December 15, 2005

Christmas 2005

Last year I created this blog as a way to share some of the stories behind the Christmas ornaments that hang on our tree. As Jason and I decorated our tree, we remembered the stories that surrounded each ornament. Ornaments from our childhood, ornaments from our college years, ornaments from our married years. Each ornament a little memory hanging on my tree. I was inspired to capture those memories in blog form. 'Christmas Bells' is dedicated to telling the stories of special ornaments that hang on my tree.

This year there are a couple new ornaments hanging on the tree, as there are every year. But last year's ornaments are no less dear, so these stories still hold true today.

Merry Christmas!

PS: the posts are just a like a blog, with the newest one at the top. So the best way to start might be at the bottom and work your way up. Also, feel free to comment on any of the posts (they get emailed to me). I didn't enable comments last year, but I thought I would this year just for fun.

December 25, 2004


Merry Christmas!

December 24, 2004

Camden, Maine

Seven and a half years ago, while Jason and I were honeymooning in Camden, Maine, we thought, "Let's pick up a Christmas ornament." And the rest, as they say, is history.

December 23, 2004

Little Panda

After my sister saw me post Mr. Walnut Snowman, she found her little walnut ornament. Here we have Little Panda. She wrote: "The thing about mine is that it had a bow on it (that I ripped off a couple years later), and it had another hand, holding a tennis racket (though I never played tennis), which just fell off this year."

But, it was quite the coincidence that she made Little Panda, not knowing that ten years later she would actually spend a year in China where real pandas live. However, she never did learn how to play tennis...

December 22, 2004

Coca Cola

(My friend sent me a picture of this ornament with the caption: "You know the story." So I'll do my best to tell it from my perspective.)

Long ago my friend started collecting Coca Cola stuff. Pop cans from foreign countries. Posters. Tshirts. Lamps. Toys. Ornaments. It was a crazy collection. But she was just a little kid and there was a certain novelty of collecting things. I was a bit more practical in the stuff I collected. Stickers, Strawberry Shortcake (BTW, she's back!), My Little Pony. I also was keen on stationary (something I never outgrew). Fortunately for me, all those collectibles are either perishable or fun to use. But Coke stuff? Well, not so much. The years went by and the Coke collection grew. She grew tired of it, and gave most of it to the Goodwill. Unfortunately for my friend, it's easy to buy for a collector because you always know what to get them. So even after she stopped wanting Coke stuff, well, it keep rolling in. Birthdays. Christmas. She was always too nice to say, "Okay. Enough with the Coke stuff!" And her family, thinking they were buying her something she wanted, kept pouring it on. While everyone else was getting cool grown-up gifts at Christmas, she was given tiny buttons with miniature Coke cans on them. I told her she needs to purge herself of everything that is Coke and then invite people over to display her 'Coca Cola' free home. Until then, she'll shed bitter tears...on her Coca Cola embroidered pillow.

December 21, 2004

wood ornament

My mom's cousin, Dale Larson, does amazing things with wood. Like this ornament: a hollow wood bulb at the top and then an intricately designed spindle on the bottom. This picture hardly does it justice. Everyone in our family owns something that Dale has created. My sister has a beautiful kaleidoscope that he gave to her as a graduation gift. He also has created bowls for the Columbia Gorge Hotel, which is perhaps impressive only if you're a local. I have several of Dale's bowls, and I still use the pen he gave to Jason and me as a wedding gift.

I'm posting a picture of this ornament not because of any particular story that goes along with it but just because it is one of my favorite ornaments. I love beautiful things, and this most definitely qualifies.

December 20, 2004

Hand Prints

(This idea was posted in my comments section on my regular blog. Just in case you don't read the comments, I thought I'd share it.)

From Leanne:
"I want to pass on a GREAT Christmas idea to any new mommies in the crowd. That is to start a tree skirt with handprints of your children each year. As they grow up they will love seeing their hands get bigger. I recommend some easy methods and fabrics however, since it may get to be one of those overwhelming Christmas traditions. Mine had to stop after my 5th was born and I couldn't keep up stitching all those handprints, dates and names. Sigh! But it was full anyway and we still get it out and enjoy it. Merry Christmas all you new mommies!"

And for good measure she added:
"Just one more thing - I felt guilty after laying that must-do idea on you on December 19. All you really have to do is trace baby's handprint before Christmas. Then you can get all the supplies at after Christmas discounts and make it for next year. It will still count as Baby's First Christmas. Whew, now I feel better."

