When we moved here 2 years ago, I soon noticed a group of elderberry bushes in bloom just over a stone wall. It was being attacked by marauding vines and overshadowed by maple saplings. But I was determined to pick some elderberries. I remembered picking them as a young man and eating elderberry pie that my mother made.
But I soon discovered that elderberry season is short and there are competitors. The first year when I went to find berries there were none. I had been away on vacation on the key week and either the birds or the bears had finished them off. Same story the second year. So I made a more deliberate attempt to persecute the wild grape vines and clear out some overhanging maple.
This year, I found berries, lots of berries. Our vacation was earlier in the summer or I would not have because the catbirds which are very abundant here were upset when I started picking the crop they had already started to claim. Never fear, there will be plenty left for them. I volunteered to pick the berries off the stems and JoAnne made me a pie. Pictures of the process are below. What a pleasure to finally harvest what God had provided.
Must be we made ourselves useful and didn’t cause too much trouble in 2014 because our daughter Keely and her husband Mark invited us to go with them on their annual spring Florida vacation again this year. Yeah! Of course, it is such a trial (wink, wink) for us to be with our two wonderful grandchildren, not to mention our daughter and son-in-law for a whole week!
We flew down and they rented a beach condo on the Gulf coast on Gasparillo Island in Southern Florida for a whole week (in the units behind my hat) (such severe hardships, I know). Thank you so much, Mark and Keely!
Annabelle and Sam love our attention (another tough break I know). Of course we thoroughly enjoy spoiling them a little too. Annabelle started learning to crawl on our vacation. We tried to allow Keely a little more rest as Annabelle is not much of a sleeper. JoAnne greatly enjoyed the pool, doing laps early every morning before others were awake. In the evening, she and I walked on the beach at sunset while Keely and Mark were putting the children to bed.
It is always a pleasure for me to watch birds in a different location. The only time while there that I took time away to specifically bird watch, I saw jungle but no birds. Yet, for example, while pushing Sam in the swing at the Community Center, I notched two new birds as they flew over. And as we walked on the beach, there were lots of shore birds to glass.
The attached gallery is a collection of pictures from vacation, some are taken with JoAnne’s camera and some with my phone.
One of my hobbies is model trains, specifically, O-gauge trains running around my Christmas tree. Yes we had a Lionel train which we three Jones brothers shared when I was a boy. But what really started me back in this hobby was the gift of a Lionel train much like the one we had which I received from Bill Quick while I was serving as Pastor at Kirkville Community Wesleyan Church. I promptly ran it around the tree the next Christmas and I’ve been running trains every Christmas since on increasingly more complex set-ups.
The first evolution
One big evolution happened when I moved the trainsets upstairs to the remodeled living room at Kirkville. I was already running two trains. I decided to build a second layer and started collecting ceramic buildings, little figures and antique car models. I had two long bridges too. Then I started inviting children from church over to see the trains. I let them run them too. Of course, they would wreck them occasionally, but I have only had to make major repairs on two cars in all the many years that I have been doing this.
Children in CT love it too
When I moved to Connecticut, God blessed us with a large parsonage living room and my set got even bigger. In the gallery you can see the first two steps in building the multilayer setup. I found my first Dept. 56 buildings (the Cadillac of ceramic Christmas buildings) on a yard sale in our own neighborhood. Again, I invited children from church to come and run the trains. They have so much fun and it is a joy to work with them. This set has only one bridge but it has more room for vignettes. In the gallery are pictures of Shannon and Sam playing with the trains. The Mandirola boys, Schantz family and the Griffin’s also stopped by to check it out but I didn’t have my camera going.
Sam went for hands on
My grandson, Sam, was much more interested in the train set this year too. But he had his own way of investigating it. He wanted to get right in it and touch things. I learned from the preschool teachers that this is a preschooler’s tactile way of learning so I tried to facilitate it as much as possible. It was great fun.
