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November 26, 2009

Thanksgiving Day

It's almost noon on Thanksgiving Day at the McClellan household. Pies are made. The turkey has been in the oven for over an hour, the morning's croissants are eaten, the teapot is replenished (no coffee drinkers this morning), Nico has lots of playmates, his brother has helped construct an elaborate train track for him in the lower living room, Ron and Jeni are reading a manuscript a friend just sent to them, Dani is reading Ted Kennedy's book which she finally got from the library after being #54 on the waiting list, life is relaxed and congenial. There's nothing more for me to do today other than make the mashed potatoes and gravy. Jeni has the vegies and Dani has the rest.

Yesterday I made an apple and pumpkin pie and dressing, ran to the store for the few things I had forgotten or run out of, sauteed the onions for the dressing twice since the first batch was bitter, cleaned up the house, ironed the tablecloth, arranged some flowers, and generally wore myself out with holiday preparations. Dani was gracious enough to bring over some soup for my dinner. Jeni and Ron and girls arrived in the evening. Most of my work was done. Time to kick back and relax.

Most of the family arrive for holidays from their busy lives and are ready for a respite. The day is usually spent eating, visiting, kicking back, laughing, playing with the younger ones, sometimes taking a walk and generally enjoying each other's company. How nice to have time to really visit. How nice not to have other agendas in this lull before the Christmas rush. Keith and Eulalah are in Maryland this year and Martin and Christine at their friends. So, there is just the 8 of us sitting around and chewing the fat.

I love holidays. I love my family. I find them interesting and entertaining. The kids are off in other areas of this big house, the adults are all sitting around the living room, and every once in awhile someone will share some bit of wisdom or an interesting fact, or start a conversation or discussion about something. Every once in awhile someone gets lost in their own reverie. Every once in awhile a child wanders through with a tidbit of information or to join the adults. Every once in awhile someone will fill the tea cups. Every once in awhile someone gets up and wanders off. Every once in awhile someone suggests playing a game. Every once in awhile people erupt in laughter. Life is so sweet and relaxed that I'm not sure that I recognize it. I love Thanksgiving.

Posted by Marilyn at 11:45 AM | Comments (0)

November 23, 2009

Monday Morning

It's been such a lovely, quiet morning around here. Katy came last night from Seattle because she is teaching all her voice students today so she can go home for the Thanksgiving week. She made us both scrambled eggs for breakfast and then I started the washing. Since then, I've been sitting at my computer checking in on newsfeeds, blogs, email, City University business, and even Facebook. I've written several emails and when I decided I had enough time on my computer and should close it down. But, I turned instead to my blog. Sometimes I use my blog as a writing prompt -- getting warmed up to work on something else.

Yesterday I conducted the men's chorus at church in a really beautiful anthem. I began the men's chorus many years ago and (after a few years) shared the conducting with two men in the group who were itching to get their hands on it. I knew they both liked to conduct, and they both spelled me on different months. One of them went on to another church job and the second took over the chorus after Don died and I hadn't the heart to conduct for awhile. Bruce has done a nice job with it, but I miss conducting and I really miss the men. Something Freudian in that, no doubt! It was nice for Bruce to ask me to conduct in his absence.

I've always loved men! My father loomed large in my life and when he died at 65, a light when out of my family home. He was such a prominent figure in my extended family. All my uncles and aunts looked to him because he was smart and wise. My cousins adored him. He was also funny. When we told our young children that he died, Jeni said, "He's the grandpa that tickles me." He could be funny and warm and accepting of all. He was also a man of his time and conservative politically. He and Don used to go round and round at family meals and drive my mother crazy. Since he was a boss at work, he had a strong voice which could be intimidating. He thought Don was smart, but could use a bit of common sense. I think I was extraordinarily lucky to have such a wonderful father.

