How to train a Grammie~

The grand~ones have been wanting a bunny.

“Please, Grammie, can’t we have a bunny? You could keep it at your house, and we’ll take care of it!”

I know what you are thinking… but a bunny would be a nice addition to our little menagerie, right?  Of course it would.  But you can’t just get a bunny.  You have to have supplies.  A hutch, food, bedding, not to mention carrots!  So this is what I’d reply when the bunny begging began.  We have to prepare, and we will… maybe in the spring… Then I saw a friend’s post on Facebook.

‘Looking for a good home for Harvey. A very sweet bunny. Comes with hutch, and supplies. Neutered and chipped. Free to good home.’

And so we have a rabbit.  Harvey was delivered lock, stock and hutch Sunday morning, just a month short of spring.  He is very sweet, and coming from a dog friendly home, he’s not bothered in the least by Sparky and his inquisitive sniffing.  The grand~ones are in heaven, holding him, petting him, and cuddling with him in Papa’s big chair.  The boys ordered a harness on their Amazon account, so Harvey can go on walks (or should I say ‘hops’) with us, and Paige is researching rabbit training videos so she can teach him tricks.  His hutch is just outside the backdoor, so he gets to be in on the comings and goings of a busy household.

Harvey joins a couple of house cats, Jolly and Gizmo, Sparky the dog, and fourteen nice laying hens.  I think he’s in good company.  I know he has found a good home.

Now I am bracing myself for what I know is coming…

“Please, Grammie, can’t we have a goat?  You could keep it at your house, and we’ll take care of it!”

Maybe in the spring…

for Jill~

“The cure for anything is salt water~

Sweat, tears or the sea.”

*Isak Dinesen

     On December 23rd, 2004, Jill shared the news with her family that what she thought was a bad tummy ache, was in fact a tumor on her liver.  The devastating word that accompanied that diagnosis was cancer.  The doctor gave her two months to live.  God gave her four and a half, and for that we are all eternally grateful.  Jill lived her last days on her own terms.  She kept her positive attitude and cheerful disposition.  She served us veggie juice concoctions with fruit juice for dessert.  She tested and shared healthy recipes, still trying to fatten up her hubby, Steve.  But on Sunday, May 1, 2005, May Day, a beautiful sunny day, Jill left us to join her grandmas and grandpas and all the loved ones who have gone ahead to prepare her place in Heaven.

     Jill was born in Everett on February 16, 1959.  She arrived early and spent her first days in an incubator, building strength to go home to meet me, her big sister and brother Mike.  The next year, Gayle joined the family and there were four Campbell kids.  Growing up on twenty acres at the bottom of the Bunk Fosse Road, we made forts and trails in the woods.  After dinner, we all went out to catch frogs, letting them go again before bed, so they could sing us to sleep only to be caught again the next night.  She and Gayle had pet goats named Missy and Spring who performed great tricks, such as prancing across the roof, just like Santa’s reindeer.  She would sing beautiful songs to her pets and for a time took piano lessons from our neighbor, Betty Moe.

     Jill’s lifelong love of cooking began at Grandma Goodie’s house, where we opened a ‘restaurant’ out in the camp trailer and served great feasts of hot dogs and mac and cheese to Grandma and Fred.  She also tested her decorating skills at Grandma’s, not only painting the upstairs bedroom purple, but sewing matching curtains for the window as well.  Jill always followed her own creative path.  When styles changed and girls were sewing clothes from Simplicity patterns, Jill sewed too, but she made her own patterns, creating skirts and purses just right for her.

     Jill was a young mom.  She would laugh about she and Sunny growing up together.  They spent Sunny’s first years in a cozy house off Florence Acres Road.  It was in the park like setting of her backyard that Jill pledged her love to Steve in the summer of 1987.  Steve truly was the love of Jill’s life.  Later they moved to Skykomish, where they turned a run down old house into a mountain mansion  The best part of the house was the river rock fireplace.  Built from rocks they chose one by one from the banks of the Skykomish River, Steve topped his love for Jill with the addition of three heart shaped rocks just below the mantle.  They spent many happy years in this woodland retreat.

     As kids growing up, summers were spent on Guemes Island at Uncle Dave’s cabin.  Learning to swim in the cold salt water, beach combing and hunting for agates were some of her best memories.  For Jill and Steve, heaven was in the San Juan Islands.  They were happiest on their boat cruising and exploring the blue waters and hidden harbors.  Their favorite place was on Cypress Island, where they camped and fished as often as they could.

