Wednesday, July 15, 2009

She did it! Irene got baptized!

I called her this morning on my way in to work to see how it all went last night. Irene sounded so happy! She said that so many people were there, even Salme and Berta came who have been too ill to attend church lately. She said that so many people gave her flowers, and it was a wonderful night, that she got there at 5 and didn't leave until 8:30. Vanem Isom came up from Parnu to baptize her, and she will be confirmed on Sunday. I asked her how she felt inside, and she said she was so happy and had so much peace. She said that she felt closer to God. Ahh, music to my ears!

Lugupeetud Reisijad (Respectful Travellers)

We had a long, long journey home.

The night before we left was very peaceful. While we enjoyed the last of our Axa Strawberry Muesli with milk and yogurt, we were flipping through the channels and ETV was doing a special "behind the scenes" showing of Laulupidu and Tantspidu. I got all teary again just thinking about what a wonderful experience it was to take part in something so magical. It was our first glimpse of what the field looked like during the dancing, and it was cool to see what was going on during the dancing. (Who knew that Erika Polendrik and all of the other directors including the "Kapten," Ullo Laht, were in tears during Tulevaiksel Ool (along with the rest of the audience from what I've heard)! He was just bawling with his hands over his eyes. It was so sweet!) The show was also a great reminder of all of the different singing and dancing groups who had come and how they had prepared. It was a great way to end the trip!

Then we went to bed for a brief nap as we had to be up at 2 to get on the 3 AM bus back to Tallinn. The sun came up around 4 and we had the sun for the 28 hours back to Portland. We went from Tallinn to Stockholm to Chicago to Seattle to Portland. We marked all the lasts along the way ... the last time to hear Estonian TV (in the waiting area in the airport), the last time standing on Estonian ground, the last time hearing the Estonian language (Head aega from the flight attendant as we got off in Stockholm). Unfortunately, I didn't get up and walk around at all during the bus ride or either of the first two flights, and by the time we landed in Chicago, my feet were really swollen and tender, especially the right one. It was in a lot of pain by the time we got to Seattle. Even now two days later, it is still in a fair amount of pain and bruised, but it is slowly getting better.

I expected that I'd be much sadder leaving Estonia than I really was at the end. But, I have no doubt that we will get back there one day, and I carried that hopeful thought in my heart as we left.

Tartu: Heade Motete Liin (The City of Good Ideas)

It was good to get back to Tartu since we both—but especially Tony—have such good memories of it. We were able to do a lot of fun things in the city.

One new experience for both of us was going to the movies. The lastest Ice Age (Jaaaeg 3) was made with an entire cast of Estonian actors. It was a good movie to go to since it was geared for kids and we understood almost all of it. I wondered how the American jokes would translate, but the theater seemed to laugh and like it quite a bit, and even Mari Timikov had recommended it to us a few days earlier.

Tartu, like the other cities, has such a charming Old Town. Their Raekoja Plats was especially beautiful with many colorful flowers that accented the colors of the buildings. The merchant houses there were built much later than in the other cities, during the 17th-18th centuries. Of course, we had to do the obligatory picture with Eduard Vilde and Oscar Wilde at the cafe off of Vallikraavi Tn. (Moat Street - built over the old moat).

This year in Estonia is dubbed as the Year of the Museum and there were signs all around town saying “Muuseum on ehe.” (The museum is good for you.) We loved our time at the Eesti Rahva Muuseum. Tony loved learning about the old Pagan rites and wedding rituals. I loved their interactive calendar which had a tradition (and its place of origin) spelled out for every day of the year. And of course, my favorite room was the Rahvariided room. They had a map which showed all of the kihelkonnad (parishes - I think over 250) which each have their own style of clothes.

Tony was also able to show me a lot of things that I hadn't seen before, like Tartu University's campus. We were hoping to walk around the library, but it was closed for most of July and August.

I loved Jaanni Kirik, a brick church built after the pattern of many of the old brick churches in Germany. The little break heads and people perched all over the inside and outside of this church make it really unique. It is a good symbol of the everyman – that everyone is welcome there. We walked up to the top of the tower to get a bird's eye view of Tartu, lit candles, and donated money to the organ fund (a church like that really does need an awesome organ).

Then we headed out to explore Toomemagi. We started at the Peeter ja Paulus kirik. It had been destroyed during the Livonian War (around the 1500's) and only half of it was restored. The restored part now houses the museum for the Tartu University. The ruins of the front half make for some cool pictures.

We also ventured to the sacrificial stone and Musumagi (Kissing Hill) where people declare their love by attaching padlocks to the railings, the statue of Kristjan Jaak Peterson (the poet who walked to riga), the remains of the ancient fort by the observatory, and the Angel and Devil bridges.

We struck out at the Eeesti Kirjandus (literature) Muuseum and at the KGB Muuseum as they were both closed, but we had great success at the Tartu Kaubamaja. Tony found Lennart Meri documentaries and a couple of other movies: Nimed Marmori Tahvlel and Viimne Reelikviha. I got the 2004 Laulupidu DVDs.

Church

The best part of Tartu was the night we spent with Sirje Ernits, Aivo, Anu Sam Neipp

Friday, July 10, 2009

Getting to Elva

We had to catch the bus very, very early this morning (5 AM). It took us on one more drive across Saaremaa and onto Muhu, and then onto the ferry back to the mainland. Luckily, they served hot food on the ferry, so we were able to get an omelet and salad to fortify us for the coming day. And then, we both slept on the way to Pärnu.

