Yesterday, I heard the news that one of the iconic giant sequoia trees, located in Calaveras Big Trees State Park, in California’s Sierra Nevada Mountains, is gone. The tree had been hollowed out to allow cars to drive through it. The Pioneer Cabin Tree, usually referred to as simply the “tunnel tree,” is estimated to be over 1,000 years old. It was knocked over by a powerful winter storm that slammed into California on Sunday. While the tunnel had been carved out of the tree, it was still very much a living tree.
I immediately though back to a vacation my husband, Bob and I took a few years back, that took us through the scenic Redwood National Park in northern California. While the tree that we were able to drive through was not the one that was toppled in this storm, I still felt the loss of that amazing tree. The giant sequoia is the world’s largest tree, after all, and it is only found in the western slopes of the Sierra Nevada Mountains. It can reach a height of 325 feet. This particular tree, called the Pioneer Cabin Tree was actually hollowed out in about 1880. For a long time, cars drove through the iconic tree, but in recent years, it was only accessible by hiking trail. I thought about the tree we drove through, and how much fun it was to see such a huge tree. I was quite saddened by the loss of this beautiful tree.
Apparently, a volunteer, Jim Allday was in the park on Sunday when the tree came crashing down. It was about 2 pm, and the tree splintered on impact. The thing that he found most concerning was that visitors had been walking through the tree just hours earlier. He went out to the site to find the tree on the ground, and what looked like a pond or river running through it. The river was most likely the cause of the tree’s demise. The powerful winter storm brought heavy rain and snow to the area. It was the worst flooding in over a decade. The storm forced the closing of Yosemite National Park. It brought with it, hurricane-force winds of over 100 miles per hour. The wind and soggy ground were just too much for the giant tree. For people in the area, and anyone who has ever had the opportunity to see the tree and the park, it feels like losing a famous historical figure, and at 1,000, it was a great historical figure indeed.
A couple of weeks ago, a baby bird fell out of it’s nest into our front yard. Our neighbor Mary Sanchez saw it first, and was careful not to disturb it when she mowed her lawn. The next day, when Bob and I came home and parked out front, we heard a commotion. I walked toward the hedge that separates our yard from Mary’s, and was surprised to see a squawking baby crow standing in the grass. It’s mom was nearby, warning me to stay away from her baby, so we backed away and left the situation alone. We weren’t sure if the mom was taking care of her baby, or what, so we watched closely. Very soon, there was no doubt that she was a good mom, and in fact there was also a good dad in this situation. A few days went by, and while we worried about cats, this little baby bird continued to thrive…miraculously.
The day did come when we were forced to intervene. Our little baby bird decided to go and stand in the middle of the street…and it was a hot day. We debated on what to do about this situation, and determined that if we didn’t move it, a car was going to hit it, or the hot asphalt would kill it. So my brave husband donned a pair of gloves, picked the bird up, and moved it back toward our back yard…dodging the dive bomb attempts of the mother. All we could do then was stay away and hope the parents continued their great care of their baby. The baby continued to get bigger, and the parents were always around, so we decided that our bird rescue had been successful.
Of course, like all children, the day came when our little bird again decided to go into the street, and so began bird rescue take 2. Once again dodging the dive bombs of the mom, Bob picked up the bird and put it back near our back fence. That turned out to be to best plan, because the bird decided to check out the back yard, and we began to worry less. The baby has stayed in the back yard, and out of trouble for the most part. We had to chase off a cat twice, and now the parents are a little bit more tolerant of us…at least when the cat shows up. In fact, I think she likes us then.
I have had the opportunity to get some great close up photos of the baby, and finally today, I was treated to the chance to observe lunchtime. Flying lessons have begun, but this is a big baby, and it’s wings aren’t long enough yet. Nevertheless, it’s parents know that it needs to build up its muscles so that when its wings catch up with its body, it will be able to fly. This has been a wonderful things to watch, and while we know that our little baby is still not out of danger, we have high hopes for it. One thing I can say for sure, this job of raising baby at 60+ years old is a lot to take on. I know now, why we all have kids when we are young.
Every year, as Christmas approaches, people head out in search of the perfect gift for those they love. Sometimes the hunt can be brutal. You have asked for a list, but they can’t come up with anything, or you don’t ask for a list, and simply hope you know them well enough to know what they would like. Either way, there are times that you just can’t find something you are satisfied with. Other years you are a shopping guru. You fly through your list with ease, and before you know it you are done.