Isn't that a great idea? And in case you're thinking, "That's neat, but I don't sew," I think you could still do this idea with a permanent marker. I was also inspired to think about using this idea for a quilt. Each handprint as a square...wouldn't that be something. Of course, being a non-crafty sort, I don't know how to quilt. But maybe, thanks to Leanne, I should start.

After Christmas.

December 19, 2004

Junior HIgh Craft Day

Okay. I'll lay my pride aside and show off Mr. Snowman. His body is a walnut, and his head is an acorn or something similar. Once upon a time he was accompanied by Mrs. Snowman, but she had unfortunate topple off the Christmas tree a couple years ago, and we discovered her in Daisy's bed, ripped to pieces. It was a sad sad day.

I made this ornament (although it doesn't hang) in 7th grade. I had the best art teacher...Mrs. Owens was her name. She was so cool, and taught me how to draw and make amazing things. Unfortunately, I graduated to high school and forgot how to draw, and now I even have trouble wielding a glue gun. It's embarrassing to say that I produced more interesting (and better) art work in elementary school than I do now. I think if I took an art class or something like that I could probably pull something together. But for now I'll continue to show off my creations from childhood.

December 18, 2004

Sunriver

One of the perks of teaching at a small school was that Jason and I got to go on the end-of-the-year senior trip. Part of this was because I was often times the senior adviser, so I went along to coordinate the event. But I suppose we would have gone anyway, even if I hadn't been involved, just because we liked hanging out with the students. Some of the years were more fun than others, owing to the fact that seniors can be a rascally bunch. Most of the years we went to the Sunriver area, a very popular vacation spot. This copper star is from the last senior trip that Jason and I took. I wasn't teaching anymore, but the class invited me to come along anyway (quite nice of them). The interesting thing about the time-frame of this ornament was that we thought Jason would be leaving for the Coast Guard a couple of weeks later. As it turned out, he's red/green color blind, so just days before he was scheduled to leave they told him that his color-blindness would mean he couldn't ever be an officer. So, that was the end of that.

This copper star is just one of the many ornaments that remind me of students. I have the two kissing bunnies from Jessica, the painted glass bulb from Rebekah. Jason has a blue sphere from Erin, and a gingerbread man from the Home Ec class, to name a few. No matter how frustrating the teaching year ended or began, Christmastime was always the best time to be around students. Their joy, their enthusiasm, their spirit of giving...made me proud to be involved in their lives.

December 17, 2004

Lincoln City, Oregon

When I first saw this bunny rabbit at a Christmas store in Lincoln City, I just fell in love with it. I don't exactly know why. I just love the colors, the bright red eyes, the raised gold lines that criss-cross around the rabbit. For whatever reason, I didn't buy her. Some time later, my MIL and I went back to the store to pick up some ornaments. Little Miss Bunny was still there. I felt like a little kid, holding her and tracing the lines with my fingers. She's just so pretty! While we were shopping, my MIL asked of all the ornaments there which one I wanted the most. I pointed out the rabbit, and so at last she became my own ornament to hang on the tree.

When we hang Miss Bunny on the tree, I am reminded of two things: that no matter how old we get we still love beautiful little treasures. And secondly I am reminded of the generosity of spirit that my MIL has. People have all sorts of gifts -- compassion, leadership, organization -- and my MIL has the gift of giving. She loves to give of her time, and she loves to give things. It's what makes her happy. It's a good lesson to learn all year round, but especially at Christmas.

December 16, 2004

Washington DC

Both Jason and I had been to DC before we went with each other. I went with my family when I was in college; he biked there (from Oregon) one summer when he was also in college. But we had quite a good time when we went there together. We stayed at a hotel outside the city, and then took the Metro into town everyday. We visited as many museums and monuments as we could in the three days we were there. One memory in particular is quite vivid in my in my mind. We took the train to Alexandria (a town which I absolutely love), did some shopping, had some dinner. Jason wanted to make sure we were back at our hotel room in time to watch the NBA Finals. (All I know is that the Bulls were playing, and it was Jordan's "last year" so that was evidently the urgency of watching.) We lost track of time, and had to sprint back to the train, which was quite a distance. We just barely missed the train, and had to stand on the platform for what seemed like a very long time. And then it started dumping down rain. Joy. We passed the time with me saying things like, "You'll still see most of the game." And him saying, "But it's Jordan's last year." I have to admit that I wasn't too panicked about the whole ordeal.