I had two sisters, but they were too far apart in age to be playmates with me. I grew up on a one block street in Los Angeles. My playmates were boys. We played endless hours of baseball and kick the can and got into lots of mischief in the neighborhood. We had rubber gun fights with the guys on the next block. We once placed a fallen bike and some rags that resembled a figure in the middle of the street and then hid to see what would happen next. Unfortunately, an elderly couple found it and were freaked out. We were afraid they would have a heart attack. We all dispersed to the far ends of the street so our parents wouldn't see us, and we never did that again. However, those playful boy pals were like brothers. One summer we all played Canasta from nine in the morning until five in the afternoon every single day. I had one girlfriend around the block, but much preferred the boys.

So, I've always been comfortable with guys. I think I fall a bit in love with each of them -- not romantic love, but a kind of brotherly love --Perhaps it is the reason why Don was both my partner and my best friend. After all, he was a wonderful guy!

Posted by Marilyn at 11:19 AM | Comments (0)

November 19, 2009


Bellingham has been experiencing wild winds. It is always windy in November. In fact, the leaves that fall on my front lawn from the big tree in my driveway always blow away within a few hours. For some reason, there is an eddy that carries them from my house and distributes them all over the neighborhood. This is to my advantage even if it leaves (no pun intended) me with a very guilty conscience. But, the winds since Halloween have been fierce and really annoying.

I've never liked wind anyway. Growing up in California means that you rarely had to worry about windy days. There are the occasional Santa Anas, but they weren't very frequent where I lived. These winds of late practically pick you up and deliver you to where you are headed. I was at a dinner last night with retired teacher friends and meandered over to Costco afterwards to get gas. I could hardly stand up at the pump. Then, when I attempted to go into TJMaxx afterwards, it was a struggle to get across the parking lot. (I'm glad I made it because I found a great Ralph Lauren top in their racks). I worry about my big trees in this wind, and yet my house seems unscathed. I suppose it is because it was built 100 years ago when they built things to last. In any case, winds make me edgy. Give me rain, snow, sleet, hail -- I love them all, but I hate wind.

I also love Thanksgiving. Dani and the boys and Jeni and family will come for Thanksgiving dinner. I'm going to do the turkey, dressing, and mashed potatoes and everyone else will bring the rest. It is such a lovely time of year - except that most of the trees are now bare, it is dark until 8:00 am and gets dark again around 5:00, and the wind is making me crazy. Other than those few annoyances (add my better, but not well, knee) I am grateful for so many things in my life. I love the beauty in the northwest part of the world. Today it is grey and rainy, but it is more often green and lush. I love looking over Bellingham Bay and taking walks through fallen leaves. I love my family, but more than that, I can't think of anyone that I enjoy talking to more than my brilliant children. They also remind me of the wonderful years I had with their father whom I miss dearly. I am grateful that I have hobbies and activities that I really enjoy and that fill the void without Don. I am grateful that I have a mind and a church that appreciates dialogue and diversity. I am grateful for good friends and health. I could just go on and on and on and I'm grateful for that.

So, Happy Thanksgiving to anyone who is brave or foolish enough to read this blog. If you are among my friends and family, please give yourself a big hug from me on this grateful day!

Posted by Marilyn at 9:59 AM | Comments (2)

November 13, 2009

Family Business

I talked to my sister last night. Somehow, we haven't connected for awhile and I was glad to get caught up. She didn't know that Charles was in Hong Kong. She didn't know because I had never mentioned anything on my blog. It is weird that I know nothing about what is going on in my sister's life if we don't talk, but she knows what is going on in my life when I share stuff on my blog. Another one of those quirky items about blogging. You forget that there is actually an audience out there. I think my sister should also get on Twitter or Facebook or even start her own blog. Then, I wouldn't get left out. Of course, SHE COULD CALL ME MORE OFTEN!!!!!

In any case, Charles finished up his work with the University of California in June and the Cyber Security firm that he was working for had not received any of their grants for this year. In fact, the Obama administration was re-organizing the whole department, and Charles simply could not hold on for several months to see if his firm would be funded. So, he took at job at Hong Kong University and left in September. He has been back for two weeks in November and will be back for Christmas. The family did not accompany him because the parental units decided that it was not a good year to take James out of school. He has been to so many schools, and he was thriving in Bellingham. So, if Charles goes back next year, the family will accompany him. I don't think they want another year apart. It has been hard on them, but especially hard on Nico who simply cannot understand why his daddy has to leave and not come home. It has made him a bit anxious of late. James is better, but he misses his dad and Dani misses lots of stuff, but it is hard to raise a teen and a 3-year-old alone.