     The love of cooking that began in Grandma’s little trailer grew into a gourmet talent.  She was in her glory developing new recipes to try on Steve (still hoping, to no avail, to fatten him up).  Jill could taste something once and figure out the necessary ingredients, right down to some obscure seasoning or spice, and recreate it at home.  Her Applebee’s chicken oriental salad is better than the original.

     In 2001, Jill and Steve bought an old farmhouse just up the road from the wooded acreage we Campbell kids grew up on.  As is usually the case when you take on a project from a romantic point of view as opposed to a practical one, there was a bit more work than they anticipated…drain field, plumbing, pipes, heating… but they finally caught up to where Jill’s heart was ~ the kitchen.  She had her wood cook stove fired up, bread rising on the solid wood topped island and row upon row of colorful Ball jars lined up on the wall of shelves Steve built to accommodate her passion.  With her delicious recipes and beautiful displays, Jill was always in demand with friends and family when planning weddings, showers and other gatherings.  We still talk about her bread dough bunny with the tummy hollowed out and filled with dip for the most darling veggie tray ever served on Easter Sunday.

     It’s been almost twelve years since we said good bye. Twelve years of sharing stories of our many good times.  It is the sharing of memories that keeps her with us, while reminding us that life is indeed short, and we must live each day well.  Jill lived life to the fullest, loved everyone to pieces and her only fear at the end was leaving us alone.  She knew she was going to a place of pure light and love.  I think she saw through the veil and found her peace.

     Today, I celebrate 58 years of sisterhood with my sweet Jill.  Happy Birthday, dear one!  You are loved~


Happy Valentine’s Day~

“Grow old with me, the best is yet to be~”

*Robert Browning

Valentine’s Day!  Hearts and flowers, chocolate and kisses, it is a day to remind ourselves of the love all around us.  I remember choosing the valentines to share with my classmates as a kid.  A flat box with twenty four cards, usually an assortment of at least four designs. I loved the ones that had a little velvet or glitter on the front.  The smell from the mimeographed class list would waft above our dining room table as my siblings and I carefully addressed a special card for each classmate. Puppies offering kittens a nosegay, or a cute play on words with a sweet twist, it was almost as fun to give those little cards as it was to receive them.  Almost. At school, our art project would be some sort of mail box to deposit the valentine cards during our class party.  There were shoeboxes covered with red construction paper and paper doilies in heart shapes.  There were heart pockets stapled at the edges, leaving an opening at the top.  There were strips of pink and red construction paper woven and fashioned into a heart shape.  The imagination of our elementary school teachers were endless.  And they were smart, too, scheduling our Valentine’s Day party for the end of the day, so after we passed out cards to our friends and enjoyed cut out cookies sprinkled with sugar tinted red, cupcakes with real frosting and conversation hearts, we could load up on the school bus and head for home, letting the poor bus driver and our moms deal with the sugar overload.  Smart!

I have an old valentine my grandma received as a young girl, and one my dad gave to his grandpa when he was just a tyke.  Simple treasures from simple days. It made me wonder what brought us to this holiday of love, so I read a little history.  It didn’t start out to be so lovely.  269 AD, found St Valentine in prison, awaiting execution for helping Christians in distress. An intelligent man with knowledge of medicine, he cured the blindness suffered by his jailer’s daughter, Julia. Just before his execution, he wrote a card to her, signing it ‘your Valentine’ and enclosed a yellow crocus. This might mark the first Valentine sent.  They say she planted, by his grave, a pink blossoming almond tree, that grows there still, the symbol of abiding love and friendship.

It was Geoffrey Chaucer who added the romance to the holiday in the 14th century, “For this was on St Valentine’s Day, When every bird cometh there to choose his mate.”  The poets and play writes followed, William Shakespeare and John Donne to name two.  In the late 1700’s the romance of the holiday inspired a young English woman named Esther Howland to create beautiful cards of paper, ribbon and lace, to sell in her father’s book and stationary shop. In spite of high postal rates, lovers all across England were sending Valentines, and it wasn’t long before the custom crossed the Atlantic and the American cousins were exchanging sentimental messages.  The Victorian age was all about brick-a-brack and gingerbread, and Valentine cards that survived from that age are truly beautiful.