Lucky for me (and our vacation) we made it back to the room, and he only missed the first couple minutes of the game. All was right in the world and just as it should be.

December 15, 2004

Mt. Rushmore

When my grandparents needed someone to drive them back to North Dakota for a wedding, Jason and I volunteered (or rather, I volunteered Jason and I). It was quite the trip. Along the way, we were able to visit the homestead of Jason's great-grandfather (in Harlowton, Montana). True to form (because my mom is a genealogist), we have a picture of Jason sitting alongside the headstone.

We also visited New Town, ND, to see where my ancestors had homesteaded. It was really an amazing experience driving through the town where my grandparents had lived and listen to them tell stories of growing up. It was one of those times where I wished I had a tape recorder.

On the way home, we stopped at Mt. Rushmore where we picked up this ornament. Having never seen Mt. Rushmore before, I was quite impressed. The whole history and construction of the site is very interesting. We also visited Jackson Hole, WY, and just missed seeing Mel Gibson (he had left the day before). As it turns out, we didn't need him to make this one of the best road trips ever.

[PS: Anybody have an ornament story to share?...the email link is on the right...that is, unless you really want to read the story about the ornament my friend in second grade gave me...]

December 14, 2004

Niagara Falls

When you see this gold apple bell, what's the first thing that comes to mind? Niagara Falls? No? Well, it was the best we could do when we were looking for an ornament. I visited Niagara Falls (on the Canadian side) when I was a kid, but Jason and I went together several years ago. It's, of course, amazing and beautiful. We were there at night and saw the light display. Most of our fun, however, came from wandering around a little town called Niagara-on-the-Lake. That's the place to visit if you ever travel up that way. Lots of really cute shops, and the (George Bernard) Shaw Festival is held there too.
The one real adventure we had along the way was at the border, trying to cross into Canada. We were driving my uncle's car, and for whatever reason the border patrol thought we had stolen it. We had to wait inside for what seemed like forever waiting for my uncle to call the Canadian authorities to confirm that we had legally borrowed the car. Who would have thought we looked like such shady characters?

December 13, 2004

Eyebrow

Back in July 2000, Jason and I went to the beach (Lincoln City) to celebrate our third anniversary. We took this somewhat out-of-focus picture on the balcony off our room at the Inn at Spanish Head and stuck it in this ornament that we got at a Christmas store. Not such an interesting story.

What IS interesting, however, is that while you can't see it in the picture, I have my eyebrow pierced. And I have really short hair (shorter than I usually wear it, anyway). Yes, this is the summer that I needed to reclaim some individuality. After three years of working at an ultra-conservative school, I was feeling depressed and stifled. I said, "That's it!" I'm wearing short shorts, I'm cutting my hair, I'm piercing my eyebrow, and I'll dye my hair blue if the mood strikes me (it didn't). I was tired of rules that didn't make sense and felt like doing something a little bit fun. It was MY summer, and I was going to make the most of it.

I did it because I wanted to, not because I wanted to offend people. But I knew I would offend people because what I was doing was so inexplicable. I wasn't a college student; I wasn't an artist; I wasn't some hippie from Eugene. I was a tax-paying, suburban dwelling, church going, happily married, role-model-to-the-students kind of girl. And what on earth did I want to pierce my eyebrow for? Parents at the school I worked at called and complained to the administration (to which I said...well, never mind what I said). I had a serious fight with my own parents which only ended after the piercing came out at the end of the summer. I learned a lot about people, especially people in religious circles, and it was pretty disappointing. Nevertheless, I was secure enough in my own faith in God to know better than to get sidetracked by the opinions of others. I should also add that the people at my own church didn't care a wit about it. In fact, most of the positive responses came from them. Bless their hearts.

The whole experience gave me a lot of empathy for people who aren't accepted because they're "different." It's impossible to live a life devoted to keeping up appearances, and fortunately God still loves little ordinary me no matter what other people think. As long as my heart in the right spot, a silly little pierced eyebrow doesn't matter at all.