New this year
This year I purchased my first engine specifically decorated for Christmas, a Lionel Santa Flyer. I also added a city block of stores that I made from Ameri-town parts. I started it years ago but this year a change in configuration of the upper track made room for it for the first time. In addition, I purchased new track for the inner lower loop. Last year that loop was hardly operable. This year is was a star. The fastest engine did not derail on it even though it was the tighter loop. It was Lionel Fast Track. If it holds up to the wear and tear of being assembled and disassembled for a couple years I will be a fan for sure. Also new this year, and something I have been watching for, was a ceramic building train station. At last I have a train station for the upper level too.
One of the first dates I asked JoAnne to go on was to the Steuben County Fair. We remember eating spaghetti at an Italian stand where I learned how to twirl spaghetti on my fork against a spoon rather than cut it up. After that, one of our annual dates was a trip to the New York State Fair. While we lived in Syracuse, we kept this tradition going by visiting the fair annually. We love ogling all the exhibits. JoAnne seeks out the needlework shows since that is one of her hobbies. I love the farm animal and farm equipment exhibits because of my farm upbringing. Both of us enjoy historical and travel exhibits and some vendors exhibits, though there are always more of these latter type than anyone can handle. We admit, we missed our traditional trip to the NYS Fair this year. But when we heard about the Big E, an exposition for all six New England states, we jumped at the chance to go. Maybe this would be much like the Fair.
The Big E
JoAnne and I arrived through gate 10 in the late morning on Friday, Sept. 27. It was about the only day we were free to go. But the weather was perfect and it was the day the big horses were showing –perfect for me. We start with the nearest farm building which today houses an eclectic collection of alpacas, goats, and sheep. We ask a question or two of an alpaca keeper and go through the wool exhibit too. Outside is the butter sculpture. Now there is a memory— Continue reading “Dating at the Fair”
November 20th, my Mom, Dorothy I. Jones, went to be with her Savior. She had turned 90 in August. Though she had been declining for months as a consequence of slow congestive heart failure, the end happened quite suddenly and unexpectedly. I’ve been working on this Thanksgiving tribute to Mom for a couple days. Also, here’s a link to her obituary.
When I think of my Mom, one of the first blessings that comes to mind is our phone conversations. The chain of them began when I was a freshman at the University of Rochester. Late at night I would sit at the hallway telephone and talk to Mom. Our conversations have never been short and that habit goes back to that year too. Recent years I would get on my cell phone while sitting in my big chair and converse. It was not unusual to be an hour on the phone. We covered a lot of subjects; family news, farm news, church news and upcoming schedules. But Mom also talked about Bible verses she was studying or teaching from, articles or books she had read, things from gardening in the summer and feeding birds in the winter, and even news items of note—she loved Paul Harvey especially. I will miss those conversations.
I went to visit my Mom today. It takes about two and one-half hours one way going down through Gorham, Rushville, Naples, and Wayland. I enjoy the scenery, especially today as the fall colors were more and more prominent as I neared my boyhood home. I went to encourage Mom and took her some flowers from my garden in a basket that was my grandmother’s. Thankfully I have a good crop of zinnias this year that have made wonderful cut flowers to take to Mom. I read Scripture to her and sang to her as I usually do. Even though she is on medicine that makes it hard for her to remember or think well, she sang with me on the chorus of “God Will Take Care of You.” The most precious part was when she prayed for me. That encouraged me. These days I try to give back to her from the rich spiritual heritage that she and my Dad gave to us.
Last Christmastime, my sister MarySue set this past Saturday, July 7, as the date we as an extended family would get together to celebrate Mom’s 90th birthday. Even though Mom’s actual birthday is not until August 19, MarySue knew that 4th of July is a good time to get the family together. But there was no way she could know how providential the timing would be. Mom’s health and sharpness are declining as she suffers from advanced heart disease, but right now, even though she was weak, on oxygen and confined to a wheelchair, she was still able to enjoy her birthday dinner and recognize and talk with nearly everyone. Previously she would have known each great grandchild—she told me this time Sammie is number 18—along with their age and sizes—now she remembered the names of about as many as I did. As soon as she saw my brother Allen and I both in the house she exclaimed, “Get the cameras!” So we did. Al lives in Fairbanks, Alaska and we haven’t seen him in a couple years. Several have better cameras than I but I also took pictures anyway so I could put a few on my blog. Since thunderstorms were to pass through, we held the picnic in the new garage that Don and MarySue have constructed not far from the house. As usual, we sang for Mom too, one hymn before the blessing and one hymn after the meal. There was lots of muscle present to wheel/carry Mom as needed from the house to the garage for the meal and back.