In folk tradition, February 14 is connected with the coming of spring.  The first bright bulbs are peeking up from their winter nap below the garden and the pussy willow trees are full of soft gray kittens holding tight to naked branches; next up green leaves unfurl.  Frogs are serenading us, another herald of the arrival of spring.

This year I watched my grand-ones carefully copy names from their own class list onto their chosen Valentine, still from a flat box, still an assortment of twenty four.  I am reminded of the old adage, ‘the more things change, the more they stay the same’!

Valentine’s Day!  A day to set aside grievance and offer a hand in friendship.  Sharing love and good wishes, a simple little valentine card sent from the heart just might make all the difference!

Going my way~

Many years ago while on a family road trip through Eastern Washington, we drove a winding country road from Goldendale to Bickleton.  All along the way into this little town, bird houses were anchored on almost every fence post.  Rusted barbed wire sagged between the posts, and resting on the wire were the prettiest little bluebirds I have ever seen. Bickleton is known far and wide as the Bluebird capital of the world, thanks to Jess and Elva Brinkerhoff.  Seeing the birds on their own family road trip in the early 1960’s they began nailing bluebird houses to the posts in the early 1960’s,he bluebird population soars into the thousands, well above the 90 folks who call this remote town home.

My affection for bluebirds goes back even farther, to my childhood, when my mom led a Bluebird group, (young Campfire girls), for me and some girlfriends.  I loved my navy blue outfit, complete with the jaunty cap with the light blue bird embroidered above the bill.  I shopped at the JC Penney store in downtown Everett, where on the mezzanine, there was a selection of merchandise, all things Campfire.  Pens and pins, skirts and vests, all with that darling little bird logo that I loved so much.  I’m pretty sure I can trace my passion for collecting all things bluebird to this early beginning.  I have linens with embroidered birds.  I have dishes with sweet bluebirds nestled among pink blossoms. I have a bluebird breakfast set my mom discovered in an antique store in Aberdeen. I even have a Bluebird soda pop bottle a dear friend sent me from Kansas, where it was a favorite drink when she was young.  Yes, I have a love for all things bluebird!

Can you imagine the thrill I felt when a bluebird couple visited my yard a couple of years ago?  I was in my car, just getting ready to pull onto the road, when a flash of silver caught my eye.  I turned the engine off, and crept around the back of my car. Yes, there she was.  A soft silvery gray bird.  I thought she looked just like a female bluebird, but it couldn’t be, we aren’t in their fly way.  Then he zipped by.  Her magnificent husband, all royal blue with a rosy breast.  I had a pair of bluebirds in my yard!  On that trip to Bickleton all those years before, I had purchased an ‘authentic’ bluebird house.  White bird box, with a bright blue roof.  The post I had attached it to was overgrown by an evergreen, it’s entryway obscured.  I raced in the house, grabbed my hammer, pounded it loose, and moved it out into the open. Lots of room for swooping and flying in.  The pair were not bothered by me at all, while she hopped about the grassy lawn, he inspected the birdhouses on my fence posts, and peeked in the window of our old shed, before resting on my rearview mirror.  I watched them as long as I could, snapping pictures as they explored about, but the morning was slipping by, and I had things to do.  I waved to them as I left, hoping they would take me up on my offer of a cozy homestead.

I’m sorry to report, they did not take up residence in my official Bickleton bluebird house.  I was just a pit stop on their way to somewhere else.  A friend told me they are working to reintroduce them in the San Juan Islands, perhaps this is where they settled down.  I like to think so, and imagine their brilliant blue gliding above the blue salt waters of the bay on a warm summer day.

It’s no wonder these birds are the symbols of happiness.  I keep the thrill of seeing them that morning, tucked in my heart and I look for them every year, just in case they fly by again.  Perched on my mirror, it really was as if he posed the question, “Going my way?” and I would have to answer, “Yes!”


Grandma Goodie~

Today marks what would have been my Grandma Goodie’s 110th birthday.  Born in Peace River, Alberta, February 3, 1907, she said it was so cold her mom kept her in a box by the woodstove in the kitchen during the day and tucked her between her mom and dad at night to keep her warm.  The family rambled around for her first few years before settling in Snohomish when she was twelve, first on Mill Street then on the Homestead on Meadow Lake.  I loved to hear her tell of clearing the land and building their house in that wilderness.  I think the house came in pieces from a structure being dismantled over in Three Lakes.  My great grandpa and her oldest brother Palmer hauled it in a wagon.  In the summer they dined on wild strawberries and cream and swam in the clear water of the lake.  As much as she loved her siblings, especially her brothers, she was thrilled when the path was cleared enough that she could go back to school.  Life long friendships were formed with other kids who lived out in the country wilds.