Pärnu is such a fun place. We arrive at 9 AM, locked our bag up in the pakihoid and set out to explore. We walked out to the Lydia Koidula statue and walked through Old Town. A lot of the buildings there are in really good condition and the whole town has a lot of charm. Then we walked over to the Old Tallin gate and out to the beach. It was so nice to take off my shoes and walk in the sand and water. I had hoped that we could go swimming, but it was so cold and windy it would not have been very fun. There were lots of wind surfers there, though, so it made for an enjoyable time. After the beach, we found a taxi driver who know where the LDS church was there, so we went took pictures in front, then headed back to Old Town for some last souvineers and pictures. We had lunch outside on one of those wooden platforms: the best chicken with cheese and wild mushrooms, a red stuffed bell pepper, french fries, cabbage salad, and vanilla with chocolate chunks ice cream for dessert. Then, it was back to the bus to Tartu.

Our bus stopped in Viljandi on the way. It was a really cool town with lots of pretty buildings and churches. We saw the music school, and it looked like it would be a lot of fun to explore. One day we will get to the folk festival there and take in the place. '

When we arrived in Tartu, we hopped on the next bus to Elva. When we got to Ilme's, we found out the Sirje Ernitz had waited at the Tartu bus station for 2 hours for us. There had been a big miscommunication and she thought we were coming earlier. We probably just missed her, but we felt absolutely terrible!

But, it was wonderful to see Ilme. She had a delicious dinner prepared for us of broccoli and cabbage soup (a Parisian recipe she got from her daughter), herring and salami sandwiches, banana peach yogurt, and ice cream and fresh strawberries. Everything tasted so good! After we ate, we showed her our pictures, and then we went out to see the sights of Elva. They have a really cool wooden Laululava there and 3 lakes. We followed this forest trail out by the train tracks to see some of the wooden sculptures that go to one of the lakes. It was good to be out in nature, but the mosquites were so plentiful we didn't go the entire way. At one point, I counted at least 10 on Tony's head alone. We were delicious, kiirtoit to them, so we finally went home. Ilme showed us some of her pictures of her daughter, son, and grandkids and we continued our visit. We reluctantly headed for the last bus promising to meet up again in at least 5 years.

Our bus took us back to Tartu. I hardly recognize this city, not that I ever spent a lot of time here, but there are so many new buildings (including a new, huge Kaubamaja downtown), that it is hard to even spot the things I do recognize. There are all of these billboards around Estonia: Kasv ei peatu kunagi (growth doesn't stop for anything). Tartu seems to be a perfect example of that.

I feel like I'm in a fairy tale

placeholder for saaremaa (on the other computer - we didn't have internet access last night)


got up really early and Sass and Mari took us to the airport
croissant breakfast (last day of breakfast bffet yesterday)
set up lockrs and I checed in on the machine saving bunch of time.
Plane – rainy – we arrived in Kurresaare
took a takso to Metra car rental and then the madness really began
Piret and Suur Toll
castle – maze of stairways – felt like we were in final fantasy(reminded me of a fairy tale – look up song fom norwegian guy – winner of eurovision)
cool christian art and other art of watercolrs of saaremaa
better than the occupation museum history of Saaremaa in WWII
walked around the ramparts
rain rain rain wind wind wind – looked at the moats
grocery shopped
turg – kasi too saaremaa tilke dishes
kaali – meteorite crater – biggr tan you'd think
Varjala kirik – met Toivo who played the organ for s – church built in 1227 - “oldest” in estonia (cool rahva riided for sale in the store across the street) – bought glass cornflower
decided to add in muhu beecase we were getting around faster – went to Koguva saw juhan shmuul's family farm and writing area.
Walked around the farms
went to textile house – artifacts from estonian writers and upstairs had a display about muhu rahvariided.
Peaceful, pretty gardens, thatched roofs, cool old buildings, lots of old boats on display, stone wall with moss
angla to see the windmills – one is being repaired – we kiiked some more
Kaarja kirik – also claims to be the oldest – very similar inside except it is in better condition and it has pagan symbols on the ceiling
Panga pank
Tehumardi – soviet graves (picture of day after battle)
Sorve peninsula – walked the entire spit of land, even evading the waves at the end
drove around tring to find the soviet artillery remnants – but the roads were too bad
headed back – dinner at Veski Trahter – salmon cooked in a crockpot with cheese and creem with vegetable and mashed potatoes
msroom soup and raspberry pancaes and cerry juice
got settled in our cute little hotel room

Irene is getting baptized!!!

Irene has scheduled her baptism for Tuesday, July 14 (I wish I could be there for it, but we leave the 13th!). The elders that she has been meeting with invited the mission president to her place last Saturday. He asked her a bunch of questions (they sounded pretty similar to the temple recommend questions) and afterwords said something to the effect of ... We just did your "baptism exam" and in my mind, you are ready, so what is holding you back. They talked about her takistused, and she finally, after at least 10 years, said that she would like to be baptized.

I can still hardly believe it! I'm so excited for her!

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Only time for a list today

-sauna at Olumpia hotel with great view of Old Town
-caught the bus to Maardu to visit Ruth - saw her cute house and garden and met her family (Agata, Hans, and Tuule)
-exchanged plate in Old Town and walked around SW corner
-Occupation Museum
-Niguliste Kirik Museum (with music and Danse Macabre)
-Caught the trolley to the zoo and ran into mari early (with Mariann and Lillian)
-Visited Irena to say good bye and met her husband/dog
-came home and packed everything up for storage and saaremaa

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Hello - Goodbye

I am feeling so at home here. I just can't believe that tomorrow is our last day in Tallinn.

