Christmas Week 2019

We were able to celebrate Christmas twice this year. Jessica and Joe celebrated Christmas on the Saturday before Christmas so Sierra and family could join us. We drove to Pagosa on Friday and spent 3 nights. Sierra and Micheal with great-grandson, Maverick, drove down from Ft Collins Friday night and joined us for the morning and early afternoon. Micheal’s work schedule limited their visit to Saturday. Joe cooked a great beef rib roast on the grill with fire and smoke from the side fire box. Noah is missing from the picture because of work. Sierra is pregnant with another great-grandson due in March. We’re excited about that.


On Monday we drove north over the San Juan mountains to Grand Junction to spend 4 days including Christmas with Matthew and family. Matthew cooked a rib roast Christmas day also – it was a great meal. I gained weight this trip – lol. You may notice that Ashley is pregnant also with a great-grandson due in February. We’re excited about that.


We have two great-grandchildren in this 4-generation family. Maddie is 2 years and 3 months old. Maverick is 1 year and 6 months old. They are the stars in every family gathering. Rightfully so – they’re great kids and they understand Christmas better than any of the rest of us.



The other part of this family is son, Aaron and Christine and granddaughter Aria. They live far away in Vermont. We have a trip scheduled in June to visit them – can’t wait. We’ll get in a Skype visit with them now that we’re back home from the trip.

I love the Christmas season. Christmas is a time of year I always detect a heightened display of joy in people. It doesn’t seem to matter where I am – in stores, restaurants, church, out on the street – people seem more friendly, quicker to smile, more apt to hold open a door, more willing to share a comment with a stranger. I love the feeling that joy brings to the places we go. I know there are some who struggle economically and emotionally with the holiday season – they deserve our attention. sympathy and understanding. But still, it seems great to me that a time of year is able to bring more goodness out in many people.



The holidays give us a time to focus on family and spend time that gives some escape from the world around us. Our family enjoys prosperity and good health. We don’t lose sight, though, of difficulties that others face. We see bad things happening around us – our faith enables a view of them which is circumspect realizing we are not immune from like tragedies. On a Sabbath day in a synagogue in Nazareth Jesus was handed a scroll of the prophet Isaiah and he read these words,
Luke 4:18–19 (NIV)
18 “The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
because he has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
and recovery of sight for the blind,
to set the oppressed free,
19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
Jesus then tells those assembled at the synagogue, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.” We struggle a little understanding these words by Jesus. We live in a world where there are gun fights in church worship services – where the victory by the good guys over the bad guy is seemingly celebrated because more lives could have been lost than were. This tragic event in the news this week happening at a congregation which helps the poor and defends the oppressed and had fed the one who murdered two of its members. We mourn the loss of each of the three lives and extend sympathy to their families and loved ones. Nearly two thousand years after Jesus spoke those words in Nazareth we wait for victory over evil. We preach goodness and salvation; we live our lives trying to be examples of neighbors loving neighbors. We wait patiently for victory to end the violence, the greed, and the oppression. God tells us to persevere – we do that with persistent faith and worship of the only One who can bring victory. As I finish this post on a New Year’s Day of a new decade, I pray that we all make some progress towards defeating evil and may God’s will be fulfilled in His time for the celebration of final victory.



We’ll gather this evening of New Year’s day with church family here in Belen and share in a devotional singing and prayer to God and then share a simple meal. This four generations of family of mine enjoyed a blessed year of prosperity and good health. We don’t ever know when those blessings might end, but in the meantime we count our blessings and thank God who created a world full of bounty for us to enjoy. May our faith in God grow in 2020 and may we count some victories that make life more joyous for all.








Maverick’s Birthday

It was a beautiful day in a beautiful place in Pagosa Springs on Saturday. We got up early and drove up from the high desert to join in a celebration of our great-grandson, Maverick’s first birthday. Micheal’s family were there to celebrate along with our family so it was a big and happy event. It is a little hard to believe that a full year has come and gone since getting in the van and driving to North Dakota to see my new-born great-grandson and then bring Darlene home from her flight up to be with Sierra during Maverick’s birth. But it’s real – a year has come and gone, and Maverick is a year old.

Maverick, of course, was the center of attention for the afternoon. He does that really well – he’s never one to fuss, and he puts up with being passed around, and though he clearly has his favorites all of us get to hold and hug on him without much protest. Darlene and I are proud great-grandparents and with that we have joy in seeing Sierra and Micheal do such great jobs as parents.

Joe grilled up burgers and hot dogs for everyone – there was a thousand different kinds of chips and a nice pasta salad and of course birthday cake. We put up with the terrible tradition of watching Maverick deal with his own cake and become covered in neon green icing. After watching this ordeal a bunch of times over the years it has become clear to me it’s for the benefit of the parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles a lot more than it is for the joy of the one year-old. But tradition must be served, and it was fun to watch Maverick being encouraged to make a mess of himself and his mother.