That is kind of how things were for my grandparents, when they were courting. They seriously found the best Christmas gift for each other…a honeymoon. Now, I don’t know if they got to got on any kind of a trip, but getting married on Christmas Eve meant that they got to start their life together for Christmas. Their first full day as husband and wife was Christmas Day. Not everyone would consider Christmas Eve to be the best day for a wedding, and I can understand that, with everything else that is going on during the Christmas season. My grandparents were of a different mind on that. For them, as for many people in those days, weddings tended to take place when the family was all gathered together. Christmas was a perfect time for that. So, since they wanted to get married anyway, they set it for Christmas Eve, so it didn’t interfere with Christmas Day.
It all seemed very practical I’m sure, but for my grandparents, I’m sure it felt quite different. Excitement over starting their new life together must have completely overshadowed the traditional Christmas celebrations. Waking up next to each other on that first Christmas morning, must have been like being a little kid rushing downstairs to see what Santa Clause brought them for Christmas…except you already knew. They gave each other a honeymoon for Christmas, as well as a whole new life. in that way, I can understand their decision to marry on Christmas Eve. And they aren’t alone in that choice either. My cousin Raylynn Richards Williams and her husband Doug felt the same way about a Christmas Eve wedding as our grandparents did so many years ago.
Maybe Raylynn and Doug chose Christmas Eve because Grandma and Grandpa did, or maybe they chose Christmas Eve because they liked that time of year. I’m not sure, but I’m sure that no matter the reason, if you choose to marry on Christmas Eve, you will have, as part of your honeymoon, the Christmas Day celebration, and that has to be special. I’m so thankful for my grandparents, who found each other, and started this wonderful family, of which I am a part. And for Raylynn and Doug, Happy Anniversary, and Merry Christmas, both Eve and Day.
We often don’t realize how much we are like our parents or our children are like us, until a picture provides us with the realization that the thing we thought was so cute they our child did, was not so very different than the things we did at their age. That very thing jumped out at me when I was looking at this picture of my sister, Cheryl Masterson and me holding our cats when we were little girls. I was probably about the same age then as my daughter, Amy Royce was when she, because of her love for her kitties wanted to hold the two of them at once. Because her little arms were not able to keep the kitties held around their tummies, they ended up being held around their necks. I was always impressed with those sweet cats, in that they did not scratch my little daughter for putting them in that precarious position, but rather seemed to understand that she loved them and that she was doing her best. I have seen cats scratch a child for less, but our cats never did.
Had I known then, what I do now, I might have thought to get a picture of Amy holding our cats by their necks, but while I thought it was very cute, and I have never forgotten it, somehow, I never thought to take that picture, and so the kitty events of Amy’s past live only in my memory files now. Nevertheless, looking at the picture my parents did think to take, I can see that the apple certainly doesn’t fall far from the tree. Quite possibly, Amy got her kitty handling skills from her mom, since the neck seemed to be the easiest place for me to hold my kitties too, and since they don’t look particularly upset be the whole situation, I guess they didn’t scratch me either.
There are many ways that Amy is my mini-me, and this picture just goes to show that. We are alike in our personalities, and in the way we do things…although I must say I was surprised to find that when it came to handling cats, we were exactly the same too. What I find equally surprising is that our cats never took our clumsiness out on us. They just instinctively knew that we loved them very much, and that was enough for the cats. I can imagine that my mom and dad tried repeatedly to get me to hold the kitties differently, but somehow it always ended up the same…just like it did with Amy.
Cats can be mean, and scratch you for the slightest infraction of the rules of pet care, but I think that when they know that you are a little kid, and that you are doing your best, they tend to cut you a little slack. I don’t think I ever hit the cats or pulled on their tails, and I know that Amy didn’t either. Our cats just knew that we were their little human, and they loved us very much. That shows in the amount of time they spent around us, even if we were asleep. Yes, in pet interests, as well as many other areas of life, the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.
I never had a little brother…or any brother for that matter, until I married Bob. I had a brother-in-law then, but no brothers. If I could have picked a little brother, I think he would have been just like Bob’s brother, Ron Schulenberg, so I guess it’s perfect that he was the one I got. Yes, he was my brother-in-law too, but he was so young when I married Bob, just six years old, so he just didn’t seem like a brother-in-law to me. I remember taking him with us on dates sometimes. He got to go to Dairy Queen more than any six year old there ever was, I’m sure, because how many little kids got to go on dates with their older brother. Most older brothers didn’t want their kid brother hanging around them at all, much less on dates, but Bob and Ron always got along well. They still do to this day too. Whenever one of them has a project going, and they need help, they know that they only have to call, and the other one will be there to assist. It is a blessed kind of relationship that the two of them have always had. Oh there were the ups and downs too, I’m sure, but the bad times never lasted very long.
