Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Mariposa Holiday

Christmas at the Dixons in Mariposa is usually full of excitement. The big family gathers in various mixes, beginning on Christmas Eve with Sandie's family attending Church services at Ponderosa Basin Chapel. Next is the ritual of opening one gift: new pajamas and posing for pictures in front of the tree, followed by a movie--often It's a Wonderful Life..

In the morning, Sandie's kids (who are really young adults) start the next round of festivities by opening their stockings. Then Aunt Cindy passes out gifts to her parents and her sister's family. After a delicious Christmas breakfast and another Christmas movie (this year it was Fred Claus), the rest of the extended family begins arriving for more gift giving and Christmas dinner. This year snow began falling about 11am, so there was also sledding and a beautiful rainbow visible through the trees.

The Dixon's like to go, go, go, so the day after Christmas we traveled to Fresno to paint pottery which took longer than anticipated and so we didn't have time for dinner at an Italian restaurant as planned. Instead, we ate at a family eatery called Pete's and loaded our plates with fries and onion rings and hamburgers before going en mass to the movies to see Seven Pounds (we filled 2 full rows). The movie which was about a heart transplant was a bit emotional, and we lingered in the lobby afterward, tearful and hugging.

Saturday was spent trying out gifts like web cams and friers and, for me, reading the new books I received.

Sunday was Ashley's birthday, so we met at the cemetery to recall the wonders of her all too brief 18 years. Then we went to Angel Falls, one of her favorite places on earth. We slipped and slid climbing through snow to the falls and then tossed pink roses into the rushing water in her memory. A snowball fight on the way back to the cars was the perfect touch! No doubt everyone recalled her gleeful and contagious laughter as the cold snow dripped down our faces and necks.

Happy Holidays, Dixons!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Dearma Date

Mary Autumn, Nell, and I went on a luncheon date to celebrate Mary Autumn's 4th birthday. We had lunch at the counter at Diamondback and then walked down the street to Out of Hand to paint pottery. Mary Autumn chose a rabbit to paint and Nell chose a cat. After painting, the girls played for a while in the play area. Then we strolled back to the car. It was the sweetest of afternoons, spending time with these two girls who are so companionable.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Post Surgery Update

This note at 9pm from Wendy A.'s sister Robyn who is at UCSF with the gals:

Good News! All went very well with the surgery for both Wendy's. They ended up with THE best team here: W P's doc has an outstanding reputation, and W A got the HEAD of the transplant department, Dr. Ascher. Google her - she's pretty impressive!

W P's doc reported that she had a beautiful kidney, and she was doing very well post surgery. W A's doc said everything went very well, and now they are waiting for a post op ultrasound to check progress. They'll both be in recovery for another 2 to 3 hours before coming back up to their rooms. We won't know anything more until then, and tomorrow will be a day of watching reactions, getting fluids back into their bodies, and beginning to walk.

Thank you all for your support and positive energy that you've been sending to them today. On the part of Wendy Archer's family, we are so thankful to Wendy Pound for being willing to become part of our family!


In February 2007, my dear friend Wendy A. was diagnosed with kidney failure. At the time of her diagnosis, doctors declared that she was already at end-stage failure and eligible for dialysis.

Wendy A. met this diagnosis head-on. Terribly weakened by the kidney failure, she nevertheless garnered her incredible personal resources and stamina for she was determined to NOT do dialysis until it was absolutely necessary. She conducted Interntet research and quizzed doctors and nurses about her condition. She adopted a diet that would keep her kidneys from working hard and reduce the side effects of high blood pressure and high cholesterol that resulted from her failing kidneys. She made regular massage and accupuncturue appointments and spent time in her hot tub warming her body and relaxing her spirit. She let people help her--she who was always, always, forever helping others. And she assumed a reasonable and moderate exercise program the helped her regain the strength she had been steadily losing for months. The exercise program worked so well that she was able to do some hiking in the summer, one of life's greatest pleasures for Wendy A.

She also went through a rigorous screening to see if she was a good candidate for a kidney transplant. She was! And her sisters began testing to see if they could donate a kidney to her. Neither of them were viable donors, but on a momentous hike during the summer of 2007, another friend-- Wendy P.-- told Wendy A. that she would like to be in-queue as a potential donor.

Two years later, having avoided dialysis by an incredible regime and healthy life style changes, and after a roller coaster of medical, mental, and physical preparations, TODAY is the day that Wendy P. will give Wendy A. a kidney.

Please hold these two women gently and easily in a circle of prayer and love. See them both hiking in the high Sierra next summer: noble friend Wendy P. and fully recovered Wendy A.