December 12, 2004

Basketball

The text on the basketball reads: Christmas 1990. That was Jason's freshman year in high school when he started playing basketball. And the rest, as they say, is history.
Funny what one little ornament can do for your attitude. We used to hang this up and talk about all the fun times we had in high school when he was playing and I "did the book" (which means I kept track of score, substitutions, fouls, etc.). I loved it. He started coaching after college, and I was back at the scorekeeper's table, doing the book again. It was an activity we really enjoyed together.
Now, in his third year of coaching the varsity girls' team, I have to remember that he really loves basketball even though all it means for me is that he's gone a lot and I'm really lonesome at home waiting for him. Hopefully after Christmas, Sydney will be sleeping well enough that she can stay out late for games. But right now, I just have to remember that the season ends in February, and Jason has promised not to coach next year.

December 11, 2004

New York

Even though Jason and I have been known to do some traveling without the each other, my trip to NYC was the first time I was away from him for over a week (we had only been married a year and a half). I went to the Big Apple with a group of people I didn't really know, and ended up wandering the city pretty much on my own. It was an incredible trip, if only for the self-discovery. I loved NYC and how completely different it is from anywhere else I've been. You wander the streets and hear a dozen different languages; you ride the subway and see so many people reading. The most beautiful people in the world live in NYC, and I felt a little bit out of place with my jeans and tennis shoes. I remember wearing a red jacket and looking around to discover that not a single person was wearing anything other than black or gray. Kind of freaked me out.

On Broadway I got to see Art (now one of my all time favorite comedies), Jeckyl & Hyde (a musical), and The Perfect Murder (off-Broadway). I went to all the touristy spots as well as some other places that I just found by getting off the subway and wandering around. It was a memorable trip, and next time I go back I'm taking Jason with me.

December 10, 2004

Oregon

Jason's Grandma gives us an ornament every year, but this is definitely my favorite one that she's given us. It's from the Made in Oregon store (which I LOVE) and is designed and painted by Susie Groover. The coolest thing about this ornament (other than the fact that it's beautiful) is that inside the ornament is a little scroll of authenticity that provides a lifetime replacement guarantee. So if it breaks, they'll replace it! I love that.

I always think back to all my years of living here in Oregon when we hang this ornament on the tree. While technically I've only been an Oregonian for seven and a half years, I've really been integrated into the culture much longer than that (starting 13 years ago when I started attending high school in Oregon). At first I wasn't too keen on living in Oregon, having grown up in Washington (but in Vancouver, which still gets all Oregon news and we still did all our shopping in tax-free Oregon). But now that I've gone to college and lived and worked here, I really love it. I love the history of it, the beauty of it, and I'm even starting to like some of the politics of it. It's a grand state.

December 09, 2004

Reno

Perhaps one of the goofiest ornaments we have is one we picked up in Reno. When you pull on the hanging cowboy boot, the horse kicks out his feet. It's one of those tacky-yet-cool things.

My uncle has a vacation house in Reno, and even though it's an eight-hour drive for us, we have been able to visit several times (last year we went down three times in a nine-month period--we love it that much). It's set up in the Virginia Highlands, and it's perhaps the most relaxing place I've vacationed. The house is beautiful, the view amazing, and to top it all off, wild horses run through his backyard. How cool is that? We love to visit Bento's, a hole-in-the-wall taco restaurant. We shop in Truckee, hike around in the downtown parks, eat at Krispy Kreme, and buy penny candy in Virginia City.

This is the first year since he's had the house that we haven't been able to visit. We were planning on going this last summer, but wildfires kept us at home. Next year we'll be back.

December 08, 2004

Vermont

This Danforth sterling silver ornament is compliments of my brother and his wife, who live (until 12/16) in Vermont. It's quite a fantastic little rocking horse, and this year a Bentley snowflake ornament that I got on Sunday will hang next to it. The only place I really wanted to visit on my trip to Vermont was the Snowflake Bentley exhibit, and hooray hooray I got to do this. Sis-in-law Sarah and I saw this amazing poster that displays the difference in snowflake structure depending on the temperature outside. It was just so incredible to see real pictures of snowflakes. Syd and I had a wonderful time in Vermont, and were pleased that Mother Nature decided to cover the area in a beautiful blanket of snow. Cold weather, not so much fun. But snow...well, the first snowfall is always a treat.

December 07, 2004

Paris

I have been lucky enough to have visited Paris three times. The first was for a convention, the other two times with students. When I visited in 2000, the Eiffel Tower was lit up with thousands of white lights. At night, every hour, the Tower would light up and sparkle for a few minutes. It was spectacular. That year, Jason and I went to the top of the Tower and braved the freezing wind and rain to have our picture taken. Even though I couldn't feel my lips when he kissed me it was still romantic.