Ron was an uncle pretty early on too, since my daughter, Corrie Petersen was born when he was just seven years old. Growing up, my girls must have almost felt like he was their older brother too, because they saw a lot of him. I don’t recall them ever fighting too much like siblings do, so I guess he took his uncle duties very seriously, and acted very mature. Of course, by the time my girls were old enough to fight with him, he was closer to being a teenager, so maybe he didn’t feel the need to fight with them. I remember one time when we were out cutting down trees for firewood, Ron found a deformed tree, and since the girls had come along that time, he took them out to that tree, and set them up in it. It looked like a chair. They thought it was the coolest thing, so we got a picture of them in that tree, and their Uncle Ron standing proudly beside them.
Ron is grown and married now. His wife, Rachel had a daughter, Cassie, who is married, and two little boys, Riley and Tucker, so he gets to spend lots of time with little kids again. I think he is so good with little kids, because he has had so much practice…practically all his life. He went from being a good uncle to being a good dad. Nevertheless, while he is over six feet tall now, he will always be my little brother, so he might as well get used to that. Today is Ron’s birthday. Happy birthday Ron!! Have a great day!! We love you!!
This time of year, everything is so exciting for the little ones in our lives…and even for the not so little ones. The littlest ones especially find the lights, gifts, candy, and the excitement of it all to be almost more than they can believe. Their eyes light up as brightly as the Christmas tree, and keeping their little hands away from the tree and gifts can prove to be really difficult. On Thursday nights, I spend the evening with my mom, Collene Spencer and my sister, Cheryl Masterson. With school activities and Christmas shopping to do, my niece Jenny Spethman often drops her daughter, Aleesia off at my mom’s so she can spend a little time with her grandma and great grandma. That means I get to see quite a bit of her too, and she is so much fun to be around at this age. She is such a goofy little girl anyway, and I don’t know if it’s the candy or the season, but she becomes even more goofy.
I have had a chance to hear Aleesia say a lot of things, and believe me they are all just as cute as they can be. She always calls the movie Despicable Me, Spicable Me and the Minis. She calls my mom, her great grandma, GeeGee. She loves to say Paaaaleese with her grandma. These are common mispronunciations among little kids to be sure, but such fun to hear the kids say. And as we all know, kids grow up so fast that before you know it they can say all their words without mispronunciation, and those cute little sayings days are gone.
This last week, while my niece, Jenny was shopping, Aleesia and her brother Zack were at Mom’s house and we were watching kid movies. It’s funny how easily you can get used to those kid shows, when there is a little one around trying to say all the words they aren’t sure how to pronounce. That night though, Aleesia was having a lot of trouble concentrating on the movie. She kept touching the tree and pointing to the tree. Then she got up on the couch and looked out the window and saw the lights on the other houses and said, “Moo Lights!!” I laughed in spite of myself. I knew that she was trying to say “more lights”, but in my head I pictured cow-shaped lights. It was such a funny thought, that I could not keep a straight face.
Of course, what would Christmas be without candy. Christmas especially seems to be filled with baking of cakes, pies, cookies, and candy. By the time the holiday is over, the kids have had so much candy that is takes a couple of weeks to bring them back to earth. My sister, Cheryl had a really difficult time limiting the amount of candy Aleesia had. Aleesia kept coming back for more, saying, “Chocoleet!” She placed a strong emphasis on the “leet” part, and her high little voice just made it sound so cute. Of course, it was chocolate, but any candy would have been just fine.
I know that these days are very short, at least for Aleesia mispronouncing word, so I am very thankful that I have had the opportunity to be around to hear her funny little sayings. They will most likely be said only this year, and then next year, she will either not mispronounce words, or the mispronunciations will be entirely different words. Either way, I think I will always smile when I look at Christmas lights, because the thought of cow-shaped lights called Moo Lights will always be in my memory files.
As we head into the Christmas season, my mind wanders back in time, to when I was a child, and Christmas was drawing closer. Mom and Dad loved Christmas, so the tree went up as early as possible. Decorating our Christmas tree was always a big deal. Of course, back then, we had a real tree, in fact I don’t think there were any artificial trees back then. The evening started with Dad cutting the tree to the right height, so it wouldn’t bend at the ceiling, but somehow, with the star on top it would almost touch the ceiling. The house was filled with the wonderful scent of pine, and we were filled with anticipation.
Once the tree was up, Mom and Dad would string the lights and garland, while the room was filled with the voices of all of us as we sang Christmas Carols and ate the wonderful snacks Mom had prepared for the occasion. Finally it was time to start decorating the tree. Each of us girls had our own ideas on true tree beauty, and while we didn’t always agree on what that was, we all managed to work through our differences to create a tree that we were all happy with. And we always thought that the current year’s tree was the best ever…and maybe it was, because as we got older, I’m sure ornaments were more evenly spaced, and our choices of placement put more of the elegant ornaments in front.