Monday, December 22, 2008

The Christmas Party

We took over 300 pictures with our new camera at the Christmas Party, but I've narrowed it down to a slide show of 31 pictures that offer highlights from the rich and wonderful day! My favorite parts of the day were: Listening to my boys jam on banjo and guitar; watching Cody and August shoot pool; the amazing array of food; the circle of kids around the tree patiently waiting their turn to open gifts; chocolate fondue joy; Huck asking for a job at clean up time, and each kid climbing the ladder to take down decorations to a background of music by Culley, Raleigh, and Cody as we ALL cleaned up.

The party was everything I hoped for! THE BEST GIFT ever: a family gathering!!

For another, slower option of viewing the slideshow click the picture below:
The Christmas Party

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Our Christmas Tree

Today we put up our Christmas tree. Since we got the tree late and will be leaving on Christmas Eve, we decided on a little tree that we put on the dining room table. After we decorated the tree, we ate our dinner from plates set on festive red and green braided place mats in front of the tree. We had been decorating the clubhouse all afternoon for the big party tomorrow, so it was fun to extend the experience into our own home.

Friday, December 19, 2008

San Francisco Ballet

I grew up in San Francisco where going to the Nutcracker ballet performance was part of the Christmas tradition. Though I didn't go every year as a child, I went often enough that the music and the magic are deeply woven into my experience of Christmas. When Jennie Lou was a little girl, I wanted very much for her to have a Nutcracker experience, and now that I have a number of girl grandchildren, I'm determined to get everyone of them to the Nutcracker during the Christmas season at least once during their childhood.

So it was with great excitement that I headed to San Francisco and the ballet with Jenny, Taylor, and Candice this week. The Opera Hall itself was simply stunning, from the red and green lighted nutcrackers tucked between the balustrades of the exterior to the glitter and sparkle of decorations inside. One can't help but look upward at the amazing chandelier hanging in the grand assembly hall. And no matter how many times I see the Nutcracker, I am moved to tears by the Snowflake dance at the end of the first Act and the Pas de Deux at the end of the second Act, just as I am awestruck by the Christmas tree that grows to a magnificent size, gleeful at the appearance of the Russian dancers, and delighted by the Dancing Bear.

But best of all is sharing and enjoying the unmitigated pleasure of newcomers to the San Francisco ballet performance of the Nutcracker. I'm confident that Jenny, Taylor, and Candice enjoyed the performance as much as I. Plus we had a great post-performance dinner at the famous Max's on Van Ness. What a marvelous day!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

The Rescue

Cindy has the opposite relationship to shopping from me. She takes her time and enjoys the process, patiently visiting multiple stores and price checking until she finds just what she wants for the right price. I'm an in-and-out kind of gal with about a 30 minute ceiling on the time I can spend shopping (That's why Black Friday worked well for me.)

We quickly recognized this difference in behavior and have taken it into consideration when it comes to shopping. When I must go along, I always bring a book or my journal so I can retire to the car when I "hit the wall" which is how Cindy describes the glassy-eyed zombie behavior that signals I'm done shopping. Mostly I just don't go shopping. She either goes by herself--sometimes late at night, like after 9--or with her mom, who has a similar shopping style.

This past weekend we went to Mariposa, and I stayed home with Cindy's dad by the fire while Cindy and her mom headed to Merced--an hour away-- for Christmas shoppping. They left in the early afternoon despite a winter storm warning for low elevation snow. While I napped and read Harry Potter, they shopped. They didn't buy a lot, but it was clear when they checked in by phone that they were enjoying what Cindy called "the investigative" stage of shopping. She was researching on her Blackberry at the same time that they looked at items in stores. Her voice was filled with happy good cheer.

When they left for home, they drove directly into the storm. Six miles from Mariposa, they struggled to crest a hill, fishtailing in Cindy's two-wheel drive Dodge Dakota pickup, and slid into a snowbank on the side of the road in a place where they had no cell phone coverage. Stuck in the snowbank, Cindy flagged down a passing motorist and asked the driver to call her dad for help when she got to town.

When we got the call, Cindy's dad, Fred, and brother Jimmy left to rescue them. Jimmy's son-in-law went too, and he and Jimmy got Cindy's truck out of a snow bank, driving it over a hill that the Highway Patrol insisted they could not make without chains. Cindy argued with the CHP while her brother headed forward with the truck with the son-in-law bouncing on the bumper to offer necessary traction. Then Cindy and her mom hiked over the same hill to get to Fred who was waiting on the other side.

The truck was almost out of gas because they had sat with it running for 2 hours, so they could have heat while they waited for Fred and Jimmy to come. Since they had sent word with someone in another car, they had no way of knowing if the people had called us and if Fred was even coming. They got home at 11:30, wet and freezing.

