Category Archives: Aunts and Uncles

Important News Bulletin

This just in. My brother has abandoned his career as an Interior Decorator.

“The pressure was just too intense,” he moaned. “I’m just too sensitive for this racket.”

Thrust into international limelight by my blogging indiscretion, Mark began to feel that his work as an interior decorator was being judged by too many, too fast. The scrutiny and armchair quarterbacking by the masses was more than a sensitive artist like Mark could bear.

So he’s set his face like oatmeal against the world of abstract art. Now he’s a short order cook, or possibly, a chef (If we can get him a big fancy hat).

Fortunately, Liz was there to help the career transition.

Fortunately, Liz was there to help the career transition.

You heard it first here. Further bulletins as events warrant.

Project 365, Day 67
Tim (again)

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My Brother’s New Career

A while back I had the opportunity to attend my brother’s retirement party as he finished his Army career — full-circle from where it started, in Williamsburg, Virginia. I was so proud of him that he had served his country for so many years, having earned the rank of full Colonel.

But what does a man do, when he finishes one career, but is still young and healthy and full of drive and purpose? He starts another career, that’s what he does. So my brother went back to school.

My brother and his beloved bride, at Pioneer Square, in Portland.

My brother and his beloved bride, at Pioneer Square, in Portland. Mark’s forward momentum got the better of him, in this photo.

First, he completed an Executive MBA program, and then he jumped into a Masters in Accounting. Few of us suspected, however, that this was all a clever blind. Unbeknownst to us all, he has craftily embarked on a new career as an interior decorator.

I got a strange call from my brother a few weeks back.

We think this was one of Gandalf's early attempts at an out-of-scale wizard's staff.

Mind you, the call wasn’t as strange as this strange piece of kitchen decor. We think this was one of Gandalf’s early attempts at an out-of-scale wizard’s staff.

“Hey, Tim, Liz and I are coming out to the West Coast for our 30th Anniversary trip — we’re thinking of renting a house in the Portland area. Would you like to come down and spend a weekend with us?”

Naturally, I jumped at the chance, but I was a bit suspicious. Why would my brother want me and Kathy around for his 30th anniversary? Surely he and Liz would rather spend time with each other? I sensed an ulterior motive; warning bells rang.

Kathy and I managed a visit to Powell's Book store, so the weekend was at least partially redeemed, whatever surprises my brother has for us.

Kathy and I managed a visit to Powell’s Book store, so the weekend was at least partially redeemed, whatever surprises my brother had for us.

We drove down to Portland and found the house, and I immediately realized why we had been so ‘casually’ invited. My brother has obviously been moonlighting as an Interior Decorator, and he wanted to showcase his latest client’s home.

Apparently Mark likes crude woodcarving 'art' -- I'm thinking he maybe carved this piece himself.

Apparently Mark likes crude woodcarving ‘art’ — I’m thinking he maybe carved this piece himself.

He blathered on about Accounting for an hour or so to put us off the scent, but I saw right through his clumsy attempts to conceal his real purpose.

“So, you see, when you subtract liabilities from assets, whatever is left over is the value of the company,” Mark droned. “Say, speaking of value, what do you think of that cool wall hanging over there?”

I was afraid to look inside this weird lacquered hanging box, but I half expected to see my brother's initials carved in a corner, somewhere.

I was afraid to look inside this weird lacquered hanging box, but I half expected to see my brother’s initials carved in a corner, somewhere.

I don’t know how to tell him this — but I think he should have stuck with his ‘cover’. After all, a Masters in Accounting program is a perfectly good start to a legitimate career, even if it isn’t as glamorous as being a computer programmer. Maybe he could grow a beard, or something.

This one looks like someone randomly threw spaghetti, paint and plaster onto a canvas.  Maybe Mark felt like having some pasta, that day?

This one looks like someone randomly threw spaghetti, paint and plaster onto a canvas. Maybe Mark felt like having some pasta, that day?

I hate to be the one to hurt Mark’s feelings — he is very sensitive, as ‘artistic’ people often are. Of course, I know that he deeply respects my credentials as an art critic, so I need to be careful not to crush his dream. Maybe he’ll read this blog post and get a hint … but I’m not very hopeful. Subtlety has never been our family watchword.

Project 365, Day 66

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Lost Days of 2011 — Vacationing in Fort Clark, Texas

Continuing my ‘Lost Days of 2011′ series, here is another memory that went unchronicled last year. I don’t know what I was thinking, to leave this vacation out!

