Archive for December, 2012

We did indeed head south this morning, out of the Santa Maria valley, through the Orcutt hills, and into the central part of the county. I can’t quit mentioning how green it is. Many people know that California is the Golden State and probably assume the reference is to the well-known gold strikes. In reality, golden refers to the grass-covered hillsides which begin turning shortly after the winter rains end in mid-March or so. Summer is the dormant season for the native plants, so lush and green are words that apply only in winter. To my non-native eyes, this is how California “should” look all year long. (more…)


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Sometimes a change of plans works out really well. We had planned to leave Scott’s in Santa Maria on the day after Christmas to visit our friend Jennifer in Simi Valley, then join Scott, Charlie, and Allie at our long-time favorite campground at Red Rock State Park in the Mojave Desert. But Scott decided it was too cold for camping in the desert, so we hung around for a couple more days.
Yesterday we had time to take Charlie to lunch at an old favorite restaurant. He then showed us a new park and lots of new houses up where there used to be only oil fields. Dinner was with friends whose son was 3 when Scott was 4 and the boys were best friends. We had dinner at a new restaurant, across the street from where we’d had lunch, then had dessert back at their house and enjoyed a nice long visit. (more…)

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When you’ve had 60-some Christmases, it’s impossible to say which was worst, which was best, but I think I do know my most memorable.

It was the late 50s, my father had been out of work intermittently, and Christmas trees cost half as a much as a week’s groceries. We simply couldn’t waste that much money on a tree. I knew that Christmas should still be Christmas without a tree, but how could it be? Every year, the fragrant tree was my favorite part of the holiday decoration. No lights, even if they did all go out when one burned out, no shiny balls reflecting those lights, and no tinsel to drape on the tips of every branch. No Christmas tree. (more…)

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“Just the facts, ma’am.” That’s what I thought I had.

For years, whenever I went to Lompoc, my favorite way was up over Harris Grade, a winding, hilly, narrow road which passed my favorite grove of pine trees. The trees were large, unusually branched, and I was sure they were digger pines usually found in the foothills of the Sierra. Here they were on the north facing slope of a ridge much lower than the Sierra foothills and the only ones anywhere close to us. They were “my” trees.

One autumn Saturday, I sat on a nearby beach and watched a cloud of smoke to the south of us grow larger and more ominous. When it became obvious it (more…)

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Quality Family Time. It’s different for everybody but one of our favorite versions is taking in the Holiday Extravaganza at the Great American Melodrama in Oceano. If you have a good map of California and you look real close, about half-way between Los Angeles and San Francisco you’ll find Oceano. It is known for its sand dunes, enormous fields of lettuce, and the Melodrama, complete with sawdust on the floor.

On our first trip to the Melodrama, Scott was still young enough to be scared by Jacob Marley’s ghost. The first part of the three-part show is always an abbreviated version of Dickens’ Christmas Carol. The backdrops of the town haven’t changed appreciably in years. Tiny Tim always survives and bestows his wishes upon everyone. Then the actors, still in costume, scramble off stage and man the snack bar. Tubs of popcorn, giant hotdogs, and other appropriate fare are served up with a smile and a song. (more…)

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December 15, 2012

Our son doesn’t have a working television and we rarely turn ours on in the trailer, but even we have heard about and grieved for the children in Connecticut. Once again, our country and probably much of the world, is wondering how such a senseless act could occur. We will wring our hands and yell at each other about guns and poor parenting and a host of other issues and ignore the main one.

Every time this happens, there is a group of people afraid to learn the details. They hear of an atrocity and they fear that the perpetrator is that friend or family member they have long known to have mental health problems. They hope that once again they will be spared finding that person’s name in the news, but one family loses that lottery each time. (more…)

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The drippy drizzles left us overnight and the morning dawned cool but beautiful. We decided to take one of our favorite drives to Solvang to do some Christmas shopping. For years, I would pick the first rainy day of fall to head to this well-known Danish community, knowing I was safe from the tourist hordes that descend in nice weather. Today the only tourists were people our age, as school isn’t out yet.

We wandered out east of town, remembering our bicycle rides here and The Bicycle Ride…the Solvang Century ride each spring and fall when thousands of bicyclists ride 100 miles through the countryside of northern Santa Barbara County. Our Amateur Radio Emergency Services groups provided radio communication year after year for this ride, giving us lots of practice for communications under difficult circumstances. As we entered Foxen Canyon, we both noted an old concrete bridge across the creek and remarked on one of our all-time favorite stories. (more…)

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