Before the New Year rolls around with all its goal for the future, and my holiday decorations are all packed up in their 18 gal.bins and stashed against the garage wall, I thought I’d take a few moments to reminisce about Christmas and 2011.

Every Christmas brings with it a different combo of family with which to spend good time – eating, laughing, unwrapping, celebrating and relaxing. This year, 2011, it included

Christmas Eve-Eve ~ We welcomed Rick & Jan into town from Southern California. They made the long drive up to Portland just to see us kids and grand kids. It was pretty special! We all went in on a Greenberg turkey that Jamie thought of ordering way in advance and brought with her. Jan stopped by Thriftway for some extra ingredients to complete our dinner that turned out to be so yummy. Riley, 3, had fun running around the house with Bray and Angel, until his obsession with brownies got him in some trouble.  Bray absolutely loved his personalized ATM machine to help him save and Angel, her Barbie Beach House from Granny & Papa Rick (and! Tyler was here too, which made the evening extra special. Here’s a link to some more thoughts on this evening – as well as some more shots!

Christmas Eve ~ We slept in, our kiddos re-organized their gifts for the 3rd or 4th time, and we watched “It’s a Wonderful Life” – well, the kids and I did. Rick who I am convinced has some kind of repressed horrid memory having to do with classic  movies and/or traditions in general, escaped the house for some last-minute shopping.  It was still a special time for me because it was B & A’s 1st time ever watching the Jimmy Stewart movie…forever a classic in my book – one that I remember watching (or at least having on TV, muted, during the festivities) while I was growing up.  Braylon especially, seemed to like it…which made my heart smile. Speaking of movies, Bray opened his present from Gamma and Papa Bob – and he cannot wait to purchase it when it comes out 1/17: the movie they saw in the theater together when Gamma was here visiting at Halloween: Courageous…+ some extra cash to save.  And Angel & I got to put her new Hello Kitty sheets, pillow cases & decorative pillow on her new full bed, with a giant smile. Thank you Pilands!! I, still with no make up on, opened up my gift from Rick – an iHome speaker system for my iPod touch, a personalized coffee mug written on by all 3 of them, and the unexpected.

He’d paid off the ring I have been paying on for the last year. A new, white-gold wedding ring with feminine sparkles and swirls. After 14 years, my original ring was pretty worn out, constantly losing little diamonds, snagging its prongs on clothing & the main diamond ring was was not even centered/secured right on the wrap. The silver-colored rhodium plating would also rub off so the gold would show through on the highest parts, every year or so. I was pretty patient if I do say so myself! And it totally paid off. I thought it’d be at least another year til I was able to finish paying on it with extra money, here & there. But it’s on order now…being made for me from scratch, and should be in by the 10th or so. I’m keeping the main diamond that was originally from Janis’s wedding ring… just using it in the new one now. So SpeCiAl!

That evening we piled our things into the car and headed to the Bebb’s for presents and a delicious Indian food feast – tenderly marinated chicken in an Indian sauce over rice, I brought Pita bread w/this home-made thick cucumber-mint-yogurt dip stuff – Raita? …and home made brownies w/real whipped cream. You can always count on Charity to bring good food to gatherings. Fresh veggies, a pretty sun-dried tomato & basil cream-cheese  and cracker plate, and lots more.

My mom & dad both broke the rule of not getting ea.other gifts – he got her a big canvas painting/photo of their favorite beach in Hawaii, and she got him a real ukulele – which he’s really gettin’ quite good at playin’!


Christmas 2008

From my journal on Christmas night:

What a Christmas vacation. Two nights ago we boarded a plane from Austin to Seattlecontinental airlines (which was cheaper than tickets to Portland, even with a rental); drove south (Oregon bound) but only made it Olympia before the snow started comin’ down heavy – too heavyimg_0039 & sticky for our lil Ford Focus with lil bare tires. With the help of some of God’s angels, we made it to a Red Lion Hotel and only paid $89. for a great room with two queen sized oh-so-comfy beds. We had quite the view of a the swimming pool-ice-rink and at breakfast,img_0038 we sat at a table with huge windows overlooking a half-frozen lake and snow-blanketed trees all around, which made up for the suckie food. It was still snowing lightly when we looked at the freeway.

I-5 was wet & clear so we packed up & continued on, with 3.5 hrs of sleep, home-sick hearts and 3 refills of coffee as fuel. It amazed me how great we felt.

