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A Christmas Story Or Two . . . Or Six

You gotta love technology. I read “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” to my grandkids a couple of days ago. They live 700 miles away. That makes it hard to hold them on my lap for a story–so I hold them on my laptop instead. Video chat takes a little of the distance out of long-distance Nana-hood.

My deal with Lydia and Emerson this December has been to read them a Christmas book every day on the computer. Mmmmmm. It makes me happy to share two of my favorite things with them–books and Christmas. I never tire of The Polar Express or Santa Calls, The Christmas Orange, and The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey. 

As I have leafed through my big basket of holiday tales this year, a realization has dawned. The Christmas stories that  touch me the most do not have pages or illustrations. They live in my memory. So I have determined to put words on a few Christmas recollections. Hopefully I will find something sweet and  real in that hazy no-man’s-land between memories and the meaning we assign to them. Maybe the exercise will remind me of other true things that I almost remember–of a new star and a newborn babe and new hope.

My goal for the remaining week of advent is to record a Christmas memory each day, from my childhood or from my own children’s growing-up years. Think I can do it? We’ll see. I’ll post the first one today, I hope. We’ll see what happens from there.  In the meantime, chime in with a comment. Tell me about your favorite Christmas book.  Or share a Christmas memory/tradition that means something to you.

Quarantined

My Blogspot site is quarantined. Malware–nasty little thugs from the Russian cyber-mafia–infiltrated my blog. Google acted quickly, thank goodness, and sent me to the web-version of a leper colony before I infected anyone else.  So winds unexpected on blogspot will die a quiet death among the unclean others in quarantine.

The up-side is that I had wearied of blogspot anyway and had already started the process of opening a blog on wordpress. So, here we are at the new and mafia-free Winds Unexpected. I’m learning my way around on wordpress and all of my previous posts have been imported here. Nifty.

(The gratuitous wedding photos are simply that–gratuitous wedding photos. Enjoy.)

In All Fair-ness

The freckles on my arms have reached that critical mass that almost makes it look like I have a tan. OK, so maybe it doesn’t rise to the level of a “tan” exactly, but it could be called a “beige” or maybe an “off-white.” Perhaps in the spirit of journalistic accuracy I should call it what it is–a plethora of  summertime freckles, a veritable galaxy of tiny points of pigment that don’t quite add up to a tan. But a girl with Scandinavian and Scottish genes has to take what she can get.

Summer wardrobe,
Denali National Park style

I should have grown up in Alaska, where long sleeves and beanies in August are the norm. Growing up in sunny California I felt conspicuously pale. The Beach Boys didn’t help matters much–you remember the lyrics: “The west coast has the sunshine and the girls all get so tan . . . ” All except me, that is. My legs were the color of Wonder bread (and I don’t mean the crusts) while my friends spent carefree days at the beach or pool and quickly took on a gorgeous bronzed finish. This was before the days of SPF 30 and so a few hours in the sun left me with a painful sunburn that faded slowly back to a slightly deeper white. Nothing even close to a tan. My nose peeled continuously from Memorial Day until school started in September.

Mom assured me that my “fair” skin was an asset. (We all knew that “fair” was just code for “whoa girl, let me put some shades on to cut the glare from your legs!”) She tried to comfort me with the thought that in 30 years my friends would have leathery wrinkled hides from all that sun worship while I would be dewy and youthful. Somehow the thought of my peers shriveled like prunes didn’t help a lot when they were singing “Blinded By the Light” at the top of their lungs from the boat while I water-skied. I just smiled and waved my pasty white arm. Every summer my futile quest for some color continued. What was I thinking? That I would suddenly develop late-onset pigment and look like a Coppertone ad?

No more. A tan? Meh. Who needs it? In fact, these days I slather 70 SPF sunscreen on my cracker-white extremities or just suit up like a beekeeper when I go outside. My legs continue to blind innocent bystanders but I can roll with it. The best thing about middle-age is that it doesn’t bother me anymore. A faux-freckle-tan will do just fine.

Soul Song

What makes a baby humpback whale leap out of the water, head to tail, and twist himself over to land on his back with an enormous splash? Twenty or thirty times, no exaggeration. It looked so much like joy. Do whales feel that breathless exuberance for existence, the irresistible soul-singing that bubbles up just because and must spill out somehow? He breached again and again, close to our little excursion boat, almost as if he knew he had our attention and wanted to make it good.  I longed to know what it felt like to be him that day. I’m pretty sure it felt like joy.