It was an adventure that years from now will be a family story, but it's one adventure I'm happy to have missed. Cindy thought I should have exhibited more concern, but I was admittedly feeling a little smug about being warm and comfortable rather than weathering the adventures of Chrismas shopping.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Brother Andy Retires

At my brother Andy's retirement party, someone asked him how long he had worked. "My whole life," he replied.

It's true! I remember Andy working diligently to pack the car for family trips to Twain Harte when he was 8 or 9. A few years later he was getting up early in the morning to go to work with my dad in dark and dingy theaters. He's been in business for himself and worked for others, built his own home in part from salvaged materials he collected himself and invented improved methods for his most recent job at Modesto Irrigation District, the place from which he is officially retiring. There is no doubt Andy will continue to work for the rest of his life, but now he has the daily option to choose what he will work on and when.

It was a pleasure to celebrate Andy's retirement with family and friends on a brisk December night in the lovely home that he and Connie have built and designed with such attention to detail. The cozy orange glow of this picture speaks to the warm celebratory evening. Welcome little brother to the next stage.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Everybody Loves a Parade

The small town of Tuolumne City has a dear Christmas Parade each year. Cindy and I along with Huck and Nell stood with the town's people in the frosty December night under a glorious full moon, enjoying the floats and the Summerville marching band.

The Tippett family donned angel and shephard costums and rode on the St. Joseph's float. Baby Clare wrapped in a blanket in Anna Mae's arms, formed a tableau of Mary with the baby Jesus. A huge green banner reminded onlookers: "Tis the Reason for the Season."

After the parade, we all went to a festival in the Memorial Hall where the kids sat on Santa's lap, decorated a Christmas cookie, and then climbed in the bleechers. We made a stop on the way home to enjoy some of the Christmas lights at a spot I had visited on the Special Event bus tour the night before.

As the house fills with the aroma of baking cookies today, I'd have to say that the spirit of Christmas is definitely parading through the month.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Special Event

Every year Tuolumne County Transit offers a Christmas Lights Tour in exchange for a donation of a non-perishable food item. Since Jenny and I have been trying to do a field trip on the Transit, we thought this would be a way to get that trip in and see some of the lights around the county.

So at 4:30, Jenny, Taylor, Kyle, Candice, and I got in line with others to be among the first-come-first-served passengers for the bus ride. Our first clue that this might not quite meet our expectations was the line of people waiting to get on the buses: At 60, I was a youngster among those lined up, and the kids and Jenny were mere infants. This was a special event for the oldsters in the county it seemed.

When the buses marked "Special Event" rolled up, we boarded, depositing our non-perishable food items at the front of the bus in payment for the ride. For some reason, the buses sat running in front of Gottschalks for a very long time, and it was 5:30 before we pulled away from the curb.

We bounced along Tuolumne Road noticing many homes that were beautifully lit but which we sailed by so quickly that Taylor, who was trying to get pictures, merely captured a blur of light. When we got to Tuolumne City, the busses slowed down and we saw some truly marvelous displays where homeowners had gone to great length to create delightful scenes with lights and other figures. After that, we drove through Soulsbyville, Willow Springs, the housing tract above Raleigh's home, over to Crystal Falls drive and then cut over to Crestview. Then we went into a tract off Phoenix Lake Road. Next we flew down 108 to drive through downtown Jamestown and out to Rolling Oaks. Our last cruise through was at Mill Villa Estates.

We saw many gaily lit homes but we were spent. In fact, we were spent some where around Crestview, getting hungrier by the minute. Everyone was outwardly patient even if inwardly we were ready to get back to the Junction, and Candice kept us entertained with her lively conversation. At one point, we were discussing folks who ride the bus because they don't have cars. I told her people paid to ride, and she said quite confidently, "They get to ride the bus for a can of beans!"

OOPS! Guess our field trip on the Transit left a faulty impression about the cost of public transportation. It was a Special Event we will file away in our memory of 2008 field trips. Next year, however, we may visit the lights in the family car.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Leon's Finger

Leon's exuberance got the best of him the other night. With a mighty slam of the bathroom door, he caught the end of his pinky. OUCH!! Papa wrapped his bleeding finger with a washcloth and called on Andrea, the family medicial consultant. Andrea cleaned and bandaged the wound and also offered Tylenol, a chunk of cheese, and some popcorn, and released him to Mama's care for observation and control.

Leon has to take it slowly for a few days while his finger heals. That's a tall order for an active almost 6 year old and an even taller order for the mother who has to remind him.

We are all praying for Leon's speedy healing!