On Christmas Eve, we made it to Sherwood, OR … no roadside assistance necessary, even on the worst roads, Tualatin- Sherwoodme-n-ricky and my family’s street, SW Houston. The Stewarts came down to the Bebb’s and we got to love on each other, have chicken divan & Christmas cookies (wiener-dog shaped w/icing & sprinkles). Narnia and It’s a Wonderful Life played as the kiddos (Gabby 5, Jamae 7, Angel 2, and Braylon 6) ran around the house. Finally, we gathered in the living room where I read a few paragraphs from new-jammiesLuke 2 about Jesus’ birth before

sleepy-angel Bray interrupted with, “can we open a present now?!”  The kids got one gift to open. We set out three cookies and a small glass of milk on the piano. It was going to be two cookies, but Bray said that Santa (from the mall) whispered to him that he likes to have three.

At 10:15pm after everyone went to bed, I re-wrapped one present & wrote that it was from Santa…well, actually I wrote:

For Braylon:

Santa and all us elves wish you God’s very best! You were on his “good list”.

Love, Hermie (the Dentist-Misfit Elf)

 I messed up the car track in front of the fireplace, scooted a bench next to the piano, and made tiny arm & foot prints (the kind you make with the side of your hand) inside the dusty fireplace vent that opened wide. It would prove to be the perfect set-up.

Hook, line and sinker, baby. Two years in a row. After reading it, Braylon lit up when he thought it was amazing they knew him by name, and again when he remembered who Hermie was. He watched the old Rudolf claymation show last week.  Hermie and Rudolf were both misfits that became friends.

Bray opened up the gift & it was (by coincidence) exactly what he’d asked Santa for three days ago when Papa Rick, Granny & Deenie took him to the mall ~ an mp3 player. What a convenient gift for our lil traveling buddy. Complete with a collection of the legendary sounds of Jonny Lang.


img_0051At 9am, we headed over to the Stewart’s place through the icy snow for a huge, yummy breakfast (including the traditional Santa-pancakes) and then back to Mom and Dad’s for presents. After Stew and Rick helped my Dad get our rental out of a snow rut, we were packed up and were off again…another 280 miles south, to see the rest of the family this Christmas day!guitar

I-5 to Medford was wet & clear…even over the Sexton Pass (almost 2k ft). We made it to the condo by 6pm in time for some of Janis’s good ‘ol chicken spaghetti with the Reeves. We just hung out, caught up, laid back and relaxed in the presence ofclint family. A sense of warmth and safety loomed. Braylon had a gift that he was just enamoured with ~ a small laser pointer. Someone asked him if he could give us a laser light show, to which he and his cousins all replied, “what’s a laser light show?” (What? You mean you don’t remember Pink Floyd at the OmniMax Theater?!) Well, after explaining it, we all took turns with our own unique designs on the ceiling. At one point, we all stopped to notice snow flurries lit by a parking lot lamp, out their 2nd story window.

Bob (inside-jokingly) said, “hey, lets all go around in a circle and name something about our spouse that annoys us!” Referring, of course to Rick’s genius attempt in 2003 to simultaniously cure bordom, bring laughter and promote the expression of  brutal honesty among family members). This time Rick replied, “How ’bout we name one thing we love about our spouse (or for the kiddos,  a parent or sibling)”. Well, this generated quite the response. Love filled the dimly lit room. Rick said: “I love how she cares how she looks, but isn’t so into herself that she goes to extremes. She knows who she is.”

After we all answered that one, we kept the ball rollin’ with a few more…

“name the best material gift you could ever get”

“name an aspiration you would love to do or learn the art of one day”

“name one place you’d like to travel”

“name one fear you have”

“name one thing you use or have, that you take for granted on a daily basis”

and we finished the night with real stories of angel sightings. It was about 11pm…and about 10 minutes later, not a creature was stirring.

The next day was shared with the other link in our Russ-chain: Jeremy, Jamie, Tyler  9, and baby Riley  10 mo.s (who weighed in at appx.28 lbs!).  We grubbed on Greenberg smoked turkey (sent from Gam, of course), green bean casserole, mashed taters & gravy, and warm rolls…oh, and three gallons of Tillamook Ice Cream with brownies made from scratch.









Those few days were packed with blessings from my God. They were so much fun, and such a blur, that I just had to write it all down. Sometimes it can bring joy and comfort to be able to re-read and ponder the details of family gatherings such as these, for years to come.



gettin’ the band back together for Christmas

yeah, baby! our band from Christmas ’07 is hookin’ up for a re-run this season!

‘illuminate’ so far this yr. is including myself, rene (now on bass), ramon (now interchangeably on acoust.guitar, mandolin and ukelele) and probably jeremy (on sax) this is going to be sweet (even sweeter if we had a bit of percussion in there)! starbucks is glad to have us back, and i’m workin’ on a few other coffee shops that might have us. now for refining & bulkin’ up the set list…

i’m just burstin’ at the seams!