Sue and Mo at Harris Beach

Sue and Mo at Harris Beach
Sue and Mo at Harris Beach

Saturday, November 24, 2018

11-24-2018 Thanksgiving at Sunset House

I love Thanksgiving.  I love the cooking and the family gathering from all over to share the holiday.  It is better than Christmas to me.  No worries about presents and such, and complexities of family commitments for different people can be easily handled by having our holiday on Saturday instead of Thursday. 

That works great for family members who live a bit distant, and need to deal with working schedules and such.  Also works for other family members who have other family celebrating on Thursday and it is hard for them to be in both places. 

Grandsons Axel and Xavier

We had just moved in to Sunset House last year when we had our first family Thanksgiving in the new house.  I thought maybe we would go somewhere else this year, but happily for me, that wasn’t to be and I got to do Thanksgiving two years in a row!

Melody and family drove south from Eugene early on Saturday morning.  Both grandsons Axel and Xavier were free from work and school that day.  Axel lives and works in Albany, and Xavier is attending college in Eugene.  Axel brought his roommate Oni along who has shared holidays with us over the last few years.

Grandson Matthew and Daughter Deborah

Mo and I also decided to invite the neighbors from across the street who have family in distant cities.  Karen and Glenn were so good to daughter Deborah when she lived in our little cottage back before we tore it down to build this house.  Deb has maintained her friendship with them and we enjoy inviting them over now and then, especially when Deb is here.

Daughter Deb and her son Matthew joined us as well, and Deb got to take her famous creamed veggies to two Thanksgiving celebrations this year.  Everyone agrees it wouldn’t be Thanksgiving without Deb’s creamed vegetables, and Melody’s apple pies.

I do so love the traditions that are made more wonderful by the years of repetition.  Melody sent a photo of Facebook of her apple pies that were ready for transport and said, “Here is an apple pie for Mo”.  Mo loves Melody’s apple pies.  Right around that same time I got a Facebook memory notification from 8 years ago with a photo of Melody’s apple pies and a note saying “Here are the apple pies for Mo”.  Traditions are such a sweet thing.

Left to right: Neighbor Karen, Grandson Axel, Grandson Xavier, friend Oni, Grandson Matt, Daughter Melody, Melody’s Robert, and Neighbor Glenn

We had a lovely day, good food, and instead of games and puzzles, we spent a long time sorting the gorgeous tumbled stones that Melody brought.  She lives in a small house, loves to collect and tumble rocks and has no place to put them.  Lucky us, we get a huge stash of tumbled stones from all over the northwest to grace our gardens here at Sunset house. 

Mattie loves it when the house if full of people, friends, family, workers, anyone.  She loves people to be around.  Of course she also loved it that most people will slip her a treat during big family meals.

None of the family could stay for the night this year as they sometimes do.  I bought a stash of plastic containers with the holiday shopping and made sure everyone had a good selection of leftovers to take home.  Everyone left in time to get home before darkness set in.

It was a long and lovely day, and once we were alone again, Mo and I settled into the quiet, enjoying the fire and sneaking a few bites of leftovers.  Perfect Thanksgiving.

Sunday, November 18, 2018

11-13 through 11-18 2018 Quick Trip to Colorado

Tom and Edna Paul

I debated about blogging about this trip because the reason for going was a sad one.  Still, we had some wonderful times with family in the midst of it.  With the blog serving as my personal calendar and journal I didn’t want to miss writing about this important family gathering.

Mo’s sister Edna had a lovely husband, Tom.  They were a great pair, so it was with a lot of sadness that we learned of his passing.  Edna lives in Colorado, and there wasn’t enough time to plan a driving trip so we found some airline tickets and within a few days were on our way to the Denver area.  I think I had about 30 hours in between landing from my Missouri trip to visit my son before Mo and I boarded another flight to Denver.

Mo’s brothers chose to fly as well, and with one coming from Spokane and one from Portland, it was quite surprising that their flights arrived within minutes of our flight from Medford.  Edna made sure that we had a nice rental SUV to use for the trip, and the four of us met at the airport without incident.

We chose to arrive a day before the funeral, and Edna opened her house to all four of us for the week.  We went out to great dinners, took some lovely walks, and hosted some big meals for the family at Edna’s home. 

Tom was Roman Catholic, and the service was a traditional mass, with wonderful readings from Scripture, and beautiful music from the choir and soloists. Edna’s daughter Susan played the bass sang Amazing Grace so beautifully. The meal served after the service was wonderful, provided by the church volunteers.

Edna lives in a lovely neighborhood within walking distance of the Bear Creek Trail system, and Dan, Don, Mo and I took a nice long walk on a lovely sunny afternoon. 