We started in Kadriorg walking through Swan Lake, the gardens, and the palace grounds. We arrived at Kumu just as it opened, but we only had a half hour there, so we hurried through the permenant Estonian exhibit. I decided that that collection is so important. It is great to see the same style of paintings that you would in the Louvre or any other reputable art museum, but see Estonian symbols, icons, and historical buildings like the churches of Old Town or the Pirita Cloister. They had some wonderful paintings of people in rahvariided, too. It was too bad we had to hurry, I wanted to look at things more carefully, but it was really good to see what we did as we got through about ten rooms. I don't know how they were able to preserve so much. They had one room that was full of busts--everyone from Jesus to Stalin to dolpins to young girls to other people that I'm sure were famous and recognizable to others--and many of them had recordings of things they said. The busts were placed so that when you walk through them, you become one of them...fascinating. Tony liked that room and a painting called The Sermon on the Mount the best.

Then we hurried out to Viimse to visit Salme and Bertha. They were SO generous and kind. They had a whole meal prepared for us of chicken, boiled potatoes with dill, ham, tomatoes, herring, eesti juust, cucumber and tomoto salad with dill and sour cream, and orange nectar juice. We had a very pleasant conversation, those women both just carry the Spirit with them so strongly. I think I started crying from the moment I sat down until the moment I left. It was so nice--it was amazing to hear their testimonies and to hear them talk about the temple and how much they love going there. They both have such strong faith in Jesus Christ. I felt like my own testimony grew today just being with them. We sang a hymn together (Sind vajan iga tund) and shared scriptures. It was sad to say goodbye, because they are both getting up there in years. It is hard to say if this will be the last time we will see them. I could tell they were both so happy to see "Allen" as they called Tony.

After we left Salme's, we stopped in at the Pirita Clooster and admired how massive that building once was. Then we headed into downtown and tried a Ponstnik Donut.

We went to the Kirisbergs next in Kakumae, way on the other side of town. Their house is filled with so much love! They had just received 40 kilos of strawberries today, so we helped clean, stem, and pack them up for freezing. It was great to just hang out with them and be one of the family there. They made a delicious pork and mashed potato dinner that we enjoyed with BBQ sauce that Kristi had brought from America. Lehti told us her conversion story and how she had been healed from sickness (kidney problems) after her baptism. They were among the very first - the 1990's when Kristi was just 8. We stayed there until midnight and didn't want to go home because we felt like we were already home.

[BTW - they have a saun in their house. My dad would be so jealous! ]

Monday, July 6, 2009

Phase Two

Today we got to see more of the Estonia I've been craving: the people!

My parents extended their Tallinn time, so this morning we went into Old Town together to shop. While they went up the Oleviste tower, Tony and I found some dishes! I'm so excited. I cleared out the hutch months ago once we decided to get some dishes here in Estonia. We got the colorful Tallinn dishes. My parents through in an extra two place settings and a few other pieces like a pitcher and sugar bowl. I can't wait to unpack them at home. They'll be a fun memory of this trip.

Then, we headed out to a birthday party for Lehti. It was a huge event with lots of guests, some of the more noteworthy ones included Hirve Surva, Ullo Luht, and Erika Polendrik. The Portland and Seattle dance teams were also there, and tons of Lehti's friends. It is probably the last time we will see any of the Tulehoidjad until we return to Portland. Kalev and Janne had prepared a big picture of the team for us each to sign, and I'm sure Lehti will love it. I was sad we had to leave early, but it is so hard to get to so many places in such a short time.

Tonight, we went down to Nomme to visit Chris and Maila, their family, and Kadri-Riin. It was SO good to be with them. Marta taught family home evening tonight about how forgiveness can help strengthen families. I loved talking with them, singing a hymn together, and just being with them. After the lesson, we went out back for treats: chocolate ice cream cones (the best!) and watermelon. Then we looked at pictures. Each of the kids brought us their albums, and we looked at Chris and Maila's and Kadri-Riin's, too. I'm so happy that we met Kadri-Riin last fall!

It was so neat to see Chris and Maila's temple pictures, especially those of their sealing (July 12, 2000). I was so impressed with how well their kids knew the stories from the scriptures. It was a perfect night, and love each one of them so much. I was so sad when we had to say goodbye. I cried and cried, even until we were on the bus. But I kept thinking of Alma 17:2-3 when Alma runs into the sons of Mosiah after being separated for so many years, and even though half of the tears were because I know it will probably be a long time before I will see them again, the other half were because of my exceeding joy at their faithfulness and strength:

Nuud ned Moosia pojad olid koos Almaga sel ajal, kui ingel esimest korda ilmus temals; see parast Alma roomustas nii vaga oma vendi nahes ja mis veel ta roomu suurendas, oli see, et nad ikka veel olid ta vennad Isandas; jah, ja nad olid kasvanud tugevaks toe tundmises, sest nad olid selge moismisega mehed ja nad olid usinalt uurinud puhakirjuu, et nad voiksid teada Jumala sona.

Aga see ei ol koik; nad olid puhendanud ennast palju palvle ja paastumisele, selleparast olid neil ettekuulutuse vaim ja ilmutuse vaim ning kui nad opetasid, siis nad opetasis Jumala voimu ja volitusega. (http://scriptures.lds.org/alma/17)

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Eesti Lipp

Today, as expected, was a wonderful day. I'm so glad my parents could be here to share it. This morning they went to the Eesti Occupation Museum for a lecture from Mart Laar and Jim Tusty. Then, they went to Laulupidu and staked out a spot for us.

We had our last dance performance this morning. It was so much fun. Everyone was especially happy and joyful. I took tons of picures. The lady who wishes us all Ilusat pidu gave me a big hug right before we went out. I cried at the end knowing it was all over. All of the dancers spontaneously gathered into a big parade around the track. It was a lot of fun to walk/dance around with them.