I love it when reality exceeds expectation and even Planet Earth can’t hold a candle to what I see in front of me. Alaska has made me rub my eyes in disbelief all week, certain that I must be imagining that brown bear pulling salmon out of the river or the other-worldly blue glacier cracking and thundering as a massive wall of ice breaks off and slumps into the bay. And I’ve heard that song–the low-thrumming wordless tune that has no contrived melody, but that I know at my core–and something in me sings along with the fireweed  and the dolphins and the enormous bald eagle perched high above Juneau harbor.

Yesterday we pulled off the side of the highway in Denali National Park to watch an enormous mama moose grazing with her baby. She moved her substantial bulk with such unlikely grace that every motion spoke to my spirit. Of creation and of connection. So I awake this morning and stretch, keenly aware of my Creator. And I feel on every side the vast luminous web of existence that holds us all up and connects us each to every other. The song takes on meaning without words. My soul translates it simply, “Life is good.” As inadequate as words are, you might recognize the music. I’m pretty sure it sounds like joy.


Ambiguous Ambivalence

Ambivalent. What a great word. Say it out loud. You know you want to. Or maybe you’re ambivalent about words in general. Lately I have felt ambivalent about blogging. Living life has seemed more interesting to me than writing about living life. So the fate of Winds Unexpected remains ambiguous (another one of my favorite words, this is a good night for gratuitous word-slinging. And yes, I like gratuitous too. Ooooh, life is good. Really good.)

The blog may stay alive simply to provide me a place to use really cool four-syllable words. OK, so call me a total dork, but I love words. Love. Confession: I dream of reading the dictionary cover to cover. It would be fun. Really. Scombroid, intumescence, dahoon. See what I mean? Try it. Kedge, mungo, trunion. Looks like Winds Unexpected stays, at least until I feel unequivocally “done” with it. Right now I’m just mostly done.

Indulge me in a whim though, please. Overcome your ambivalence long enough to share a couple of your favorite words in a Comment. I promise I will say them out loud in your honor. Go ahead.

And in the name of word-dork solidarity, here’s a word-of-the-day challenge. Use the following word in the next 48 hours (in a logically sound sentence during conversation with a real person.) The word is: profligate. Go for it, my friends, and return and report.

Eight Things I Learned From My Dad and One Thing I Hope Is True

1. “The Lord only made a few perfect heads. The rest He put hair on.” Bald is beautiful.
2. “You can’t take it with you.” Success is not measured by how much stuff one accumulates.
3. “Jerie, pick up your feet.” On backpacking trips and in life you miss a lot if you keep your eyes on the ground and drag your feet all the way. (And the people behind you don’t much like hiking in the cloud of dust you kick up.)
4. “I’ll eat any flavor of ice cream, as long as it’s chocolate.” Need I say more?
5. “Enough is too much already.” It’s OK to leave the margins open and allow yourself some space to simply be. Some pursuits are not worth your time and focus.
6. “Drive like everyone else on the road is an idiot.” Take responsibility. Stay alert. Don’t be one of the idiots.
7. “Take your time going and hurry back.” Nothing matters more than spending time with the people you love. Prioritize family-time, don’t just pay it lip service.
8. “Life’s too short.” To worry. Or hold a grudge. To criticize or let the sun go down on an argument. To live in fear or be a slave to the opinions of others. To waste time or squander opportunities. To not  say “I love you” or dance in the living room or speak a kind word. For cynicism, doubt and smallness of spirit. To eat red licorice when there’s black to be had. To not laugh every day and pray every day and take a nap when you need one
1. The apple doesn’t fall very far from the tree. Dad—I want to be like you when I grow up. I hope I never roll far from the roots that nourished me or the lovely shade of your generosity, your faith, your wisdom, your integrity, your intelligence and good humor.  You never lectured me, you simply lived the lessons I needed.  Thank you for being a truly exquisite human being. And my Dad. I miss you. Thank heaven for eternity, because I’ll never be done learning from you. Happy Father’s Day. I love you.
What lessons, spoken or unspoken, have you learned from the father-figures in your life?
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19 Responses to “Eight Things I Learned From My Dad and One Thing I Hope Is True”