It seems like the weeks since Easter have been unusually busy for me. How about you? I’m wondering how much of this is related to the late date of Easter? Easter was about as late as it can possibly get this year. For one thing, Mothers Day and college graduation season fell only two weeks after Easter, a potentially stressful conjunction of big events. At Community Wesleyan, global partners (missions) emphasis which usually fits comfortably between Easter and Mother’s Day, now was shoehorned into an already busy May as well.
My parents and grandparents, passing down the wisdom of generations of farm families, had a saying that if Easter was late, spring would also be late. That certainly has been truly here in Syracuse this year. As a gardner, this has also added to the busyness of late April and early May. Tilling that was done in mid-April in past years could not be done until the first May. Lettuce, radishes, spinach, and peas have often been planted in April but this year are being planted in May. At least we didn’t start mowing the lawn until the first week in May.
As I reflect on it, a late Easter was nice for having crocuses and tulips out to adorn the season. I also enjoyed the longer winter sermon series it allowed. But I’m not sure I like the time crunch that has followed. I still think the ideal time for Easter celebration is the second Sunday in April. But since it’s not up to you and me anyway, I guess we’ll just have to take it as it comes and remember that God’s grace is sufficient for everyday! Sometimes I need to be reminded of my favorite verse, “And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work” (2 Co 9:8 NIV).
I have been thinking recently about those people who are very depressed in deep winter and find that time seems to crawl by. Well, I’m not a great fan of winter myself. My favorite hobbies are things like gardening, bird-watching, trombone-playing, canoeing, and hiking. I like to throw in a couple rounds of golf and a trout fishing trip. As you can see, all but one are summer things and even the community band I’m in for playing trombone takes January off. So how can we make January go by faster and add a little joy in the process? Here are my suggestions.
1. Find a January-friendly hobby or two.
My wife and I start doing jigsaw puzzles after the Christmas rush and keep doing them until spring. With the help of folks who stop by, we may complete 10-15 of them before we quit and wait til the next January. We use mostly the same puzzles with just a couple new ones added that friends give us or we buy each year.
My wife took up a new musical instrument this year – folk harp. She had just a few lessons before playing a couple carols at our Christmas Eve service. Now she is using some of these cold January nights to improve her skill. They say learning a new instrument is great for brain development too.
2. Spend more time with those you love.
In addition to the puzzles, JoAnne and I try to spend some evenings playing board games (Sequence) during January. Once in a while I will watch an old Star Trek with her (she’s a real Trekie).
JoAnne and I still very much enjoy Christmas cards. We send them and we like to receive them too. Most of the cards we receive are refreshingly beautiful too. We’re one of those couples who write the annual Christmas letter, now complete with color pictures, and copy it onto Christmas stationery to include in our cards. We do this because we know how we are disappointed when we open a card from an old friend only to find nothing inside but a signature, perhaps even a pre-printed one.
It’s a retro thing, I guess. Christmas cards just seem a little more personal than the e-touch. They also fit with the season; email happens all the time. We’ve experimented with moving our letter to email and saving all that money on stamps. That works, I suppose, but it just doesn’t have the same feel. I came from a home where we hung the Christmas cards around the wide hallway entrance to the old parlor. There were always enough of them to go all the way up one side across the top and down the other side. As I think back on it, it was like our family Christmas was surrounded by extended family. It was shared in some small way by a life-time collection of friends and loved ones. So JoAnne and I have returned to more cards and less email.
We also have kept track of many friends over the years through our Christmas cards. Many friends we have only written once each year, but that communication opened the way for a visit, or a longer letter, or a phone call or email conversation at a later time. Some very good friends we were sad to lose track of because they moved or did not return our cards. Sometimes, by perseverance we would find a good address again through a mutual friend.
We always try to pick cards that focus the true meaning of Christmas and include verses of Scripture. It is one more way to help us remember the first Christmas and our reason to celebrate; and to share that focal point with our friends and family too.