Tuesday, December 24, 2019

Merry Christmas December 2019

To our friends who may not have received our Christmas greetings:

Christmas 2019

                             Spoiling ourselves at a coffee house in LaConner, Washington

Merry Christmas from the House of Corn

Surprise!   It’s me, the reason my great great grand second uncle coined the term squirreling away.  That’s ‘cause I’ve been squirreling away peanuts the gentle lass spreads out for me and the jays and the crows and her illegal deer herd for the past year.  By the way, don’t tell the police, but Bambi still eats apples out of her hand while she tickles him under the chin. 

They started 2019 with the utterly most fantastic non-trip of the century.  After spending hours and hours, day after day after day, the grouch planning the ultimate winter getaway, he glanced up from their Apple computer screen and exclaimed “oh, it’s spring.” 

Besides, once again, after vowing they would never ever under any circumstance paint a large painting on watercolor paper to be cut up into pieces as a fund raiser for WAVE, a non-profit that works against domestic violence, they had a winter commitment.  That’s ‘cause the grouch uttered that forbidden three letter word, “yes.”  So the fair lass, now obligated without any form of consultation had one more “have to.”  Naturally she wisely painted five individual paintings, each surrounded by a white margin, on her mega-sized sheet of paper.  Meanwhile, he painted four very discrete paintings smartly tied together so they looked like one complete piece of art work — cleverly designed so no one could miss his conception.  Brilliant!


Her’s all sold intact — the largest purchased by a note-worthy art collector from Alaska — herself.  Yep, she bought her own painting to save it from being cut up because…..

There was this little girl.

An elementary school art critic.

Her mom gave her an itsy bitsy, I mean tiny, mat board with a cut out hole through which to select a portion of someone’s painting to be excised.  To their mutual horror, this little girl sprinted back and forth trying to decide — cut out one of the lass’s deer or the gnome on the back of a goofy bear the grouch had painted?  Whose work would be the victim?   Oh the agony they each felt as she darted between their paintings.  Back and forth, the lass’s heart sunk, back and forth, the grouch’s heart sunk, back and forth like a natural-born shopper.  Ultimately…… 

The gnome “won.”  

Now many downpours end with a rainbow, and that day proved to prove the tenet.  A man sitting at their table saw the grouch’s anguish as he slumped in his chair realizing hours and hours of labor had just been obliterated.  In an act of valor, he purchased the rest of that section of the big painting at a dollar per square inch as a gift to “the girl,” but in reality…you guessed it.

By the way, that Alaskan art collector I mentioned earlier ended the evening with one additional purchase.  There, on a silent auction table rested a painting the fair lass couldn’t resist — a gem left over from the previous WAVE Art by the Inch fund raiser.  A delightful pair of penguins with a chick had somehow escaped the discerning eyes of other art collectors.  Just why begs understanding, but she bid and now the fair lass’s very own painting from two years ago also hangs in their home.  The grouch believes it would be best if the fair lass refrain from visiting our local art gallery where more of her art is for sale.

Still, the lass’s major enterprise this year came through the viewfinder of two cameras.  If there is a duck, merganser, gull, loon, shorebird or bird from any other flock of the thousands that pass through Petersburg, whose image is not tucked safely in their computer, it’s not because she didn’t try.  It was probably just out-of-focus.  No, wait, if it’s out-of-focus, it’s still there.

And now thanks to the fact that she celebrated another birthday this year, she has a new camera, a Sony DSL RX-10 IV which, if you check out reviews on line, has a manual translated into English by a committee comprised solely of members who do not read or write English.  The name of the camera, RX-10 IV instead of RX-10 4 should be a clue.  Thus, the grouch even bought her a book on how to use the camera so she could get started because this camera will do anything except floss your rear molars — if you can figure out how — except  they couldn’t — figure out how to do most anything with it — the camera that is.

So, it was while standing alongside maybe 40 or 50 thousand snow geese in Washington’s Skagit River Valley with her trusty old Canon that she struck up a conversation with a guy, and this guy showed them some photos of geese and swans that would roll your socks down and back up, and they asked him what kind of camera he had, and hallelujah, it was the same Sony DSL RX-10 IV which she wasn’t even using because — I think you understand about flossing your rear molars.  Anyway, in a 10-second demonstration, he told her how to do what the grouch gave her the camera for.  Of course, she immediately dug the Sony RX-10 IV camera out from under a pile a thrift store treasures and set out among the birds only to find that all three batteries were dead and now it was time to leave the 40 to 50 thousand snow geese and, did I mention, several hundred trumpeter swans?

I’ve deviated chronologically because the Skagit River Valley provided the equivalent of hot fudge ice cream cake being served when you thought you were being sent to bed without supper.  It came while the grouch was grumbling because they were forced to wait a week for a ferry home as the finale of a 50-day trip across half of America and back — a trip that began with a drive down British Columbia to Bellingham, Washington.  There in one of those “no way” coincidences, the grouch’s brother just happened to be visiting from the east coast at the same time.  From there, he made a left turn to drive 2,000 stormy miles in four days lashed by rain, snow, wind and the spray from passing semis to Door County, Wisconsin, while the fair lass flew America’s stuffed skies being served a tiny bag of salty unidentified crunchy stuff along with a plastic cup of her beverage of limited choice over a parallel route.  