It is a wonderful thing to be part of a family. There were two families of us together on this day – together in harmony – enjoying the blessings of children and the bounty of life that God gives freely to us. We do good when we take time and drive miles to participate in being family – it doesn’t seem like an effort – it feels good and right. One of those things that enable knowing joy are the personal bonds with each other created and maintained in the heart.

Of course, there were presents also. Lots of toys and clothes – all of that a little beyond Maverick’s understanding – it’s a joy to give and a way to show the love we have, and it’s all good, and we are blessed from it.

We’ll watch this young boy grow up. We’ve learned they grow up before we know it, even though we watch them all along the way. We have great hopes for it all and there isn’t any of us who wouldn’t do all we can to ensure his happiness. We’ve learned over the years that the children are more of a blessing to us than we can ever be to them – we all pitch in, though, and family is the result and life is good.

Noah’s High School Graduation

Noah graduated from high school on Saturday at a ceremony held at Ft Lewis College in Durango, CO. Congratulations Noah – we love you and are proud of you. He is the fifth of our grandchildren to graduate from high school – there’s a couple more still to go. Jessica’s branch of the family were all there for the graduation – graduations are always a happy time for family and this one was no exception.

We were going to get up early Saturday morning and drive the 250 miles to Durango, attend the graduation, go to lunch with everyone afterwards and then drive back home. I figured we would be home before dark and all would be good. Granddaughter Sierra decided we weren’t strong enough to do all that in a day. So, she bought us a motel room in Pagosa for Friday night, called us up earlier in the week and said we had to break the driving into 2 days. That, of course, is sweet of her – which is a part of her nature – but it is the first incident of family deciding we’re too old to know how to take care of ourselves – lol. Not sure I’ll be very good at being pampered by being worried over and told what to do in the coming years. But thanks, Sierra – it was nice to have an extra evening with family on Friday night.

Watching grandchildren grow up has been a joy for the last 20+ years. You can see one of our two great-grandchildren, Maverick, in the picture above. Those old enough to have graduated high school are all doing well. Noah is working as are all of the rest of them – taking care of themselves – making mostly good decisions. I remember quite a bit about myself in those first few years after high school – lots of unknowns, wanting to do well, in love most of the time, wanting a good job and a fast car, spending lots of time with friends, short-term 6 month goals changing weekly, long-term goals mostly non-existent, struggling with spirituality, wanting to be grown up but not very good at it and not understanding not being very good at it. I think my grandchildren are doing a better job at getting along in the growing up then I probably did. They struggle sometimes and that will continue, but I’m not afraid for them – they’re going to be fine.

Years ago, I gave my children a lot of advice in their years after high school. I don’t try to do that much with the grandchildren. I would really tell them only one thing and hope they would hear – pay close attention to God – He’s real and it’s important.

Below is the whole crew except for the great-grandfather running the camera. They’re a good-looking bunch.

I suppose if we lived to be pretty old, we might be alive to see Maverick and his cousin, Maddie graduate from high school. Should that happen Sierra will not only have to buy us a motel room, but also come pick us up in Belen, drive us there and then take us back home. She doesn’t know what she started in buying that motel room for us – lol. The years will bring what they bring, won’t they? Just as I’m not afraid and only have hope for these grandchildren, I’m also not afraid and only have hope for us in the coming years. Life is a blessing, but so is eternity. We celebrate these family events – we enjoy them immensely and they are part of what is a good life. I didn’t ever get very good at long-term goals, even after all these years. Most every day uses up all my energy without trying to figure out too much about tomorrow. Each day has its good things and should be lived out with purpose – it’s quite a bit to do to make each day mean something and accomplish a little good as part of what we do. Regardless of how the days play out, for all of these grandchildren, and for grandparents also the view of future is a view of anticipation and hope. Graduation – a milestone done – more to come – the days we’re given are real – they are important – destiny is a choice and merits our close attention.

Ashley’s Wedding

It was a weekend when love took center stage in Grand Junction, CO. We spent three evenings and two days with two families and friends gathered together enjoying each other’s company anticipating and then celebrating the marriage of our granddaughter Ashley to Matt Buniger. Matt and Ashley said the traditional vows of commitment to each other – for better or for worse, until death do us part. We live in a time when words of commitment often skew to a focus on self and become measured in terms of the right to personal happiness and fulfilment in a relationship. Love is very different from that – love doesn’t have focus on self. For nearly two years I’ve only seen love between Ashley and Matt when I’ve been around – I’ve watched closely. May love abound in their lives as the years pass and may each of them focus their care and concern on the other and on little Maddie and hopefully some other little ones to come along. We had a wonderful start to that life this last weekend. The time together with family and the ceremony were pure joy for me. The joy still fills me a couple days after arriving back home.