Perhaps one of the hardest things for my mother-in-law to do last year, was to host us all at Fort Clark without her husband. Mamie has this idea that Bill was ‘the fun one’ and it was a big step for her to let us all come back to Texas in the Summer of 2011, with Grandad having died in February.

Still, how could it be Summer without a week or two in Texas? So many of our best and happiest memories are rooted in that place — we were thrilled that Mamie agreed to let us all come.

David and Sarah, beating the Texas heat with a shared water bottle

With the seven of us, Dan and his three, Aunt Stephanie, Jenn and Logan, and David R. thrown in for good measure, it was a large, silly crowd. Mamie was a very good sport to put up with us all, and to be ‘the fun one’ in her own right.

"Houston, we have a negative on escape velocity."

As usual, we spent many days at the football-field length pool, playing games and making ice-cream pilgrimages to Pico’s in the evenings. But we also went bowling, launched water balloons, and geocached as well. It was a fun-filled visit, with lots of cousin-time and opportunity to rest and relax.

Aunt Stephanie is very intentional about connecting with each of our kids -- she is a Great Aunt!

It was strange to be there without Grandad. I tried to go for lots of golf-cart rides, and I even read a couple of Louis L’Amour books (just to get into the spirit of the thing) but we very much missed his larger-than-life, boisterous Grandad-in-vacation-mode persona.

We tried to 'round up the usual suspects', but all we found were these people.

We missed having Phil and Emily there, but it was good to have some time with Jenn and Logan. One of the best things about Fort Clark is that you seem to have plenty of time there — the slow pace demanded by the heat is a welcome change from our busy lives.

Logan was well-loved by all his cousins, and Jenn's kindness and sense of humor were greatly appreciated.

Thanks to Aunt Kate and Uncle Jerry, who let us stay at their house, we had plenty of room to sleep and play games. They have been so kind to us, over the years, and I often worry that we are not sufficiently thankful. This year, I had the idea that we could each write a thank-you note to them each day — it turned into quite a pile of mail. I hope we didn’t irritate them more than we communicated our thanks.

Kathy never quite gets enough time with her family.

As a parent, I get a lot of enjoyment out of seeing my children interact with their cousins. There is something particularly special and precious about a close relationship with a cousin — that bond of blood seems to establish a level of trust that isn’t found in any other relationship.

Only their mothers can tell them apart.

Truly, an unforgettable Summer vacation. Thank you, Mamie, for letting us visit you at Fort Clark. Thank you for being brave and doing it without Bill.


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Missing Mark

Today is my brother’s birthday. Well, by the time I post this blog entry, it will no longer be his birthday where he is, but who’s counting? It is, as they say, the thought that counts.

Sartorial Magnificence

Mark always was a snappy dresser.

I’m sure I’ve written about him before, but I miss him a lot. He’s stationed in Norway, after only one year living locally; I do wish I’d made better use of that time. We played some games and Laser-Tag together, and celebrated various holidays with him and his family, but it wasn’t quite enough. At the time, we had hoped he might choose to retire here, maybe after a three- or four-year tour at Fort Lewis, and so it didn’t seem so urgent that we see each other right now.

Mark and Jimmy-T at my wedding

Mark sure looks young (and shaggy) in this picture (left), from our wedding.

Mark has been a good brother to me; I frequently encourage my boys to be good brothers ‘like Uncle Mark was to me’. He protected me, encouraged me, taught me things, played with me, went ahead of me into various unknowns (jobs, schools, etc.) and loved me enough to sacrifice his interests on my behalf hundreds of times.

Mark and his Armored Personnel Carrier
He never would share the machine-gun, though.

Happy Birthday, beloved brother.


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How Could I Have Forgotten?

There is a slight problem with blogging and letting the world (such as it is) read your rambling thoughts of photo despair; when you make a mistake you have to do some serious retracting.

Tim reminded me today that we took family portraits in March of 2006 when his sister was visiting from Georgia.

what a great family!

You have got to be kidding me!!!!! How could I have forgotten? We even have a lovely picture hanging in our entry way. I’m so embarrassed. My only excuse is that it wasn’t in a studio. Pretty pathetic, if I do say so myself. Tim’s mother made all the grand daughters gorgeous skirts and we were all coordinated in white, red and black. We took hundreds of pictures, with at least 5 cameras.

red and white - very festive


Please excuse my terrible lapse in memory. Hanging head in shame and heading to the store. Do they stock brain cells anywhere near the children’s clothing?

Someone in WA

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