December 06, 2004

London

Both times I've been to London (2000/2002) I took students and adults with the help of educational tour company EF Tours. The first time I took 35 others; the second time only 16 (people seemed a bit skiddish to travel after 9.11). I have to say I absolutely fell in love with London. I love the tube, the food, the parks, the museums, the history. I loved standing in line at the Tower of London and telling my students the whole grand story of London starting with William the Conqueror in 1066. I have said before, and still believe it in my heart, someday Jason and I will live in London if just for a short period of time. It's such an amazing city.

My favorite memory of London is from my last trip there. Since everyone in my group was busy with an activity, I got the spend the afternoon strolling through Kensington Gardens. The weather was beautiful, the flowers were blooming, and I sat on a park bench and fed pigeons.

The quintessential London phone booth ornament is actually a converted key chain. I had searched all over London for a Christmas store, but couldn't find what I was looking for. So we got this one.

December 05, 2004

Hershey, Pennsylvania

Six years ago, Jason and I went to Pennsylvania for a family reunion/60th Anniversary celebration. We stayed around a little bit longer and visited several places, including the Hershey factory in Hershey, Pennsylvania. The whole place smells of chocolate, and we took the chocolate tour that showed how their chocolate was made. Afterwards, we got a little mini chocolate bar and shopped in a HUGE room with all things chocolate (they even had these amazing chocolate smelling candles!).

The best story of the Hershey Chocolate Factory, however, is when I visited there in junior high. I bought the biggest Carmello bar I've ever seen, and in true fashion, ate the entire thing before we got to my uncle's house in Erie. I got so sick, and in dramatic fashion went to dinner where I promptly 'tossed my cookies,' or in this case 'my chocolate.'

December 04, 2004

Kauai

(A little bit of a last post today...was out hiking in Vermont!) Here's Ole St. Nick, Kauai style. Several years back, Jason's parents got a time-share in Kauai, and so one year they took us back to vacation with them. It was the first vacation with the in-laws for me, and it was quite the experience. (You can read into that whatever you like.) I went to Oahu in college, but Kauai definitely is a more laid back island. More rural, less touristy, so beautiful.

This August we're going back to Kauai with Jason's folks and also with his brother's family. Should be a whole lotta fun, and a whole lotta crazy.

December 03, 2004

Pregnant

For Christmas last year, Jason's mom got me this ornament in Lincoln City at a store that is chock full of Christmas ornaments all year long. We debated on having it personalized, but it would be four more weeks until we knew whether we were having a boy or a girl, and I decided against having the year put on it. I thought, "I'll never forget the first Christmas that I was pregnant."

I remember one night staring at the ornament and realizing that, just like Ms. Snowman here, I had a baby in my tummy. It was a very surreal Christmas, to say the least. (And exhausting since I didn't particularly enjoy being pregnant.)

I picked this ornament for today because one year ago today, I started my blog. Quite the team effort between Sydney and I!

December 02, 2004

Massachusetts

When my brother-in-law got married a couple years ago, Jason and I went back to Massachusetts to be in the wedding. It was in a grand old church, and I got to wear a lovely little backless number that emphasized the fact that I was the only one of the bridesmaid who hadn't gone tanning.

We stayed in Providence, RI, and I developed a newfound respect for the tiny state. Providence is a fantastic city, and I highly recommend visiting it. This ornament was picked up during the day that we spent in Cape Cod, MA. It was really something else to visit that area...I immediately understood why so many people vacation there. It's just beautiful and epitomizes the meaning of picturesque.

December 01, 2004

Little Ballerina

As far back as I can remember, my Christmas tree has always had the little purple ballerina. She was one of my very first personal ornaments, and every year I looked forward to hanging her on the tree. My childhood ambitions of becoming a ballerina were lived out in this little ornament, and I would hang her close to the matching blue one that belonged to my sister. I remember when I got older, I pointed her out to a friend of mine as 'my most beautiful ballerina ornament.' My friend found her to be neither beautiful nor resembling a ballerina, but I didn't care.
When I got married, my mom gave me all my ornaments to hang on my own tree. That first Christmas, the little ballerina was nowhere to be found. I was heartbroken at the thought of having lost in her in the transition of moving. But when I visited my parents' house, there she was! Hanging on their tree! I quickly claimed her again as my own, even though my husband declared her as 'one of the ugliest ornaments I've ever seen.' No matter. She's mine.