Those days of family tradition and all of us being together have changed a lot over the years. As more of us married or had to work, the traditional Christmas decorating event changed until eventually it was completely unlike the ones I remember as a child, but the love and the spirit was always there. While each family has their own traditions now, and it is Jessi and some of the other grandkids who come to decorate the tree for Mom and Cheryl, to me it will always be Mom and Dad who really made Christmas what it was when I was a kid. Their love of the Lord and their love of His birthday surrounded our home at that time of the year. They showed us what the Christmas spirit was all about, at Christmas and all year round.
This time of year seems to be filled with family traditions. Family dinners, shopping, and decorating all play a part. For our family, the day after Thanksgiving, being Black Friday is shopping day, and the Saturday after Thanksgiving, is decorate the Christmas tree day. Since my girls are grown and married, it is the grandkids and me doing the decorating each year. We always have such a good time. The kids are getting older now, all teenagers, so there is a fair bit of goofing off and yet, they are much more help now too. The boys can handle the lights and garland, where before they always had to wait until I got the lights and garland on before they helped with just the ornaments.
This is a tradition I really enjoy, because it gives me time to be with my grandchildren doing something that is lots of fun and that we all enjoy. I think the kids look forward to it too. If one of them has to work, they are really disappointed, so we try to make sure that doesn’t happen. That can mean doing the decorating at different times each year, but that is ok, as long as there is a way to do it together.
We usually try to add Christmas carols to the mix, to put everyuone into the Christmas spirit. I don’t so much like it when the stores start playing Christmas music before Halloween, but once Thanksgiving is over, it’s just the right time. By then I’m ready…or as much as I ever will be…to start thinking about all that shopping, decorating, cooking, cleaning, and…fun!!! Here comes Christmas everyone!! Are you ready!!
When kids go outside to play a lot, you will find them climbing the trees eventually. This might be more common with boys than girls, but I don’t really think so. Every kid I have ever come across loved climbing the trees. Whether it is in a tree house, or just pretending to be a bird, it just gives a sense of freedom that can’t be found anywhere else.
Bob was one of those kids that loved climbing the trees. With 4 sisters, and no brother until he was 14 years old, I have to wonder if he climbed trees to be alone, of course, if you look at this picture closely, you will see that one of his sisters was in the tree too…in a dress!! Still, Bob was higher up, so that would make him the better climber…right. I’m sure that is what he thought anyway. As I said, Bob always loved to climb trees, but I can’t say that it was always the best idea. There was the time that he fell out of the tree, and tried to break his fall by landing on his arm. Needless to say the arm was broken. I don’t know if he ever fell out of a tree again, but he never landed on his arm again…too painful I guess.
I never fell out of a tree, although I did climb them as a kid. I don’t think I was very adventurous when it came to heights, so even though I climbed, it wasn’t that high and I stayed pretty close to the trunk. I did have a cousin that I was climbing a tree with the fell out when we were climbing. Terry was just below me and when he stepped on a dead branch, it broke and down he went. That made me nervous about climbing after that. I don’t know how he felt about it.
Nevertheless, most kids have a great time in a tree. Their imaginations can run wild, as the breeze blows through their hair. No wonder kids love tree houses. It is like a place of their own, away from the rules of parents, teachers, and such…at least for a little while. If you ask me, there is no better place for a kid to be than up a tree.
For a number of years, we went with my father-in-law and the guys in the family, to the Shirley Mountains to cut up downed wood to bring home for firewood. Sometimes the girls got to come with us. When they came, we tried to turn things into an adventure. If you wander around the woods long enough, you are bound to find something that is unusual. Sometimes trees and other plants can take on unusual forms. While exploring the area around where we were working, the kids found a tree that was so totally deformed that it went up a ways and bent straight over and then curved back up again. I suspect that it may have been struck by lightning or maybe the wind partially broke it, and then persevered to continue growing. It was, to say the least, a very strange sight…and one tough tree.
What happened to it didn’t really matter to my daughters. Corrie and Amy were completely thrilled with this tree. When it swung down to the ground, it came down quite low, and it made the perfect, goofy tree chair. They spend the rest of the day playing around it and having a great time. They liked the tree so much that they wished they could take it home. Of course, we all know that was impossible, so we took a picture of it so they could always remember it. They talked about that tree for quite some time, and have looked in other places we have camped to see if they can find more of them.
Kids can make an imaginary world using lots of things. My girls loved to play house and clubhouse, so having a chair appear out of the middle of a forest, made out of a tree, was very cool to them. It was a like a whole new way to play. They imagined living in the forest, the mountains in the old west, or maybe a tree house. I can’t say as I blamed them for coming up with so many ways to imagine their lives to be. We have all have wanted to live an adventure, and maybe…just for a minute, my girls got to do just that.