We drove to Grand Junction, CO on Thursday to attend our granddaughter, Ashley’s wedding and our grandson, David’s Lineman School graduation from Colorado Mesa University. It is a 400+ mile drive that we make several times a year to spend time with our youngest son, Matthew and four grandchildren and one great-granddaughter. We were there last at New Years. I always enjoy the drive. The first 200 miles is mostly New Mexico high desert with its mix of mountains, buttes and arroyos covered in sage, juniper and Pinyon. The drive crosses into Colorado near Durango and then up over 3 separate mountain passes which approach 11,000 ft. elevation. The road is twisty and narrow in many places with huge drop-offs, often without guard rails. The mountain peaks are spectacular with an aspen and pine mix to timberline with the jagged peaks rising to 12,000 ft and beyond. The historic mining town of Silverton sits in one of the mountain valleys and as the drive through the mountain passes are completed the road drops into the historic town of Ouray with its hot springs. The final 120 miles is grass rangeland to Montrose and then changing to high desert the remaining 60 miles to Grand Junction. We saw two herds of elk grazing in the grasslands on this trip – there are cattle everywhere between Ouray and Montrose. Some people don’t like the high desert miles of the trip, but I find it all picturesque. The mixed landscapes included in the drive are one’s people think about when they think of the West.

Grandson, David graduated from high school one year ago and entered a highly regarded technical program offered by Colorado Mesa University in the field of electrical linemen. He did well and there will be good job opportunities for him with the training. The graduation and awarding of the certificate are held with the rest of the University graduates. You can see the caps and gowns – forgot to take the telephoto lens, so this blown-up photo of him entering with the other graduates is the best one I got. David is the one with the dark glasses, white shirt collar, and the pretty girl looking at him.

David’s graduation was Saturday morning and then Ashley’s wedding was Saturday evening at 5:00 PM. Our son, Matthew’s house was full Thursday evening with family and friends with pizza ordered in and then again Friday evening after the wedding rehearsal with our family and also the family of the groom, Matt Buniger. Our son, Matthew smoked a couple of pork butts all day Friday – the eating was good – the partying was joyous.

The bride off in the Limo Saturday afternoon to get dressed.

A couple hours later we’re loaded up and off to the wedding.

Matt and his groomsmen and the father of the bride before the wedding.

Maddie was always running a close second to being star of the show. On days other than this one she is the star of the show.

Maverick the ring-bearer and David the ring-bearer’s keeper. Maverick is our great-grandson in the Jessica branch of the family and David our grandson in the Matthew branch of the family.

It had been mostly cloudy and a little too cool and too breezy all day before the wedding. But as it came time for the ceremony the sun came out and the breeze died down and look at that incredible Colorado sky.

Ashley and the father of the bride. Isn’t she beautiful?

The Bridesmaids with Ashley. Second from the left is granddaughter, Sierra, then to her right is the maid of honor granddaughter, Danielle, and then to Ashley’s right is granddaughter, Bella.

Picture taking after the ceremony. Don’t drop her!

The bride and father dance. Ashley and her Dad both with some tears – the cameraman had some too.

The oldest person at the ceremony and his lovely wife make their entrance – am not sure why we weren’t arm in arm – we weren’t mad at each other. We also won the longest-married couple award on the dance floor later on. Our new grandson-in-law forced us on to the dance floor – Matt said to us – all you have to do is stand there and you’re the winners – lol.

The mother of the bride, Crystal, walked in by Matt.

Matt’s mother and father.

Our Maddie – the flower girl – 1 year and 7 months old.

It’s not the branch of the family we’re celebrating with a wedding this weekend, but here’s four generations.




great-grandchildren and car shows

We’re in Moab, UT the last weekend in April. Here’s a photo of Maddie and Maverick – there is other assorted family along who could be talked about – but Maddie and Maverick are the stars in the show right now.

On the last Saturday in April, 1994, on a beautiful Spring day, Dave Sherrill and I decided to get on our Harley Davidson’s and ride the 105 miles to Moab, UT to get a cheeseburger for lunch. We discovered the third year of an annual car show. We walked down to the town park and found 150 or so hot rods, muscle cars and the like on display. It became a yearly event for us with Darlene and Sharon joining us and getting motel rooms for a couple nights, and sitting out on Main Street for Friday and Saturday night cruise nights, and even putting a 1965 Austin-Healy Sprite I owned at the time in the show one year. Our children were still teenagers when it all started. Jessica and sometimes Matthew became attenders with their friends and later spouses and then there were grandchildren – just babies in strollers and held in our arms as we sat out for the cruise nights. Twenty-five years later after that Saturday ride for a cheeseburger, town park now has 400 registered cars in the show, many of the baby grandchildren which came along are grown, Sierra and Ashley, the oldest two have babies of their own, and we sit out on Main Street for the cruise nights with great-grandbabies in our arms. Dave Sherrill my dear old friend has passed on. Time marches relentlessly and lots of things change, but some of the very best things don’t change. Lots of us still love hot rods and muscle cars, but the best part of the tradition is that a great weekend away can be shared with family and old friends, who like me, love cars.

Moab is red-rock country. I got up Saturday morning, left the motel at 6:00 AM and drove 25 miles up the old Colorado River access road to Moab to get some sunrise pictures. Moab is home to both the Arches and Canyonlands National Parks. We’ve seen some beautiful places as we’ve traveled coast to coast over the years – the Moab area is among the most beautiful of those places. Here’s a picture of the red rocks down by the river with the snow-capped LaSal Mountains in the background.