As kids do, my grandma grew up, and left the family home, first to live in Everett and work in the cannery, then to marry my grandpa and live for a time by the ocean at Pacific Beach.  Family called them back to the area when my dad was born in 1932.  They lived in Everett and on Ruggs Lake Loop in Silver Lake before grandma’s dream of owning her own farm was realized.  The farmhouse and barn stood sturdy on the hill above the flat land along the Snohomish River.  The white framed Lutheran church sat on the fence line behind grandma’s house, creating a scene worthy of a Grandma Moses painting.

When we kids came along, four of us and two cousins, there was no place we’d rather be than grandma’s house.  Hay forts in the barn, bike rides along the river, not to mention a freezer full of goodies… There really was no place we’d rather be, talk about memories!  Of course we kids also grew up, and I’m happy to say my kids have their own Grandma Goodie memories.  Playing in the barn, running through the corn rows, stacking butter crackers and cinnamon toast squares, the list is endless.  I’m so thankful for that gift.

I would love to write that Grandma lived out her days on her beloved farm, playing Go Fish with the great grands until the end, but that was not to be.  A stroke tore her from her farm and she finished her life at a home in town.  ‘Adult Care by the Lake’, she lived on the shore of Blackman’s Lake, just around the bend from the boat launch where we fed the ducks on summer days, and a block from the park where we brought our McDonald’s Happy Meals to picnic on when my kids were little.  Though she didn’t get to stay ‘home’, she was happy and content and close, so family could visit often.  We found comfort in the fact she was warm and cozy and no longer had to work so hard.  She said good bye at ninety two, a good, long life, though I do believe it’s never enough when saying goodbye to someone so loved.  Love you and miss you, Grandma, Happy Birthday!

At the lake, after a visit, May 5, 1997~

It’s raining. The lake catches my tears.  Pieces of a visit float on the circles that spread from each drop.  Like the rings of a tree, every ripple is a memory.

Enough for a thousand years.

Old growth cedar. My grandma and me.

And one day when she is the rain, the lake will hold her.  I will catch her in my cupped hands and as she slips through my fingers, the rings will be her smile.  And if I cry, (selfishly) for what I have lost, those tears will splash with rain drops.

The lake is high, the water mark. My grandma and me.


Windfall Fire~

The day started fair, the fog of the last two days stayed wherever fog stays when it’s not holding the cold so close to the earth.  The day started fair with the faint blue tinged with pink as the sun came up above the Cascades.  A perfect day for winter windfall clean up, finishing up with a campfire.  Arm loads of branches, lichen covered and dead, made their way to the edge of the fire pit.  The raspberry canes were waiting, too, along with some prunings a friend dropped off a few days before.  The sun is getting a little higher in the sky, offering warmth as we work on our project.  It’s so nice to slip on a sweatshirt and work gloves instead of winter coat and muffler!  I even tucked a few bright primroses into my porch pots to join the emerging daffodils.  Before we knew it, school was out and the grand~ones came running through the gate and into the back yard, along with some best friends and their sweet mamas.  We added another set of grandparents and said, “Let the party begin!”

The kids ran around the yard, tossing the football, swinging on the tire swing, and climbing the tall evergreen, but it wasn’t long before they were ready to roast a dog. (No, not Sparky!)  There were enough weenie sticks for everyone and soon there were hot dogs sizzling over the red-hot coals.  The outdoor table was laden with ketchup and mustard, potato chips and fresh fruit (to make the moms feel better) and a tower of chocolate cupcakes for dessert.  Dinner around the campfire, three generations sharing food and stories, what a way to wind up January!  Before long the kids were loaded up and heading home for homework and bath time, but we grand parents stayed around the fire as the moon came up above the skeletons of cottonwood and alder.  The radio played songs from the 70’s, we played ‘Name that Tune’ and reminisced about what we were doing when that song came out.  It really is true, we’re always the same age inside.  The four of us were teenagers around a bonfire on the pipeline road…

There’s no getting around the passing of time, and it does seem to be going faster with each passing year, but as long as we can be together and make new memories to tuck in with our old ones, each year just keeps getting richer.

If someday, I get too old to gather windfall branches or to kindle a fire, I hope they bring me to the party, drape a shawl around my shoulders and remind of these days.  They are grand!