Ten days in Door County on the shores of the over-full Lake Michigan with cousin Connie and her husband, Bob, provided the fair lass with hours and hours of rock/fossil collecting, enough to wreck havoc with her back, her knees and displace everything the grouch had carefully packed in their Honda CRV — enough displacement so he couldn’t find much of anything he had brought along for the rest of the trip.  Between the rocks, the seats designed to carry nothing wider than a soda straw on cross-country Delta Airline flights and sagging, thrift store reject beds in the single $ motels the grouch found for their incredible deal lodging — the fair lass claims her spine feels like it has been compressed into the shape of a pretzel.

Of course, true to her Groth genetic heritage, the fair lass made fast friends with everyone she encountered.  On the shores of Lake Michigan she had a conversation with an “ELDERLY” gentleman.  Editors Note:  He was about the SAME AGE as her YOUTHFUL self.  And, as most people do in any conversation, he told the lass about his favorite high school teacher.  Naturally that teacher just happened to be the fair lass’s late uncle, Waldo.  The lass truly believes God has a hand in these “chance happenings.” 

Finally, back in Alaska when they departed the Alaska ferry, the fair damsel had amassed 47 more friends who want to maintain contact as well as order copies of her photo books plus she had bonded with 89 dogs, a dozen alpacas, two turtles and one toad.  Surprised?  As I said, she is a Groth.  The grouch?  I don’t think he lost too many friends and never met the toad.

The grand finale for that 50-day odyssey came when the fair lass found the ultimate rock — a real gold “nugget.”  Well, kind of.  While flossing her teeth she reached into her mouth and pulled out a beautiful gold inlay about the size of pencil eraser.  Of course no dentists were available to see her that Saturday.  Maybe they can use that gold to purchase another one of the lass’s paintings at the next WAVE auction.

I could have reported more, how she befriended the sweetest crow chick by giving it peanuts once, just once, really, only once, and for the next month it awakened the grouch every day at 4:00 AM and spent what seemed like forever mewing and cawing outside their bedroom window pleading, begging, willing to do anything for guess what?   But, I’ve written enough so I won’t — report on it that is.

The rest of their family appears sort of normal.  David no longer delivers pizzas, but instead has begun delivering people via Uber and Lyft in Wasilla and Anchorage.  Tamia continues her traditional feminine role of driving plows and equipment for the City of Anchorage while Mandy got her second bachelor’s degree — this one in nursing — and currently works where they hope you don’t meet her on a professional basis, in Seattle’s Virginia Mason Hospital. 

That’s about all I dare acknowledge about them for 2019.  Now as a special Christmas gift to their friends the fair lass is offering to loan out rocks as table decorations during 2020 for any special events for which you may want to add a touch of class to the affair.

Oh no.  Someone left the window open and the squirrel got in.  Guess we ran out of peanuts.  Better refill the feeder.   But wait, now we don’t have to write a Christmas letter this year.  All we have to add is what we most wanted to say:

May the blessings the miracle of Christmas fill your heart with the gift of Christ’s Love throughout the season and coming year.

With love, Don and Karen

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

My Lord, What a Morning

It didn’t really start this morning — more like a month ago.  The phone.  “Karen, would you be willing to read the scriptures at Church one weekend in June?”

Now, at Petersburg Lutheran Church the honor comes with a bonus, you’re also the Communion Assistant, but we’ll get to that later.

Before Church Karen attends Sunday School (held at Colleen’s home next to the church) with a flock of her feminine friends, one of whom, Sally, offered Karen a ride.  Not wanting to delay Sally, Karen stood in front of our house ten minutes early.  Never one famous for her patience, nine minutes later Karen decided she had been forgotten and scuttled off on foot.

Thus, when Sally knocked on our door perhaps a minute or two late Karen had disappeared out of sight.  Off Sally drove figuring she’s pick Karen up along the route.  No Karen.  Fearing she may have fallen into a ditch, a most distressed Sally soon arrived at Sunday School, a distress she conveyed to Karen.  Minutes later with Karen now feeling remorseful and a bit rattled for causing Sally to worry, Susan set her cup of coffee down next to Karen as Karen removed her sweater.  Alas, a law of physics prevailed.  Two objects cannot occupy the same space simultaneously, namely Karen’s fast-moving hand and the coffee cup.  Yes, the coffee ended up all over Karen’s pants and the floor.

With only les femmes present Colleen suggested they had time to wash the pants during the Sunday School lesson.  Off they came and into the laundry room where Karen grabbed stain remover with which she doused her pants.  Editors note:  It might have been best if Karen had not removed her glasses when she took off her sweater.  After spraying the coffee stains she realized the bottle of Shout Out for Clothes was still on the shelf.  For the record, we now know that carpet stain remover can be substituted for clothes stain remover.