Edna has two daughters, Susan and Marcie, and with their extended families, and the four Oukrop siblings and me, the family gatherings were full of fun and conversation.  One evening I put together a roast beef dinner, and thanks to Mo’s brother Don, we didn’t run out of meat.  He went shopping with me, and after I chose the two roasts, he gently reminded me that “You two eat like butterflies, and I don’t think that will be enough”.  So I increased the thickness of the roasts ordered to 4 inches and bought a lot more stuff.  It was, after all, a supper for 15.  It took 2 large crockpots for the roasts and veggies, and even though there were potatoes in the mix, I also cooked a giant pot of mashed potatoes as well.  These strapping young men eat a LOT.  There were barely any leftovers.

The next day we went to the home of Mo’s niece, Susan, to play family games and have another great meal that Susan put together. 

The weather had turned bitterly cold, typical Colorado style, and the frosty wind kept us moving along quickly on our afternoon walk that day.

Dan and Don had Sunday morning flights, but Mo and I weren’t scheduled to leave until later in the day.  Susan kindly offered to take the two of us to the airport that afternoon so that we wouldn’t have to wait around all day after Don returned the rental car.

The entire trip was fairly easy, with no flight delays, no mix-ups on scheduling, and good family interactions.  Sometimes when the Oukrop family has reunions farther west it is hard for all of the Colorado contingent to make it. 

This was a great opportunity to spend some time with Mo’s nieces and their families.  Tom’s death was not unexpected, but no matter, it is still hard to be alone again after so many years in a good marriage.  Edna, with great help from her daughters, is doing Ok, and we are glad we could be there as well.  

Saturday, November 10, 2018

11-06 to 11-10 2018 Traveling to Missouri to Visit my Son

Somehow it is hard for us to get to Missouri.  Whenever Mo and I travel east, we will make an effort to angle north as we return west to see my son John and his family.  Often that visit is limited because we are on the road, and have to get back west before a certain time.  I decided that I needed to fly east to Missouri for no reason but to spend time with John. I had no distractions, nothing to interfere with the visit, and could simply focus on being there with him.

John has some limitations due to adult onset Type 1 Diabetes, a nasty killer of a disease.  Things are often a struggle for him and for his wife Shannon.  With a tiny home, they preferred that I stay nearby in a hotel.  That worked out great for me as well, since I had a space for some privacy and my own rental car to get around as needed.

Great room at the Downstream Casino Resort

I stayed for 5 days, and each day John would ride with Shannon to work and then meet me at the rather luxurious nearby Downstream Resort Casino where I had a great deal on a lovely room.  John and Shannon had a great coupon that reduced the cost of my visit by half. John and I would visit, laugh and talk about old times, cry together about how hard things can be for a person facing a disability.  It hurts terribly to see my son hurting, but I am so glad that I could be there with him for a time, at least.  Missouri is a very long way from Oregon.

Family Reunion in Rocky Point, 2007

The last time John visited me in Oregon was in 2007, when I had a big family reunion at Mo’s place in Rocky Point.  Prior to that, John managed to drive out to Oregon with his family in 2004.  I have visited him a few times during our MoHo travels since then, but quiet, one on one time with John was something I missed.

Our mornings were simple, visiting and having a meal at the restaurant together before we spent some time exploring John’s home town.  He has lived near Joplin, in the small town of Alba for many years now.  He loved taking me around the area and showing me homes he had owned and lived in, places where he had worked, beautiful landscaping jobs he completed during his working days.  There was lots to be proud of. 

My favorite day was a lovely sunny cool day when we drove into the country to discover the George Washington Carver National Monument. Located just outside Joplin, the hardwoods were still showing gorgeous leaf colors and the grounds were almost completely empty.  We wandered the museum, and walked the grounds, learning so much about this incredible person with an incredible history.  As a soil scientist, I was surprised that I hadn’t known about GWC’s influence on soil conservation.  It was a truly lovely day.

John also took me to the falls where he had taken his step kids to swim when they were growing up.  It was cold but lovely, and I could imagine that it might be a great place to be in the warm summertime.  Later that evening, his wife Shannon invited me to her father’s home for home made noodles in chicken soup with her family. 

It was a quiet trip, with good times with my son.  I have promised each of my adult kids a trip of their choosing, and with all the girls trips now completed, it is time to focus on John’s trip.  He told me with heartfelt sincerity that he would rather I simply come to visit him in Missouri.  So that is the plan. Rather than trying to see him in the midst of MoHo travels, I will fly there and spend a few days with him each year.