Then, we rushed off to get Irena and onto Laulupidu. There were SO many people there, we could hardly fit. My parents had found a nice spot for us in the shade. Irena had a really good time there, and I'm really glad we took her. We stood for almost the last half of the program, especially for the last really Estonian songs. It was great to be there for the spontaneous singing of Eesti Lipp and all of the other encores. When it was over, no one wanted to leave, so the singers kept singing. It was great. I love being in a place where their choice of recreation is to go and listen to the most magnificent music. I love how they honor and revere their conductors. I seemed to be the only one that was sad when they extinguished the flame. Everyone else just danced and sang and cheered. I really can't wait to have these new songs on Youtube. I hope they get postedd soon. (It will giv me some variation into my work music.)

Saturday, July 4, 2009

The Flame is Burning

It is morning now. We have just finished breakfast and we are about to change into our rahvariided. (How fun to get to wear them 3 days in a row!) While I was packing up our sandwiches for today, I looked out over the city, an I could see the flame still burning at the Lauluvaljak. The fire is burning bright over the city. It is going to be an eriline paev.

July 2009

I never thought ten years ago, on that day when I feel so deeply in love with Estonia and the Estonian people, that I would be able to participate in these same beautiful traditions. I remember being so jealous of the culture, that we don't have any old traditions in America that date back to so long ago, and we don't have these beautiful costumes that tie you to your land, people, and history. It is a really meaningful experience being able to take part in such a long-standing tradition. I'm so sad we only have one performance to go!

Today was fabulous! The second performance went really well, and it was fun to be able to relax a little and enjoy the experience. When we were leaving the field, I could see Erika Polendrik standing and clapping with both of her hands high above her head. She is a great cheerleader. As soon as the performance was over, we all met up at Kalev and Janne's car for sandwiches and a brisk sprint to the parade's starting place.

The parade was a neat experience. People lined the street for miles on both sides cheering and waving to us. They would shout things like "Tere Tulehoidjad" or "Eluge Tulehoidjad." Tony carried the flag in the front, and I was in the back with Matti, Mark, and Elo. My parents followed us along the parade route and took some great pictures. It was nice to look into people's faces and wave and have them wave back and smile. We walked down Mere Pst. over to Narva Mnt. up to the Lauluvaljak. We walked by three of my very favorite places in Tallinn: Gonsiori 3 (my first apartment in Tallinn that I lived for almost 1 year), Irena's apartment (where I have many happy memories), and Roussalka (I was so happy when I discovered that Tallinn had an a angel statue since Far Away, So Close was my favorite movie just before I left on my mission).

Tony and I had the best dinner: grilled salmon and sashlok with rice and vegetables. While we were waiting for the festivities to begin, we walked out to the water's edge and took in the view of Pirita, Viimse, and the skyline of Tallinn. When we came back, the whole Laulavaljak grounds were full of people as the parade had been continuing while we were gone. In fact, the parade was so long, that it did not end until 7:45 or so. It lasted just over 5 hours! We ran into Kennet Jogi and his cute daughter as we were looking for my parents.

As soon as they invited the singers to come up, it started to rain. We all got out our ponchos as the whole Laulalava filled with people holding hands as they climbed all of the steps. We had excellent seats - 19th row, dead center. We had a really good view of the conductors, which was nice because Veljo Tormis conducted the opening song, Koit. Hirvo Surva was also there and many others like Leeme Jarvi. The music was amazing! It was wonderful to sing the national anthem together and to hear the original version of My Isamaa on Minu Arm.

The rain continued to get worse as the night went on. I know my mom had to have been freezing. Yeah for rahvariided, tough! I knew that wool skirt made it better for Estonians somehow. We were some of the loyalists, but about 2/3 of the people were gone by about 2/3 of the way through. Too bad becase some of the best music was near the end of the show. I had been especially looking forward to Credo by Part, but when it was actally performed, it turned out to be something completely different, very atonal and mixed with the traditional Ave Maria's Bach accompaniment. Why, Arvo, why? But the wind orchestra did a really fun medly of 5 songs from the Awakening time. My other favorites were Beethoven's Halleljah from Christ on the Mount of Olives, the Pilgram's Chorus from one of Wagner's operas, and Gypsy Chorus from one of Verdi's operas, and of course, Carmina Burana. The rain didn't seem to bother the singers. They were still dancing and swaying and waving their Eesti flags! Let's just hope that our rahvariided are dry for tomorrow: Homme Jalle!

July 1999

Right before we left town, I found this letter from 10 years ago:


July 7, 1999

Dear Family,

Hi everybody! How are you? What an amazing week we've had here ... Tantsupidu, Tantsupidu, Tantsupidu (Dance Party) and Laulupidu (Song Party).

These festivals are amazing! I've never seen anything like them Sat AM, all the mish. from Tartu came up - and we went to the big soccer field - and watched the most beautiful dancing. Thousands of people - adults, children, teens - all dressed in their
clothes (each region has their own clothing) they did polkas, spindles (that took up the whole field), folk steps, waltzes - It was beautiful. At the beginning of each dance all the performers would line up at the top of the stadium and run down the stairs from all directions onto the field. It was amazing.

I even cried during the finale - Maila said that the Estonians used these dances to keep their nationality - that the Soviets couldn't understand their words - and they would sing and dance to songs that said that some day they would be free - and as I sat there my heart was filled with so much love for them and admiration for being who they are - and standing up for themselves.

It started to rain during the last 10 min. of the program and I think Sis. Beckstrand and I were the only ones at the stadium without an umbrella. But it didn't stop the people dancing. They just smiled harder and laughed more.