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Huckleberry Speaks His Mind

Andrea sent this email about 5 year old Huckleberry:

so tonight and last night i put huck to bed. his meandering
conversation was so amazing to me on both nights that i spent the
whole time making mental notes and committed to write it all down the second i left the room. here are the bits i remember.

somewhere in a long conversation about fencing:

h: i am scared of sword fights.
a: yeah but sword fights are a sport now; they wear shields and
masks. no one is killed.

which led somehow to bullet-proof vests and me explaining that really only police or people in war wear them.

h: do i know any one who is in war?
a: grandpa (shannon) was in a war.
h: i think what would be safest for the world would be if there were
no weapons.
a: there is a country called japan, you know like in "my neighbor totoro," where the dads take deep baths with the kids and the people all have black hair and eat sushi for breakfast and roll out mats to sleep on at night, you know...japan? the people there all decided that they wouldn't have any weapons.
h: i think everyone in sonora should move to japan.

h: if you kill someone, you go to jail forever, that's fair. if someone kills your dad, it is fair to kill their dad because you don't have a dad forever and they should also not have a dad forever.

h: you told me last year that santa is pretend, but all the kids tell me he's actually real.

h: santa is a city gnome.

h: dad told me cannibals are not pretend. (thanks pippi longstocking).

h: if you need a son, or if you need another daughter, you could always grow one in your belly if you want.

i recommend to all people that they put huck to bed soon to get in on this.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Mary Autumn Turns 4

Mary Autumn celebrated her 4th birthday with family at Grandaddy's. She wore a green velvet dress and white tights. Her cousin Nell wore a matching dress, and the two played side by side all evening while family mingled and socialized around them. Bonnie prepared a turkey and there were delicious side dishes. Mama made a snowman birthday cake with maltball eyes. A good time was had by all.

Here is slideshow of pictures taken at the party.

Friday, December 5, 2008


The last I heard, Anna Mae was on page 650 of the 5th book in the Harry Potter series. I distinctly remember days as a child when I was able to indulge in reading a book for hours on end, a time when gobbling up a whole series was a week's occupation.

That's why when I came home exhausted from work yesterday, I changed into my jammies, grabbed a Harry Potter book off the shelf, and snuggled into bed at 6:30. It didn't matter that I only have 3 books in the series, all of which I'd already read. What I sought was the lovely pleasure of losing myself in a book. I only managed to read 50 pages of Book 2 before sleep grabbed me, but for a short time I indulged in delicious adventure with Harry Potter.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Heavy Viewing

The extra long weekend allowed lots of time for movie watching. Here are my thoughts related to the five DVDs that we watched, none of which were light viewing. Though we thought we had chosen at least two films that were on the lighter side, we were wrong.

The Kite Runner- I always allow ample time between reading a book and seeing the movie adaptation, so I wasn't ready to see this movie when it came out in the theater. It was an excellent adaption and every bit is difficult to digest in film as it was on the page. The issues, including class, war, brutality, betrayal, courage, and hope, were managed truthfully. It's a tear jerker for sure but well worth seeing. The kite flying cinematography is a soft visual space amidst the hard truth this film portrays.

The Life Before Her Eyes- We mistakenly thought we were going from a hard film (The Kite Runner) to a less intense drama when we watched this film. NOT!! Featuring the beautiful Uma Thurmond, the film's premise was built around a school shooting. The issue is choices, and it was offered with a post-modern twist that took a good 15 minutes of head shaking and conversation to sort out at the end. I love a movie that keeps me thinking for a long time after and this one did, but beware: it centers on horrific tragedy.

Iron Jawed Angels- This is a must see for every woman. We owe so much to the women who secured our right to vote and this film reveals their courage, conviction, and perseverance. And it features Hilary Swank in another one of those thought provoking pieces she is wont to do. I feel like such a wimp in comparison to those who are compelled to pursue human rights and I'm glad to have films that remind me about standing tall and firm on such important issues.

The Visitor- Again we thought we were choosing something on a lighter note when we picked up this one. It features Richard Jenkins (who was in Six Feet Under) as Walter a university professor whose life is bland and plodding. Walter's zest for life is renewed by a young Syrian man and his Singalese girlfriend who have surreptiously rented Walter's apartment in NYC. Surprises both good and sad await the viewer. This film gently grabbed our hearts and then squeezed painfully.

The Savages- This piece fits into what seems to be an emerging sub-genre, i.e. films about adult children caring for an aging parent. We got it because I like Philip Seymour Hoffman who played Capote brilliantly. He was excellent in this film too as the elder brother and university professor. Laura Linney is also terrific as the younger sister. This is a tragi-comedy, so there are many laughable moments but with a cost when watching two adults flounder through life because of unskillful parenting when they were kids. Though it was a little slow moving, I'd give it a thumb up.

That was our weekend in film. We've swallowed a serious dose of heaviness and will be returning to romantic comedy for our December holiday season viewing.