Town park is jammed with cars on display on Saturday – it’s all free to the public. Many of the car owners sit in chairs behind their cars – just a simple comment like – love your Corvette -sets them off talking, mostly about cars, but you never know where the conversation might go. The comradery among smiling car people is a part of what makes the weekend special.

It’s a Lamborghini!

One of the great things about this show is the variety of the cars in town and on display. Here’s some pics of you never know what you are going to see here.

Rat rods are the rage these days – a closer look at what seems like a thrown together bucket of rust often reveals some incredible workmanship and attention to detail.

Hopefully a little bit of kid remains in us as we grow older. Cars and motorcycles are mostly about being a kid – there’s a measure of irresponsibility that attaches to it. Those that are not car nuts never understand and maybe they are right – maybe we should outgrow foolishness. So, we’ll see if that happens someday – wisdom is elusive for some. In the meantime, I have a 2-night motel reservation the last weekend in April, 2020 in Moab – hope to see you there – you’ll probably get to see my great-grandchildren if you can make it.


Golden Wedding Anniversary

I like milestones – always pay attention to them. It seems like there is something to take away from all of them – something to learn from thinking about them – something interesting pondering their meaning. Darlene and I celebrated our golden wedding anniversary this week. Fifty years is a long time to share a life. It’s an accomplishment of sorts. In other ways it feels like something that has always felt natural all these years – I can’t really say it feels like it’s been hard work or a struggle. Darlene, on the other hand, might say something completely different about that – you can ask her.

Here’s a picture of the two of us – 8 years ago – we had hiked down a mile and a half or so to some falls in North Carolina on a weekend get-away. I don’t have a lot of pictures of just the two of us. I was taking pictures of the falls that day (always turn my cap backwards when taking pictures) and some guy came along and asked if we wanted him to take a picture of us. So, we obliged him. I’m not into taking selfies – seems embarrassingly narcissistic to me. So anyway, there’s just a few of these kinds of pictures of the two of us around. Maybe I should have searched for a wedding picture and scanned it in – but that might be making a little too much of 50 years. You would see, though, if I had found a wedding picture, that Darlene was beautiful back then just like now.

We shared a single car for the first several years we were married. We dropped each other off and retrieved each other from work and school. We went back to that 6 months ago – just one car – not much dropping off and retrieving now though – we’re almost always together. We lived in a tiny basement, one-bedroom apartment that cost $50 per month when we first married. Fried Spam was a regular menu item. Things got better quickly, though – school got finished and we moved off to California with full time jobs. We’ve shared a bank account for 50 years – money is a part of 50 years together, isn’t it – maybe that is sad, but I’m sure it is reality. You would think with two people putting money in a bank account for 50 years there might be quite a bit of it stacked up in that joint bank account. Somehow for us the expenses always kept eating away at the balance. I discussed shared bank accounts with a young married couple Bible class I was leading a few years ago. Some of them told me they weren’t very good at sharing bank accounts. It seems like married people should share a bank account. We’ve always just put all of our paychecks in them all these years. I don’t remember any talk of my money or your money. Of course, there’s never been much money to talk about anyway. I’ve had friends who could fish a big wad of $100 bills out of their pocket. They called it mdk money (momma don’t know money). I never have had any mdk money. Maybe its because they were smarter or richer than me that they had a wad of bills and I didn’t. Or, maybe it’s because there isn’t anything that Darlene doesn’t know.

I wouldn’t be able to think about the last 50 years without a lot of the thoughts being about the children. Three of them came along in the late 70s. Aaron, Jessica and Matthew are part of what made the years fly by. Children make life busy – they challenge in ways nothing else can – they also bring joy like nothing else can. They have given us 8 grandchildren and 2 great-grandchildren so far. We’re blessed – we all get along – and though we’re miles apart we find ways to visit – we get together in big groups sometimes – we skype some and text and keep up with each other’s lives pretty well. Darlene gets a card in the mail once in a while from Aria, our 4 year-old granddaughter – with some crayon drawing and the beginnings of words written – joy shared from little ones who are your family – how great are things like that – they make life worth living. The children have all done well – made their own lives and are responsible and good citizens and are good parents. We love them. I still have to convince some of them to move to Belen so they can take care of us when we get old.

We’ve always been part of a church congregation these 50 years – almost all of them tiny congregations. Most of the time we’ve been active in those congregations – knowing and being known with the other members – being part of what the congregation was doing – we’ve not been just spectators most of those years. Those church families have been a support and encouragement for our marriage and family. We’ve been able to watch examples of many great marriages in those church families. I don’t think you would ever want to discount the value to your own marriage and family of the example of your own parents and of church family marriages. Mimicking the good that impresses in others is part of learning to be good and enjoying happiness found in good. Part of thinking about 50 years is being thankful to others who have helped make it worth remembering.