Then, that night we went to the Laululava or Lauluvaljak where they did the
dedicatory prayer (when Elder Nelson dedicated Estonia) and they did a "pass the
torch" like at the Olympics and they lit it at this tower. And then all 28,000
singers sang the Estonian national anthem. I decided at that moment that when the day comes that I have to leave it is going to be one of the absolute saddest days of my life. I really love these people so much, so much. I don't think I've ever felt this kind of love in my heart. Pres. Lennart Mari (our friend from February) spoke - said that songs have always been an Estonian form of expression and that if we listened our hearts would change. They did a bunch of classical songs and then a few Estonian songs.

One they did twice and on the 2nd one Hele Jaar - this lady in the branch - pulled Sis. Beckstrand and I up and grabbed our hands and started singing with them - She said that they had a Laulupidu when they first got their freedom - and people sang all night.

Then we squeezed on a bus - and they were so full of people. This old man in the back started singing a song and swaying back and forth (he was one of the performers and before I knew it, the entire bus was singing and swaying. I could hardly believe it. The quiet, usually silent, Estonian buses were laughing loudly, singing, and swaying. Truly a wonderful experience.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Rock and Roll Baby

Today has been fabulous -- so much fun! We had a run-through in our practice clothes this morning, and we finally got a chance to talk to Erika Polendrik. I've enjoyed working with her this week, she is always so positive and polite. Then we ran home, ironed our costumes, changed, and ran right back for the dress rehearsal. We had time for some viinerid, friikartulid, and hapukapsas, and then we found a nice spot on the grass to watch th rest of the show in full dress.

I LOVE rahvariided and all of the details -- the belts, the hats, the skirts, the pins. It was so much fun to dance in folk costumes. We were very fortunate that it rained a little this morning and cooled everything off, so that even though we are wearing thick wool skirts, it wasn't uncomfortable. Then we had a quick dinner (sandwiches with the very best yogurt (apple and pear)) and back to the stadium for our first performance.

The energy was amazing. We enter through a tunnel under the flame. It isn't very wide, but we enter with eight rows, so we all have to hold hands so that we don't get all mixed up in the tunnel. But tonight, while we were waiting to enter, everyone was swaying and dancing and singing. It is very sweet: the woman next to me wishes us all "Ilusat Pidu" just before we go out onto the field. I love how everyone helps each other on the field with counting and directions so that we are coordinated. And, I love that the directors wish us all well as we exit. They say the nicest things like, "Te olete nii tublid."

It really is so wonerful. Our time is starting to go faster and faster, but I want it to slow down instead. Looking forward to Laulupidu tomorrow. Everyone said that despite how crazy the practices are, it would all come together in the end, and it did. I'm singing the music now as I type. Ah, what fun!

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Ole Pai (Be Gentle!)

[This is what our very polite director says right before she asks us to repeat anything or practice a certain part.]

Somehow, we have survived two more days of practice. I'm not sure exactly how, but here we are now on the night before our first performance. The last two days have been pretty brutal. Yesterday, we started on the same field and practiced Kalamees and Kalamehe Jutt some more, then went to the stadium to practice it on the real field (it is larger than our practice field). Later, we returned to the field next to Old Town to be placed in the first and last songs and fix up the trouble spots in our two numbers. Like Tuesday, yesterday was physically exhausting. I was SO tired by the end of the night.

Our team had a little scare yesterday. Kaili came down on her foot wrong during Tuljak practice and she had to go in for x-rays. Luckily, nothing was broken and though she sat out practice today, we're all hopeful she can dance tomorrow.

Today was exhausting, too, but it was more from enduring the heat all day. In fact, we only really danced our main pieces once. The rest of the time, we worked on the opening and closing numbers. It takes an enormous amount of work to coordinate 8400 dancers to enter and exit the field at the right time and to be in the right place and work together when they are there. And so, for much of today, we sat and stood up, and crouched (Mine kukki) and sat and stood up and crouched. We do these repetative squats at the beginning and at the end (it is to make the waves of the sea) and this was they day we rehearsed those pieces over and over again. (Tony and I have been practicing our squats for weeks because we knew this rehearsal would be painful.--I missed Ollie...he was my squat buddy.) At the end of the day, we had our first start-to-finish run through. It's going to be a great show!

Because the sun was so strong, we just baked and baked. I kept reapplying sunscreen, but I'm not sure that it did any good. I just continued to get redder and redder. I have raccoon eyes tonight from my sunglasses, but at least I should be going home with a little bit of a healthy glow. I think we both suffered a little from heat stroke today. Luckily, we found a store close by, so we bought ice cream to cool our insides and cheap, cold water and poured it over us to try to cool off.

We have enjoyed talking to some of the other dancers. Our group dances with the Ulikooli Tudrukud ja Poisid (The University Girls and Boys). They are great. They danced together 35-40 years ago while they all attended Tartu Univerisity. They decided to reunite for this year's dance festival, so they got the troupe back together. They have all gone on to do great things in their lives and work hard at their careers. One is a math professor and my partner, Juri, was the head of the air force's medicine program. They are very cute in their matching T-shirts, hate, and red skirts for the women.

I keep getting choked up when I walk out onto the field and feel the spirit of the music and dancing. I still can't believe we're here doing this. Tony even said tonight that despite how hard it has been, he still wants to come back in 2014 to do it again. Oh, and I've started thinking in Estonian again--it is wonderful to be immersed in the language.

