Yesterday, December 9, I planted a small blue spruce tree in our side yard in remembrance of my parents’ 71st wedding anniversary and my father’s 93rd birthday. Almost on cue, a flock of honking Canadian geese flew in “V” formation above me, disappearing into the setting sun. A prairie sky of blazing colors faded into darkness, and sparkling outdoor Christmas lights came on around our home. The Holidays have arrived in western Oklahoma once again. Somehow, we have acquired eight lighted deer through the years, and they are now grazing on our front lawn, in the garden by the pond, and among three new perennial beds of plants on the east side of our home. Later, when the lights are turned off, real deer will visit our ponds and gardens, eating any leaves remaining on plants and leaving only their fresh prints in the snow.
Indoors, Kathy and I have placed a towering, life-like spruce in our living room decorated in all white lights, hand-blown crystal hearts, red balls, hundreds of bird and animal ornaments, and a glowing Christmas star. Near the star at the top of the tree, we have once again placed a small blue and yellow stocking ornament made by our son, Michael, when he was four years old. Our cats, Maggie and Smokey, still like to sleep among the gifts under the Christmas tree. On the fireplace mantle, five wooden angels made by Kathy are surrounded with garlands of greenery and pine cones. Stockings are hung from the mantle for each family member in anticipation of the arrival of Christmas. A new nativity crèche has been placed atop a glass cabinet full of seashells, reminding us of the natural and spiritual gifts we have been given this year.
2010 has been one of our most eventful years. I fulfilled a life-long personal dream and joined the U.S. Peace Corps. I was sent to Jamaica with 36 other Peace Corps volunteers, and we trained along Jamaica’s southern coast and up in the mountains for ten weeks before receiving individual assignments. I became a program coordinator at the Montego Bay Marine Park, and loved every moment I had working with fellow Volunteers, Peace Corps and MBMP Trust staff members, Jamaican school children, college interns and guests to Jamaica’s first national marine park. I returned home at the end of our summer work in the marine park. A number of my fellow Peace Corps volunteers have also returned home, but the majority of Group 81 Volunteers are still in Jamaica, working in schools and on environmental, health, agricultural and water projects. If you want to read about some of my experiences in Jamaica, just click on to my blog: http://www.conch39.wordpress.com
Once home, Kathy has kept me busy this autumn. She created three new garden beds on the east side of our home, and four dump truck loads of topsoil have now been surrounded by over 600 pavers to create the beds. We placed new trees, shrubs and perennial plants in the beds; Kathy also constructed an iris bed near the fish ponds in our backyard. Less than three miles down the road from us, Jennifer and Aaron Harmon have just moved into a new home in a beautiful wooded area. In Nevada, Rebecca and Sean Parry have remained very busy, too, and Rebecca has almost completed her teacher training. She hopes to start teaching science to middle school students next year. Our four grandchildren, Tyler, Sarah, Ian and Anna are all active, intelligent students and dream of becoming a marine biologist, dancer, wildlife explorer, and USAF Thunderbird pilot/rodeo rider. You might be surprised who wants to be the pilot…it’s Anna.
It is a great privilege to live in America, to have the opportunity to dream of bright futures…even during challenging economic times. It is also an honor to serve at home and abroad, helping students and citizens build a more peaceful and environmentally vibrant world. Kathy and I wish all of you a Blessed Christmas Season. May 2011 Be a Year of Joy, Good Health and Bright Dreams for You and Your Family.