We drove to Santa Fe and spent the night on our anniversary day. We had dinner at the Coyote Café – it’s kind of famous – the kind of place you might only go once every 50 years. The menu was a little conflicting. How do you choose between seared scallops, peppered elk tenderloin or lamb chops? It’s not like you can say we’ll come back next week and try something different – and I might not be around in another 50 years. The lamb was incredible and so was Darlene’s lobster. The waiter was a middle-aged man and was the best – a memorable meal.

What do you do with 50 years together – what does it mean – does it make tomorrow any better or any different than it would be otherwise? It does mean something to me – it has big value – not that can be measured in the way we measure most things – but when it gets right down to it there is nothing more special to living day by day than the relationships we have. There is something assuring and peaceful and comfortable and hopeful about a 50-year relationship. Living out the today with someone you’ve been with for 50 years is an easy way of life – not many surprises or conflicts or things that need planning or worries about being accepted or figuring out what needs to be changed to be happy. I guess we live in a routine, but it doesn’t feel like a rut. We never know how many more years there will be after 50 years together – maybe it doesn’t matter much. We’ve accomplished most of what needs to be accomplished with a life together. Still, we search for and find ways to be needed by the rest of those in our lives. It’s not time yet to just fade out of the picture. The memories over all the years are a treasure – the new ones still being made are just as important. There are a lot of things I would do differently if time could be turned backward – some of the changes would make certain things better than they were. If I had the afternoon of March 14, 1969 to redo, though, I’d still show up at Darlene’s mom and dad’s house and stand with her in her wedding dress with all those friends and family all around in front of the preacher and I’d say – I do – just like I did 50 years ago.

Visiting San Antonio

We were able to get away for 6 nights last week for a trip to San Antonio – two nights on the road and 4 in a nice timeshare unit right in the middle of things downtown. San Antonio is a mixture of the old and the new. The skyline photo taken from our balcony looks like many modern cities – right in the middle of these big building downtown, though, is the Alamo, one of the most famous historical American icons.

The Alamo was a Spanish mission in 1836 occupied by a small group of American immigrants to this territory of Mexico along with some Mexican citizens who desired joining in rebellion against the central Mexico government. History calls the group which desired independence from Mexican rule the Texians. In February 1836 Mexican general Santa Ana brought his army to Texas to put down the rebellion and in early March he defeated and executed those who made a stand at the Alamo. Some of those rebels like Jim Bowie and Davy Crockett are names immediately recognized with folklore of their heroism in defeat. By the end of April 1836 the Texian rebels led by Sam Houston had regrouped and engaged Santa Ana’s army and over the course of just a few days defeated it. Texas became an independent republic and then in a few years joined the United States becoming the state of Texas. The city of San Antonio developed around the site of the Alamo and today has a population of 1.5 million. It is a great place to visit, rich in history with much to see and do.

The San Antonio River runs through the city and was developed years ago into what is called the Riverwalk. Walkways line both sides of the river which are beautifully landscaped with restaurants and shops in the most developed part of it. The Walk and the river run a full story below street level. We spent a morning at the north end of the Mission Reach Riverwalk extension known as the Pearl district. It has been developed around the historic Pearl Brewery established in the 1880s. There are shops and restaurants, landscaping and art with this old brewery at its center – a modern development with a focus on a beautiful old historical landmark. Following are 2 photos of the old Pearl Brewery. We also spent a rain day walking around the historic settlement of Gruene, 35 miles northwest, visiting antique stores and little tourist shops. No photos of Gruene in the rain.

San Antonio was the site of the 1968 World’s Fair – the Tower of the Americas was built for the event. It is 750 feet tall with a Chart House restaurant at the top which continuously rotates 360 degrees giving huge, ever changing views of the city and surrounding area. Wyndham Timeshares offered us free dinner at the Chart House on the Tower if we would attend a sales presentation for a couple of hours. We usually decline these presentations, but the offer of dinner up on the Tower at a Chart House was more than we could refuse. We did refuse to purchase more timeshare points, however. Over the years we’ve eaten at several Chart Houses around the US. They’ve always been great and always strained the budget. They are best known for their seafood items, but Darlene and I are always a sucker for the prime rib – it was great. For other meals we ate breakfast twice at a café part of a historic flour mill and home built by a German immigrant in 1860 along the banks of the San Antonio River named the Guenther House. It has the best biscuits and gravy ever. We also ate some great pizza cooked in a certified Neapolitan wood fired oven at a restaurant named Dough. You might be thinking we like vacations best because of the food.

The Texian rebellion stand at the Alamo was over 180 years ago. The Guenther Flour Mill was built 150 years ago. The Pearl Brewery was established 130 years ago. The Riverwalk was originally built 70 years ago. The Tower of the Americas was built 50 years ago. All these historic things are on popular display in a Texas city which prides itself, as do many cities like it, with being modern and keeping up with the times. We know time marches on relentlessly – yet we hang on and treasure the best things from history while embracing the future. Certain things are timeless and continue to interest us and bring joy. We visit a place like San Antonio and have a good time revisiting history at the same time we live in the technology of the present, keeping up with client emails on our computers, keeping up with friends activities on social media, searching out the best restaurant deals on the internet, and driving to all these places using a GPS screen built into our autos which knows where every address in the U.S. is, and guides us there with a nice lady’s voice telling us when to make a turn. We live in amazing times.