Also, for the record, Karen became the first woman in our Church known to participate in a Sunday School lesson pants/dress-free.  The clothes had about dried as the lesson ended and Colleen’s clock read 10:00 — remember she was the scripture reader this morning and that comes very very early in the 10:00 service.

That’s when Karen decided she’d better get her sweater back on.  Of course that’s also when the zipper of the sweater snagged on her blouse.  That’s also when the bells pealed to signal the start of the service.  Now Karen was due on site in minutes as she sat clad in her lingerie with her pants in the dryer and her sweater and blouse badly intertwined while hung up high on her chest.

A breathless wide-eyed Karen dashed into Church barely in time to read the Scriptures, but not before announcing to the entire congregation that they were lucky she had her pants on.  

Still rattled she had to face Communion.  Her job — hold two cups, one filled with wine, the second, grape juice.  Now behind her when she served Communion were just two steps and her final duty was to mount those two steps and put the two vessels back on the altar.  Just two steps.  Only two.  She cleared one.  The grape juice flew onto the rug.  The wine into her face, onto her blouse and into the Baptismal font positioned at the top of the steps.  From my pew seat it looked like Karen was Baptizing herself as she washed wine out of her eyes with water from the font.

Finally Pastor Eric communed Karen.  He handed her a wafer to dip into what little wine remained.  She just ate it.  He tried again.  She just ate it.  Ah well, there will be Communion next week.

At the end of the service I couldn’t help but notice when I turned to the closing hymn, I first alighted on the preceding hymn:  My Lord, What a Morning.  We should have sung that one.  I gave Karen a ride home.

                    Courting Days   18 x 24 inches   Alkyd on Canvas

This is an older painting I did of Karen of another memorable morning, OK maybe it was an afternoon, but it was one of those days that sent my heart racing as I fell in love with this gentle lass.

Saturday, June 15, 2019

Never Again

Never again! That’s what Karen said two years ago. I echoed her statement with two, no three, exclamation points. The fundraiser for WAVE, Working Against Violence for Everyone — a local non-profit — is a gala event for attendees with alcoholic beverages flowing freely along with a plentiful assortment of delicacies for the most discriminating palates.

However, the main attraction is the artwork, creations by artists mostly on a 22 X 30 inch sheet of watercolor paper to be cut up and sold by the square inch.  Supporter/patrons chosen by random numbers circulate around the artwork with various sized mat boards.  Each searches for the perfect layout they would like to see cut out of the artist’s creation to take home at the hefty price of $1.00 per square inch.  

I’ve suffered mightily in past years.   I offered pieces I composed with obvious (to me) complete compositions that anyone could see — just put your mat board around the central parts and viola. They got decimated.   Karen always painted discrete paintings surrounded by white borders.  They always survived.

This year I decided to adopt Karen’s tactic — sort of, neither one of us figuring on one little girl whose mother must have said “you can chose one little piece.  Take this tiny mat board and have fun.”  Alas, this juvenile art collector ended up being one of the first “art patrons” chosen to choose and she honed in on Karen’s and my artwork.

                   Karen's     You Are So Dear to me     Watercolor/Acrylic

Back and forth she darted between the two.  Again and again — so fast she’s obviously a future candidate for an Olympic track medal.  Karen’s largest painting of bears or one my paintings of a bear with gnomes on it’s back was going to get destroyed with hours and hours of work spent on the rest of the painting laid to waste.  We were miserable as we watched her dash back and forth between the pieces.  Oh, the agony, the pain.  In the end…the gnomes were chosen to be plucked off the back of the bear.

                    Don's     Gnome Fishing Strategies      Alkyd    
The gnomes would have been excised from the back of the bear.  

But then, an angel.  His name, Richard.  We had never met him before this event but he sat across from us at our table and saw our angst.  Richard likes gnomes and when his turn came he did the unimaginable.  He selected another of my gnome and bear paintings for himself plus….he purchased the entire gnome and bear painting the girl wanted part of so she could have the whole undefiled thing.  My painting survived because of the generosity of Richard, my hero.

In the end my four gnome paintings sold, as did Karen's eclectic selection of four paintings.  Karen was so enamored with her own largest offering she sat on the edge of her seat dreading seeing it cut up or cut out -- until it was her turn to chose what artwork she wanted.  It now resides on our living room wall.

        Karen's    When You're Done I Have a Question    Watercolor/Acrylic
                               Now part of our own art collection.     

                              Don's    A Beary Big Problem     Alkyd

Two years from now we will receive another request.  Would you be willing?  If I breakdown and say yes, which I am vowing never to do again, but if I do which I won’t, the subject will be….blotches of unused paint from every painting I work on for months — a totally indescribable abstract — blotches of color that should never ever ever ever be placed within the same room of each other.  Then, after that maybe WAVE will strike my name from their contact list. 

           Karen's    Are You Sure That Was Decaf?    Watercolor/Acrylic

                           Don's    Waiting For Some Action    Alkyd

                            Karen's      Bird Grains      Watercolor/Acrylic

                Don's    A Gnome Family Outing On The River    Alkyd  
This piece didn't fare so well with the top of the mountains and one deer perishing when they were cut out of the painting.