula

Saturday, December 17, 2016

One of the oldest professions

So, as far as I can tell, this whole gardening thing goes way back.  Genesis chapter 2 mentions how the Garden was planted, and then chapter 3 says that after the fall, unfortunately "Thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth." 
Try as I might, I couldn't find an actual photograph of Adam gardening, so this will have to do.  
The point here is that gardening goes way back, and so it is in our family.  In my college dorm room, I rebelled against the aridity of Utah and had bean plants and their F1 generations going up my curtains.
Paula was the same way For a wedding present, I gave her several Ficus and Schefflera that were in the family for some 33 years, until we gave them away while preparing to leave for South America.  
Upon returning, the grounds of the house had been cared for, but not to the degree Paula would have liked.  One of the first tasks was to rein in the Liriope spicata which had invaded the lawn, and to limit it for the future with a mowing curb.  (Note: I am not in that picture and how dare you assume that I gained that much weight in Peru.)
Next, trees came down, previously referred to.  Then trees came up. 
The guy at the wholesale nursery said, "Yeah, sure, you can put it in her Tacoma, but the this next one is going to weight about 450 lbs."  Luckily, Paula has been continuing to lift weights twice a week.
Then, the beds around the house had to be severely disciplined.
Between missions, the bridge on the pond had rotted, 
and I built a new one to her specifications.  Not nearly as arched as the old one, or as much fun to watch - people don't slip and fall on this one.
Most people in these normally-warm parts of the country like North Carolina hate to see winter close in and prevent outside puttering.  I am considering it a chance for deep recovery.  I fear spring...

Thursday, December 1, 2016

The days are getting shorter

For me, this season has always seemed bittersweet, as autumn fades and things buckle down for the winter. 
This morning we did a five mile hike from home around a local lake where there were groups of geese forming up on the water.  They would talk more and more excitedly, then in a loud flurry take off from the water, low and heading south. 
There remained just a few stragglers by the time we rounded the lake, from the several hundred that had hung around for the summer.
We headed home, had a warm breakfast, and began the day.
We hope that you, too are tucking in snugly for the winter.
Dave & Paula

Thursday, November 17, 2016

How did I have time to have a job?!

That was a quote from my father after he retired, and describes how I feel at the moment.  When we arrived home, we first had to unpack all the boxes,
and figure out where everything had been stored.  "Yee hah!  I found some sheets! Now where are those towels?"
When we arrived, we thought we smelled some natural gas, and continued to do so occasionally.  We finally called the gas company, and within 15 minutes, the guy was here. After his evaluation, he said, "This is probably the biggest gas leak at a house that I have ever seen!  You people are lucky you didn't blow up your house and half the neighborhood." About $575 to the plumber later, all was set right.  Stuff just doesn't last like it used to; those pipes were only 53 years old!
The beloved microwave had become petulant during our absence, but with flattering words, and sending its control board to the Bronx with some $$, we were back in business.
During the five years, the trees grew a little.  Make that a lot.  So we called our buddy Bobby Anderson and he came out with the crew and took care of things.
I was impressed by their courage and technique,
and they took everything down that we indicated without damaging anything.
OK, almost anything.  In grinding a stump, they also ground up a drain pipe I had installed years ago, and it had to be excavated and repaired.  The smile is fake, only for the camera.
When they took out some big trees, a corner of the lot looked, well, naked.  I extended the fence with a new section, and didn't swear once during the process. Thought about it, didn't do it.
And, naturally, you can't just leave a bare spot like that, correct?  Certainly not if your name is Paula Henderson, so off we went to the North Carolina Arboretum to scout out possible things to plant there.
Stuff just doesn't last like it used to, you know? and we realized that the roof needed replaced after only 26 years. I guess the time in South America has finally proven useful, as I could communicate with the foreman on the job.
However, it was the usual big mess for a while.
Sheesh!  I think I may need to get a job to get some rest.
We hope that your retirement is as busy.  No, really!
Dave & Paula