We each appeared in this world in the middle of a history that had been going on for a long time – in the middle of current events we didn’t shape, in the middle of parents lives which were already in process with careers and social connections and agendas. We get that – that we develop a way to fit into a world we were dropped into the middle of – a world rushing onward at the same time we were taking our first breath. We accomplish fitting in by embracing all the various forces which intend good and which shun evil. The cultural and historical diversity of a city like San Antonio is part of its force for good and is its fiber – the thing that makes it interesting and resilient and which define its character. We walked all over downtown San Antonio for 4 days – always felt safe – always felt welcome. We live in a political environment in which some are attacking our appreciation and our embrace of the greatness which has developed out of and is because of our own national diversity. San Antonio is one of those cities which display on every corner the good which can come from cultural and historical diversity. The recognition of our own nation’s successes from embracing our differences encourage us to beware of those who would consolidate, and limit, and keep things as they are or advocate a return to the past. Our own historical experience teaches us that diversity harmonized by a common desire to create and maintain good is strength, and vitality, and results in the future being like the City of San Antonio of the present – a city which rose out of defeat at an old Spanish Mission – a city which rose up powered by a vision for good, and based in the efforts expressed by people, who though differing in their cultures, united in a cause for good expressed in the simple resolve to remember the Alamo. It is the willingness to unite in a cause for good which makes a nation strong – the diversity of its cultures willing to unite make for strength and accomplishment in that cause.

Digital Coffee Mugs and other assorted Christmas reflections

We drove to Pagosa Springs, CO to our daughter’s house for Christmas this year. The return trip home was on Thursday. We stopped in Albuquerque for a late lunch on the way home at a place named Joe’s Pasta House – it was a great lunch – real Italian and perfect marinara sauce despite the rather un-Italian restaurant name. As we left the restaurant Darlene connected to our furnace thermostat at home on her cell phone and turned the temperature up so it would be nice and warm when we got home. We always turn the thermostat way down when away to save a little on the natural gas bill. When we arrived home, the house was warm and welcoming.

Our daughter’s branch of the family which is 10 strong now started drawing names for gift giving at Christmas several years ago. Darlene and I joined in the name drawing. Our oldest grandchild, Sierra, drew my name this year. She had queried Darlene about what I might want starting several months ago. Not many ideas were forthcoming. She got me several do-dads which were put in my stocking and a wonderful box of Enstroms Toffee (if you don’t know what Enstroms Toffee is do some research and get a box before you die – it is heavenly). Then my main present was this coffee mug you see in the photo above. You might be thinking – wow – a coffee mug – ho hum – not very imaginative – in-fact, boring.

This coffee mug, though, is not boring – and is, in fact, pretty exciting. I brew myself a cup of coffee first thing every morning before I start going through the latest Facebook posts, reviewing the bank account online, and reading my emails. Have never been one to gulp down a cup of coffee – I just sip it from time to time while sitting at my desk as the work day starts. So, the coffee always gets cold before I finish. We have a Krups coffee brewer/grinder which allows setting the size of the amount brewed. We set it down to only 5 oz. for the reason the coffee always get gold before either of us finish a cup. So we drink two cups at least getting hot coffee twice during the process. Now enter into my life this digital coffee mug (photo above) which Sierra gave me for Christmas. The mug itself has a rechargeable battery and a heating element built into the cup. It also has a brain built into it which measures the temperature of the liquid within, controls the battery and heating element, and enables a Bluetooth connection to a smart phone. The saucer you see below the mug has an electrical connection, a battery charger and a clever way of making connection to the mug without wires to provide the charging of the battery located in the mug.

An app is downloaded onto my smart phone which shows the exact temperature of the liquid within the mug and allows setting the exact temperature desired for the coffee or beverage that the mug then maintains. I made some spiced tea Christmas night and quickly found out that I’m a 141° man. That’s the perfect temperature for sipping a hot beverage. The mug works wherever you desire placing it. The saucer is only needed when the battery in the mug needs charging. I know a blast in the microwave will heat cold coffee and that they have had heated saucers for years that will keep coffee warm. This digital mug, however, keeps it at the exact temperature I want and doesn’t tie me to a specific spot with a plugged-in saucer. At my desk or in my recliner or out in the garage my coffee is always the perfect temperature. Yay – technology solves another of life’s annoyances. OK, I know you’re reading this and making fun of me – cold coffee is trivial – not so, hot is the way coffee should be – it’s a great gift – thanks, Sierra.

As you might be able to tell from the photo above Christmas this year at Jessica’s was focused a lot on Maverick – our 6 month-old great grandson – his first Christmas. What a great baby he is – we were with him for 3 days and he never cried once. His great-grandma, grandma and aunt were pretty possessive of him – hard to pry him out of their arms. Sierra and Michael live in North Dakota so we only get to be with them from time to time. The next planned visit to spend time with them is at the end of April for the Moab, UT car show weekend.