Charles had been wooed to Hong Kong before, but (by default) finally applied for the position. He says that it would have been the job of his dreams if he were younger and without a family. As I see it, except for the unwanted and unhappy separation, it is a pretty nifty situation. You see, Charles is getting well paid for simply doing own research. He has an office, but doesn't have to teach. Charles is well known in his field and it is a feather in the cap of the university to have him publish while he is employed by them. So, he is sitting in Hong Kong writing and presenting at conferences (Beijing, Stockholm, Connecticut) and wishing all the time that he can just be home with his family.

I'm busy these days observing interns so they can finish up their observations by the end of the quarter. I'm impressed by all five students. They have good skills. I was supposed to go to the opera tonight at Western, but it is cold and windy and I am tired. So, I'm going to take a bath and put on my pajamas and enjoy a night at home. Although my leg is slowly recovering, it is still a chore to park across campus and walk to the music hall. I look forward to a bath and a book!

Posted by Marilyn at 6:29 PM | Comments (1)

November 5, 2009

Whatcom Middle School

This morning I opened my computer to read the news. Then, I went on Facebook and found out that Whatcom Middle School had burnt this morning. Did I find it in the news? NO! I found it on Facebook in a posting by Aarene Storms! Evidently the fire started on the roof (probably due to the workers who are retrofitting the school for earthquake safety). So much for protection!!!

My thoughts went to my friend, Beth, who is the counselor at Whatcom. I was sad and kept thinking of the loss to the children and to the teachers. Since my mind lately has been thinking about "stuff," I wondered what the teachers had in their classrooms that was precious to them. I thought of all the library books and all the student records. It looks like the roof caved in, but I'm not sure of the lower floors and the office stuff. They tried to save the gym and auditorium. The music building is totally separate. I guess the reports of the rest of the damage will come in later.

Of course the physical stuff of schools can mostly be replaced but this school was the oldest in the area and one of the oldest in the state. I can take my wonderful memories and multiply them by thousands and thousands of others who passed through the portals. I hope it can be rebuilt because it is a grand school. This is the third time a school has burnt in Bellingham. Kulshan Middle School burnt before it was open (or had any history), and the old Fairhaven High School built many, many years ago. I don't know what they will do with the students and teachers. Obviously they have the next few days off while those decisions will be made. What a very sad occurrance. What an awful way to begin a new day.

Posted by Marilyn at 9:46 AM | Comments (0)

November 4, 2009


Pastor Jane spoke at my circle last night about the stuff we carry through life. She was talking about actual, physical, stuff that you own or have inherited. She posed lots of questions such as, "do you keep stuff because of some sentimental attachment long after it has lost its use?" or "are you the keeper of the family heirlooms?" As she spoke, several thoughts went in and out of my mind about the subject. I have a huge home and it is filled with stuff!

I still have some of Donel's collections, not because I am attached to them, but because it feels so ponderous to make decisions about them. For instance, his books! Dozens and dozens of books in the upstairs bedroom. Most of them without any value. I have already taken those that interest me and given away some that others might want. I have ideas about what to do with the rest, but it is a big job. Someday I will tackle it. Maybe soon. I have his butterfly collection somewhere in a box. Seems important to keep it together. I have his stoles hanging in a closet. I'm probably most attached to his stoles, but have absolutely no use for them myself. Most were especially made for him by loving parishoners and are works of art. The stoles are definitely the hardest to get rid of.

I haven't saved a great deal of extraneous stuff of my own, but I definitely have my share. What about the changing table that my father-in-law made especially to my specifications before Dani was born? All my kids and my grandkids have been changed on that table. It is unique. It is in my basement. I do not need it. What about my box of size 14 clothing that I can't fit into? What about the artwork that never got framed or the dishes that once belonged to my British grandmother?