Tonight after practice, I decided there was time for a quick shower and a taxi to the airport. My parents arrived back in Tallinn tonight after being in Russia for the last 3 days. They had a good time there. We ran back to the hotel and checked them in again and went upstairs to see their magnificent view of Old Town. Then, we rushed off to the port to see the Tule Tulek (Coming of the Torch). Since the tradition of Laulupidu and Tantspidu started in Tartu, they kindle a fire at Tartu's Tantsupidu and send it around the country and into Tallinn. Tonight it arrived after being in Parnu, Saaremaa, Haapsalu, and many other places. We got there right when the ship pulled into the harbor. They lit up big shield-like fires in the water and had a huge dance party (many of the dancers held little torches) and song party to welcome the torch. I ran into Eike Urke there (from the Tallinn branch) and recognized Maarika Teose dancing during the social dance time, and my mom recognized Jim Tusty, the director of the Singing Revolution. It was nice to meet him finally after realizing how much good that movie has done for my family. Many people were in their rahvariided and my parents seemed totally enamored. I kept trying to explain to them, the best is yet to come.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Tulehoidjate Jutt

Wow! What a day. I am SO tired, and this is the short day of practice. We only had it from 11:45AM-8PM. Tomorrow is still longer. The sun was relentless, but it could have been worse: rain, so I'm counting my blessings. It takes a lot of concentration to make sense of Estonian for so many hours in a row, but it is rewarding as you learn more words and feel your comprehension improve.

We didn't get a whole lot done this morning, but we did get a chance to wander a bit more around Old Town before practice. Then, we met Liina and company at the Rannavarav field for our bracelets and meal tickets. I remember playing soccer at that same field sometimes during the mish. (Matti said that during the Noukogude aeg, he went to the same field for gas mask training when he was in the army.) It is sort of unreal to be dancing at the foot of such old bastions of history, it is just at the foot of Paks Margareta and ancient towers line one of the walls.

Erika Polendrik was there giving directions over a micropone. She was very complimentary to the 4 teams from America (LA, Seattle, Portland, and Vancouver). She gave each of us flags for doing such a good job during auditions.

We started with Kalamees, and it was good to have a dance we could have some early wins with. It really is a fun dance, and it is even more fun with you look around and see 900 other people crisscrossing the field in formations. Kalamehe Jutt was harder in that a lot of it is different than we learned. Well, the steps are almost all the same, but everything else is different. And even the steps have been changed in some places. I had a moment of panic tonight when I twisted my ankle because I had forgotten that we had changed that part, and I stepped using the old steps. Luckily, I think it is okay. I might just have to step gingerly on it for a day. But the good thing about today is that the dances are placed now, which means my part in them will stay consistent throughout the show, which is a very good thing!

The ending of our part is going to be pretty cool. We get into the shape of a huge fish bone. Liina said that it was actually Erik's idea. She said that when Erika Polendrik was at their house last November, they were sitting around the dinner table and Erika said that she didn't know how to end the dance, and jokingly Erik suggested making the outline of a fishbone, and here we are now.

We ended the night with another party. The Salajakesed invited us and the Danes to a party. It was really nice and the food was wonderful: hapukapsas, friitkartulid, ja liha, with the best bread and honey. And, a party of dancers wouldn't be complete without some dancing. It was cool to see a really good Estonian group perform, not that we aren't wonderful, but they were very, very good.

Well, there is only a little pink left in the sky, which means it is 1 AM and time for sleep or else tomorrow will be a disaster. Head ood!

Postcard Pics

Stockmann's still holds lots of fun treats, even though I couldn't find any juustusai or Pirnugruuv (I heard they don't mak that anymore!!). It is so much fun walking through the ailes and finding all of our old favorite treats: Fazer Domino cookies, Hiirte juust, Poltsamaa ounavirsiku mahl, Axa muesli, Alma koupiimakreem, Orbit ouna gum, etc.

Then we headed out to Old Town for a shopping and exploration excursion and had a lot of success. We started at the Viru Turg and checked out the sweaters and other things, then it was off to the Apollo Bookstore. Tony was happy with his good finds--Lennart Meri's Hobevalge and Andrus Kivirahk's Mees kes Teadis Ussisona and I was very happy with mine--Harry Potter ja Tarkade Kivi (Harry Potter and the Philosoper's Stone).

Then we headed to sweater row to the obligatory suveniir pood hunting for dishes and t-shirts. While there, we wound around onto Kateriina Kaik to watch the artisans preparing their wares. I had so much fun taking pictures--I will have to put a whole album together just of the doors of Old Town because I stopped about every ten feet to take pictures.

Eventually, we made it to the Oleviste Kirik and decided to go to the top. The stairway was pretty narrow, and when people were trying to pass going the other direction, you had to press yourself against the wall to let them by. Good thing there were ropes. Once we got to the top, I was feeling brave until a gust of wind came and I thought I felt the tower move. My courage failed me further when I realized the viewing platform was made of wooden pallets and a loosely-welded hand rail. It was so narrow, everyone had to go in one direction, and in some places, you really had to squeeze tightly. But, the view was incredible. I kept recognizing postcard shots through my own viewfinder. Earlier at the Apollo, I had noticed a postcard in which Toompea was exactly between the Nevsky Cathedral and Toompea Kirik, and I had wondered if they photoshopped it. But, I found the same shot with my camera. It really was a spectacular view and great to see out over the whole city.

Then, we headed up Pikk Tanav and took in the interesting buidings there, like the Three Sisters and the Dragon Gallery and the Mustapea Maja. And then we finally found a great, authentic Estonian souvineer shop: Eesti Kasitoo. I am finally officially married now that I have an apron to wear with my rahvariided. And, we found some pins, although I think I will return to exchange mine for a better one. The owner had me describe my costume and she went for a book and flipped through like a master at work, searching for just the right formula. I really had no appreciation for how seriously Estonians take their rahvariided.