There you have it – grandma Jessica, aunt Marissa, great-grandma, grandpa Joe and mom, Sierra – do you think Maverick might have gotten spoiled a little this Christmas? We wouldn’t have it any other way. I love Christmas time. The 3 ½ days were full of joy and jesting and laughter and red and green tamales and prime rib and togetherness. We get another dose of Christmas this coming week as we head to Grand Junction, CO to be with our youngest son, 4 grandchildren and a great-granddaughter. Our son, Matthew, works in the oil fields and had to work Christmas. They are opening presents and celebrating on New-Years Day. It will be another great time, God willing. Our great-granddaughter, Maddie, will be celebrating her second Christmas. I’m thinking she might be taking some steps on her own. She was trying to take some steps when we saw them in October for her first birthday.

I’ll download this post out of the cloud onto the blog site and link it to a Facebook post. Alexa, turn off the lamp by my recliner and what’s the temperature outside? I think I’ll turn on the GPS in my watch and go for a walk before lunch.

A Millennium Ago

The Southwest has many locations where there are remnants of native peoples who lived a millennium ago. I always wonder when visiting those sites what life would have been like in the environment and circumstances existing then. One of the days while in Flagstaff this last week we drove through and walked around in the Sunset Crater National Monument and Wupatki National Monument. They both are located just to the north of Flagstaff within 20 miles of each other. Sunset Crater is the site of a volcano cone which erupted almost exactly a millennium ago.

The Sunset Monument landscape is full of thousand year old lava flows and eroded cinder hills and arroyos which clearly show the effects of the eruption on the surrounding area. Information on site describes the discovery and excavation of homes of native people who lived in the area which were buried in the lava flow and ash. Twenty miles north from Sunset Crater the landscape descends in elevation, the pine trees disappear and vegetation changes to junipers, sage and brush of the high desert. The Wupatki National Monument located there was established in 1924 to protect the remnants of a number of native pueblo structures in the area.

Those who decide such things believe the pueblo ruins we see today were constructed just following the eruption of Sunset Volcano by those displaced by the eruption. Those looking for a new home found that the layer of ash from the volcano enriched the soil, retained scarce water and made the growing of their crops easier.

Free access is allowed the public to these ruins. There are rules about climbing the walls and removing stones, but otherwise the public can walk in and around up close to the structures to their hearts content.

The picture of the ruins below is the Wupatki pueblo ruins for which the National Monument is named. It is the largest of the ruins within the Monument. Experts believe as many as 100 people lived here within its walls in 1100 AD. The visitor center sits behind the camera. You can see an excavated round kiva used for spiritual ceremonies by the native people in the second photo. The smaller structure and kiva in the second photo adjoin the large structure in the top photo just 50 yards or so away.

The American Southwest is full of wide-open spaces. The climate is so arid in many places that development is essentially impossible. Those who study these ancient peoples believe the population of this area reached a peak in 1100 AD not matched before or since. Possibly several thousand people lived within a day’s walk of this ruin. The people who lived here then are named the Sinaguans by modern scholars. They believe by 1250 AD all of the pueblos in the area were abandoned – the native people moving on because climate change made the land unproductive for their crops.

The photo below was taken near the western boundary of the Wupatki Monument. It looks out toward the northeast across the Monument and across the painted desert beyond – there’s not many tall buildings to be seen, is there? I can’t help but imagine what it might have been like living a millennium ago out in this desolation – my family and several others living in one of these pueblos that we had built. We spend our days caring for simple crops which along with those animals we hunt make possible our existence. We have children – maybe we live long enough to have grandchildren. I’m sure that we love and care for family in the same way we know today. I’m sure we would laugh, and tell stories, maybe sing a few songs, maybe we would dream and plan for better days, we would mourn the passing of loved ones and maybe weep just as we do today. Scholars tell us the native cultures believed in a God. Solomon wrote 3,000 years ago in Ecclesiastes 3 that God “set eternity in the human heart”. I don’t know what their religion taught about life after death, but I can’t help but think they would contemplate it just as we do. Would life have been simpler than today – probably – no Android phones or automobile GPS screens to figure out.

Solomon is often quoted in Ecclesiastes 3,

“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens: a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot, …., a time to tear down and a time to build, …., a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,….”

You remember those words that Pete Seeger put to music in the late 50s and that the Byrds made a pop hit out of at about the time I turned 18 years old. Solomon goes on in Ecclesiastes 3 to make a statement about life that we don’t remember so well. He says,

“I know that there is nothing better for people than to be happy and to do good while they live. That each of them may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in all their toil—this is the gift of God…. Whatever is has already been, and what will be has been before; and God will call the past to account.”