  1. Doug Lim 15. Jun, 2011 at 9:31 am #
    Very beautiful and well said. We all miss your dad Jerie.
    • Jerie 15. Jun, 2011 at 1:19 pm #
      Thanks, Doug. We are both blessed with amazing parents, aren’t we?
  2. Craig 15. Jun, 2011 at 12:51 pm #
    .
    1. You see that ditch? You get to dig it. If you do it well, you might get paid next time.
    2. Everyone has too much potential to waste on McDonald’s and television…
    3. …but Miller Time is a universal principle.
    4. Bald is a little prettier with a tan and a good attitude.
    5. Pain really is temporary, and chicks really do dig scars.
    6. It doesn’t matter who started it, you’re responsible. Get the solution.
    7. Wow, Jerie has hot sisters, or daughters, or cousins or whatever.
    • Jerie 15. Jun, 2011 at 1:33 pm #
      Hee hee. So true–everything looks better with a tan, even cellulite. #6–we need your Dad in Washington, eh? #7–my daughters, three of the most amazing people on this planet.
      • Craig 15. Jun, 2011 at 2:19 pm #
        ;) to your credit, I thought they were sisters.
        • Craig 15. Jun, 2011 at 2:19 pm #
          I mean YOUR sisters
        • Jerie 15. Jun, 2011 at 4:24 pm #
          You are my new best friend–keep talking.
  3. Julie 15. Jun, 2011 at 1:26 pm #
    Too many to list. I’ve been blessed with the very best father and grandfathers. Dad showed me that nothing is more important than integrity. I think he learned it from his dad.
    • Jerie 15. Jun, 2011 at 4:26 pm #
      We are the lucky ones, aren’t we?
  4. heather y. 15. Jun, 2011 at 2:16 pm #
    Your Dad is awesomely handsome and you should seriously consider putting his words of wisdom on a t-shirt. I am envisioning it starting small, with family and friends sporting the look then it catching on like wildfire because it is all so, so true.
    I’ll take mine in brick red with white letters, extra large.
    • Jerie 15. Jun, 2011 at 4:30 pm #
      Got it. Your t-shirt will be in the first batch. My Dad was just a couple of months shy of 85 years old in that picture. He was amazing right up to end. I’ve got good genes!
  5. JourneyBeyondSurvival 15. Jun, 2011 at 2:41 pm #
    1. Know your capabilities- Do what you gotta do to take care of you and yours. But don’t pretend to be something you’re not. Be honest with yourself.
    2. Family is worth it. If you can’t make it through University, work as a deliveryman. Work hard. Work hard for 25 years. Go camping for every vacation. Never have AC in your life. Never.
    3. Everything tastes better when camping. Sleep outside as much as possible. Cook in Dutch ovens. Use porta potties
    4. Babies are heaven. Never needs an explanation if you know my father.
    • heather y. 15. Jun, 2011 at 9:33 pm #
      Please tell me your Dad lives where there are mountains to go camping in. The one thing I will never get used to is camping in the mid-west. There is no escaping the heat and humidity! Of course, you also said your dad doesn’t have air conditioning, so he has already proven he is immune to heat rash. Very tough man.
      Who doesn’t love a man who loves babies? That is touching.
      • Craig 16. Jun, 2011 at 12:19 pm #
        Don’t you know? You’re supposed to grow gills, become immune to mosquitoes, and spend your days camping by the lake — whereupon you spend every possible daylight hour bathed is cool, muddy water. Like a water moccasin.
  6. Jerie 15. Jun, 2011 at 4:40 pm #
    I love your Dad!!! Camping = heaven. Dutch ovens = favorite. He sounds awesome. Can I share your Dad? I miss mine.
    • JourneyBeyondSurvival 15. Jun, 2011 at 8:42 pm #
      You shall come join our camping reunion in July. He will make his famous Dutch Oven Potatoes. Red skin new potatoes (skin on of course) + eggs + insane amounts of Velveeta cheese.
      My mother will make her world famous cobbler, and my dad will probably con us all into making hand cranked ice cream. Again.
      We’ll all explode nice and comfy together becoming gooey juicey brothers instead of blood brothers. It’ll be fun.
      • Jerie 15. Jun, 2011 at 9:51 pm #
        I’m in.
  7. Kathryn 15. Jun, 2011 at 10:48 pm #
    “Love the brick!” (my grandfather was a bricklayer) — work hard, love the work you do and you will do it better and live a longer happier life. You’ll find your own heaven on earth no matter what you do.
    • Jerie 16. Jun, 2011 at 12:04 am #
      I love that. Those three words are deceptively simple.They actually indicate a profound attitude on your grandfather’s part. I wish I knew him.

 

Endearing Things

  • Dogs have wet noses, but it’s not snot. They kiss you, but it’s actually more like being licked. With fine-grain sandpaper. 
  • Babies have rolls of fat on their thighs, but it’s gorgeous. They are blissfully unconcerned that they look like the Michelin Tire man and they don’t go on diets.
  • Kindergarten kids choose their own clothes sometimes. They think that pink and blue stripes look good with red floral patterns. And that sweat pants were made to be worn tucked into cowboy boots. 
  • White haired ladies do yoga sitting in chairs.
  • Girl Scouts sell cookies from little red wagons.
  • Three year olds might sing their prayers once in while, just for the joy of it.