We caught the bus to Kakumae for a party at Aili and Toomas Klesment's. It was so much fun! They started out with champagne and caviar and they prepared a wonderful barbeque for us. The pork was delicious. Aili said that all of the mushrooms for her salad were picked in or near her yard and she made the ketchup from scratch. it was a lot of fun getting to know the Teose kids and cousins better. Then we did some social dances and walked out to the beach. Oh....it felt so good! My feet were so tired by that time, and the water was so shallow, we could walked out far, and we still didn't get wet above our knees. Then back to the Klesment's for singing--it felt like appetizers for next week's music. I can't wait.

We ended our day with a little bit of relaxation and ETV. Guess who we saw? Chris Chan, singing his heart out in Saaremaa on a program about the Laulupidu Flame making its way toward Tallinn. It is great to feel so connected to this magnificent place.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Sunrise Over Tallinn

I remember the first time I came to Tallinn, it had an immediate magical feeling. When we pulled in on the bus in January, 1999, in the middle of a cold winter night, I swear I saw a horse-drawn carriage strolling past the beautiful houses here. The winter fog left a mist in the air and the entire city had a glow from the winter light.

It is no less magical today. I'm watching the most beautiful sunrise over Tallinn right now as I write this with an exquisite view of Old Town, Pirita and Viimse, the new modern skyscrapers, and the Laululava (our hotel upgraded us to "Reval Class" when we got here, so we are on the 23rd floor of Hotel Olumpia). The birds and singing their morning song (It's around 4 AM now). The seagulls are flying above and below me. The city is starting to wake up.

We've had a wonderful time so far. Flying in, we got a magnificent view of Old Town from above. Chris and Maila met us at the airport. They have been so kind to us--loaning us a cell phone, driving us to our hotel, and helping us track down all of the many people we hope to see. They are so generous and kind! We found my parents and introduced them (I'm so glad they got to meet them last night because Chris was leaving for Saaremaa the next morning and wasn't going to be able to go to church.)

Reuniting with my parents was a lot of fun. They had Geisha bars and flowers ready to welcome us, and we had Danish pastries hand-carried from Copenhagen for them (My dad reluctantly admits that Julie Tate was right about the pastries in Denmark: they are the best in the world, even better than in his beloved France.) We set out for Old Town, and the Saturday night parties were just getting started there. It felt so normal walking up the flower-lined Viru Tanav to enter Old Town. It was like our absence had been but a short time. We enjoyed a medieval feast at Olde Hanse of mushroom soup, sauerkraut with beef, pork, and currant sauce, salmon with wild mushroom sauce, lentils, and hazelnuts, salad, etc. Then we walked around the cobble-stoned streets ending at Vabaduse Valjak and the new Estonian Freedom Memorial commorating their Independence in 1918. (This crystal monument was just unveiled last week.)

I've never been so excited to go to church on Sunday. We enjoyed our fabulous breakfest buffet then took the number one trolley to Lille peatus and walked up Sole Tanav to Adala and to the building that was built and dedicated ten years ago. It was really emotional just walking in and feeling the flood of memories that were there. I got to hug my estonian grandma--Irena was waiting for us with Juuli Nikolskih. It was so fun watching people arrive: Kennet Jogi (their branch president right now), and his wife Kadri and daughter, Erki and Jaanika Koiv and their kids, Tarmo and Reili Lepp, Eve Olgo and her husband and kids, Mari and Alexander Timokov and their daughters, Guido Paulus and his wife, Eike Urke and her husband, Anneli Vissinariova, Hele Jaar, Anneli Moll, Maila chan and her cute kids, Taima Toombet, and Toivo Heinlo and his wife...so many wonderful memories about each of them. Kennet conducted, and he invited Tony and I to bear our testimonies. Hele Jaar gave the first talk about temples--their getting ready for a temple trip to Helsinki later in the month of July. Then I spoke about how nice it was to be back with them, and how grateful I was for their faith and their strenth, and that even though I am far away, I still think about them often and pray for them often. Tony spoke about how much things have progressed since he was there -- the church building and the Estonian Book of Mormon. Then Eve Olgo spoke about how we are all brothers and sisters in the gospel and how she was one of he first members in Estonia, that she had been baptized in Finland in 1990. Erki Koiv gave the final talk about the church can require a lot of its members, but they are blessed when they make sacrifices to fulfill callings and serve other people. I'm sure he knows that more than most people.

Br. Heinlo taught Sunday School about charity, and then Maila gave the lesson in Relief Society. We talked about temples in Relief Society, too. At the end, there was time for testimonies, and I sat in tears the whole time listening to Maila talking about what the promise of having an eternal family means to her, Jaanika Koiv talking about the feeling she feels when she sees everyone in the branch in the Celestial Room (the same people that she endures life's trials with and celebrates life's joys with), Reili Lepp talking about how her daughter can remember being sealed to them, and that even if she chooses not to attend church right now, Reili hasn't given up yet because the Lord has promised her an eternal family and she has faith that that promise will be fulfilled, and Kristi Kirisberg talking about some of the miracles that surrounded her wedding and sealing when it seemed like everything wasn't going to turn out.

We got so much good news there. The head of the translation department from Salt Lake (Br. Bateson) was there. They had had the eclesiastical review of the Doctrine and Covenants and the Pearl of Great Price this week. They are all translated now, and they just need to go through a few final steps before they are ready to be published! Wow! And on this new temple trip, Guido and his wife are getting sealed and Eike and her husband are going through the temple and are going to be sealed.

The whole experience made me feel like I was home. I love those people so, so much. I was so grateful to see them again and to be so warmly welcomed by them.