Then there is all the stuff in the attic - toys that my grandchildren absolutely refuse to let me toss away. There are dolls and puzzles and blocks and playschool stuff that they have definitely outgrown but think I should keep for other children (although they secretly still play with some of it). Nico and the neighbors are now the beneficiaries of the toys. When will I ever be able to rid my house of toys?

My mother came to this country from England when she was two years old. It must have been traumatic because she hated anything old and got rid of everything that her parents brought with them. She always wanted new stuff and was never, ever, sentimental (except for a few things that belonged to her mother such as the dishes). When my dad died, she got rid of his collection of handmade fishing rods that were quite beautiful and all the old Christmas ornaments that we grew up with. She tossed lots of stuff without a thought of asking her kids if they wanted anything. We found out after the fact. I think she must have been very angry at my father for leaving her alone.

She was always like that. She tried to give away my lovely doll when I was about eight because I never played with it. She let my uncle "borrow" back the doll highchair he made for me because I never used it and he hadn't finished one for another niece. I never got it back. My mother thought that things that weren't used or played with should leave the house. She wasn't mean, just unsentimental. We didn't have many toys or much stuff in my childhood home. Our house was really small. It was California. I played outside with skates and bikes and balls and bats. We just didn't clutter up the house.

So, now I sit in a house at least three or four times the size of my childhood home. I have lots of stuff - some that I really don't want or care about. I have some work ahead of me to downsize. But, I also have some stuff that I love and some that my children would care about some day. None of it is as important as relationships and none of it needs to rule my life. Some of it decorates my days and contains my memories.

I think Pastor Jane is right. We have to ponder our philosophy of stuff and decide what to do about it. I really must do that someday soon. It is just such a chore!

Posted by Marilyn at 11:47 AM | Comments (1)

November 3, 2009


I'm sitting at Dani and Charles' house working on my computer. They bought two sofas the other day from a local furniture store and decided they were too dark and too tall for their living room. After much deliberation (and a trip to IKEA in Canada), they decided to send them back (the definite advantage of a small, locally owned store). Today they rented a truck and drove to the Seattle IKEA to get an alternative they liked better. Since Wilson's Furniture were picking up the other sofas today, and since they were bringing home the new one, I said I would be here when the movers came. Now I'm waiting for the teen to arrive home from school on the bus. I'm keeping the dog happy and getting a bit of work done in the quiet of the afternoon. My house is more chaotic with Nico, his babysitter, and Katie home in bed because she arrived in Bellingham feeling under the weather. Katy, you may remember, stays with me on Monday through Wednesday and teaches voice at the university. She's probably exhausted since she's had a busy schedule of rehearsals and concerts this week.

I went to my physical therapy this morning. Last week Lisa gave me quite a workout and left some areas much better and one not so good. I've been limping a bit more this week but we are seeing progress I think. I look outside and see leaves in my yard and lots of debris from the wind. I think I need to hire a couple of guys to clean stuff up. There are so many projects that I would just do, but stop because I don't want to climb a ladder or strain my knee further. I will be so very glad when normal living resumes (whatever that is).

When I write more often, it seems like a lot is happening. When I try to think back over a week or two, it seems like nothing much is happening. Halloween has come and gone. We had fish tacos with friends who brought their two year old over to trick or treat with Nico. James went to the movies with his friends. The two families went for a short time on our block and then were home to help answer the door for me. I missed seeing some neighbors, but I was glad to stay seated for longer than two minutes between trick or treaters. I'll post a few pictures of Nico and Oscar. They were so cute.

Our church voted on a new pastor last week. I am ecstatic. I love him already. I had no doubt about our search committee. They were awesome. I knew we could count on them. Kent comes from the east coast and is in his 40s. He doesn't have wide parish experience, but he is on a multiple UCC staff with Martin Copenhaver (who married Don and me). He has lots of relevant experience and he is so authentic and bright. I can hardly wait until he comes. Our congregation embraced him with gusto - they are so very ready. Six voted against and a couple hundred voted a resounding yes! We are very lucky.

I guess that is all for now. Here is the precious boy and his friend.



Posted by Marilyn at 3:57 PM | Comments (1)