Solomon’s description of the nature of life written three millenniums ago remains amazingly relevant today. Though neither Solomon or the Sinaguans had to deal with an Android phone, their life like ours, was centered on finding satisfaction in all their toil. There is still nothing better for us in a modern world than to be a people who find happiness and do good while we live. We do well when we learn that life is a gift from a God who hopes we learn contentment in simple things – a pueblo built by stacking rocks, food and clothing provided by our toil, time at the end of the day to understand and accept our purpose, and time now and again to reflect on the hope of an eternity that He put in our hearts. A thousand years ago the natives a few miles north of what is now Flagstaff found a reason in life to gather and stack stones – within a couple centuries after they began life there natural forces began the process of scattering those same stones. A thousand years from now people may find traces of our existence. If they are wise, they will still be reading Solomon and they will accept the simplicity and contentment of an understanding that life abides in people “finding satisfaction in all their toil” and accepting that, “whatever is has already been, and what will be has been before”.


Flagstaff – A December Visit

We had a few timeshare points left to use for 2018 – enough to get a nice 1-bedroom unit for 3 nights in Flagstaff, AZ. We’ve been visiting Flagstaff since the early 1990s. It’s a small town, but one with a lot of energy – it’s the home of Northern Arizona University and draws a lot of tourists because of its proximity to the Grand Canyon and Sedona. We return here again and again and always have a good time. It sits at 7,000 ft. elevation with the San Francisco Peaks looming over town and is located in a forest of Ponderosa Pines near the Mogollon Rim. It is not at all the normal Arizona desert that you think of – we arrived this visit to a fresh layer of snow on the ground from a storm that went through over the weekend.

We got up early Tuesday morning and had breakfast just up the street from the timeshare at the Toasted Owl. Then we headed for Sedona – down the steep, twisty, famous Oak Creek Canyon to a Jeep trail I had picked out. Sedona is red rock country and in the descent of 2,500 feet from Flagstaff the terrain turns from Ponderosa forest to Pinyon Pine, Cedars and brush. It was 15 degrees warmer in Sedona and none of the snow from the storm remained on the ground.

We’ve had the Jeep Renegade for a couple months. It’s a tiny thing with a 4-cylinder engine. It does have a sophisticated Jeep 4-wheel drive system with a low range and even a hill descent function. I know it is built in Italy which is blasphemy for a Jeep, and it is not a Wrangler, and doesn’t have a lift kit, and it doesn’t articulate much. But we have had it on twisty mountain roads in snow storms with slick roads twice already and selecting 4 wheel-drive on the fly has made it rock steady. So, I wanted a chance to put it in 4-wheel low and crawl over some rocks and see how it did. I had chosen a trail just outside of Sedona to the Van Deren cabin ruins. It’s a trail of 3 miles, rocky from beginning to end. Most of the trail is low 4-wheel drive and a slow go. It doesn’t require big clearance or areas where wheel articulation is necessary, but the last ¼ mile is particularly steep and required accurate wheel placement on rocks in several places. The picture above is in a dry creek bed with some steps just before the final difficult section. If you look close you can see Darlene behind the steering wheel. I was out taking pictures and guiding her for wheel placement to ease up that little rock ledge. The skid plates scraped a couple of places on the trail, but never hung up. We had a good time and the Jeep was just great. It will get us through snow storms and up trails we haven’t been able to negotiate since trading away the Jeep Commander when we moved to South Carolina.

The Van Deren cabin shown above was built in 1924 – not sure when it was abandoned. We saw a coyote crossing the dry creek bed. Between the cabin and where the Jeep was parked a couple of Javelina crossed just ahead of us. Look closely in the center of the picture below and you can see one of them.

Javelina look like pigs but are not in the pig family. They are about 4 feet long and weigh 50 to 75 pounds. They are not related to the razorbacks which are plentiful in parts of the Southeast. We see them occasionally when in and around Sedona.

We decided to go back to Flagstaff up Snebly Hill Road rather than back up Oak Creek Canyon. It was another slow go often in 4 wheel low – a rocky dirt road 17 miles long – steep in places – it tops the Mogollon Rim after 11 miles and then through the forest connects to I-17 which is the freeway from Flagstaff to Phoenix. It has many spectacular views looking back down on the red rocks of Sedona.

Over the last 30 years we’ve been fortunate to take several short trips each year throughout the West and were also able to see a lot of the East while living in South Carolina. There is so much to see and enjoy within just a day or two of driving. This trip was typical – a few days away – some sightseeing – a break from the routine – some good food in new restaurants. Politicians talk about good times and bad times – ½ of them are always telling us times are good and the other ½ want us to believe we need change because times are bad. What we experience over my lifetime is that nothing much changes regardless of the agenda of those in political power. Life goes on for most regular people in America, and when we think about it, we have been incredibly blessed with mostly good times for all of my lifetime. These little trips we take full of beautiful scenery, and with family sometimes, and with small adventures on days like today prove that we are fortunate to live in this great country. We should vote and care about and discuss the issues some and work hard to do our part, but the nastiness and vitriol doesn’t help. A drive or a walk on a red rock trail – the grandeur of creation – getting a picture of a javelina irritated that his walk was interrupted – all these things give a perspective that allows living with a smile, with contentment and with hope.

We finished the day sharing a great Italian sandwich with some spinach dip and a gooey, ice creamy, fresh baked, hot, macadamia nut/chocolate cookie. Maybe things are too good – might have to watch what I eat for a few days when we get home to get a couple pounds back off.