After church, we went out to the Open Air Museum. We enjoyed a traditional Estonian lunch of viineripraad (weiners), kartulid (boiled potatoes), hapukorgid (pickles), salat (salad with dill and cabbage), pankoogid, (crepe-like pancakes with strawberry jam), herne supp (pea soup), kama mousse, and kali. Then we walked around the took in all of the houses with their reed-thatched roofs, beautiful doors, and view of the bay. Oh, and the best part...We Found a KIIK!!! (An Estonian swing that you stand on with a group of people!) I promised Tony that we would find one this trip and try it out. It was so much fun!

Leslie

Monday, January 12, 2009

Like a Boulder Lifted

Well, it’s all over. At least, all the requirements have been fulfilled. I finished off the last one yesterday evening—critical introduction and reading. I am a master of the fine art of writing. At least, that’s what I’m supposed to feel, isn’t it? We’ll see….

Things went well. I talked about literature in a global context, and then a read a couple of sections from my thesis. I got a lot of positive feedback. But I was terrified to go in front of everyone. The lead up to the presentation was pretty awful—especially since I arrived at the residency. I have only been here four days; it feels more like four weeks.

This morning, I went to the cove on the south end of Seaside and watched the surfers in their wetsuits. I was there for almost two hours, taking pictures (which I will post here soon) of misty hillsides and huddled seagulls. Then, the sun burned a small window through the fog. A sliver of sky turned the ocean neon blue.

There was a depression in my chest, as though a boulder had been lifted.

Tony

Sunday, December 28, 2008

2008 Year in Review

Since this blog is still new, I'd thought I'd post a few pics of what we would have put on the blog had it existed.

In January, we went shooting with the Allens in Caliente. Bullseye!

We also got a kitty and a new car. Please don't ask us to say which one we like better!

OK - Ollie the cat wins, but the car is a very close second ;)

Also in January, during Tony's residency, we discovered two new favorite places: the view from Ecola Park and ...

...the Peter Irendale shipwreck at Fort Stevens.

(Yes, we do love that kitty!)

In February, I got to go down to Vegas for Laura's 16th birthday and to see her in the Green Valley High School production of Beauty and the Beast! Fantastic!

Also in February, Tony was invited to give his first reading. He was the "opening act" for the poet Dorianne Laux at Pacific University. He did a great job!

Over Spring Break in March, Randal and Venice came out for a visit. We met them in Coos Bay and drove out to the New Carissa shipwreck. (They have been dismantling it finally this fall. I don't think it exists there anymore.) We couldn't get too close because of the snowy plovers.

Randal challenged us to a pepper-eating contest ...



Hot!

In April, we drove as far as we could up Mt. Hood. Look at all that snow! We couldn't see the wagon wheel ruts. We also took a drive through Hood River valley. What a beautiful place.

Also in April, Bryan was awarded Business Student of the Year at SUU in Cedar. Tony went down for the occasion. They spent time looking at family history sites in Santa Clara.
And they also hiked out to the temple quarry site near St. George.

In May, I went down to Vegas to celebrate Mother's Day with my mom (and talk to Sis. Suzanne Walton who is coming home in just two months now!!).

In June, Tony and I ventured out to Cape Lookout. We just happened to pick one of the windiest days, but it was so much fun.

Yep, windy and rainy!

Also in June, I was hired at Via Training as an associate instructional designer. I LOVE my new job, and I LOVE Via!

In July, we went up to Seattle to watch the fireworks over Eliot Bay.

Then we went out to Mt. Rainier. But it was so cloudy that day, we couldn't see the mountain.

Still, we got to get a stamp in our National Park Passport book, so the trip was worth it. ;)

In August, Tony's cousin Kimmie got married in Logan. We headed out to Clarkston to see the grave of Martin Harris.

Nice to be in that Utah heat! We start to miss it a bit in the Northwest.
In August, my family came out. We did the hike again at Cape Lookout. Look, no wind this time. (We still had rain, but the pleasant "we're in a temperate rainforest" kind of rain.)

We also enjoyed the view from the Astoria column...

...and a day at the Japanese Gardens.

In September, Tony and I headed to another national park: Olympic. That place is so big. We drove hundreds of miles and we could only get to half of it. It just means we have to go back!

Olympic is home of the Hoh Rain Forest.

And on that trip, we wandered into Twilight country.

The attendant at the Forks Chamber of Commerce set us up with a map of all of the Twilight locations and even told us stories from her tribe that fit right into the books. It reminded us a lot of our trip to Preston, ID right during the height of Napolean Dynamite's popularity.

Here is Tony admiring the view from La Push. That is one of the most beautiful spots on the entire Washington Coast. (And trust us, we did our best to see as much of the WA coast as possible on that trip.)

This fall, we met the wonderful Portland Estonians and joined the Tulehoidjad folk dance team. We LOVE going to practice with them! And we're hoping that everything will work out to go to Tallinn next summer with them for the 2009 U"ldlaulupidu.

In September, we picnicked at the Chapman school to watch the annual flight of the swifts. Can we say Hitchcock-like? (But fascinating!)

In October, my mom came up to Seattle to sing with Gladys Knight and the SUV Choir. We had breakfast at this soul cafe in Seattle ... Mmm!

And then we dropped her off for her sound check. That concert was FABULOUS! We didn't want to leave! They're bringing such an important message.

Tony and I headed down to Tacoma to check out the Museum of Glass. What a fun place.
Here is some of Chihuly's work that is on display there.

In November, Tony finished his THESIS! Here he is dropping it off at the bindery. Yay! He's all done with school after his January residency. (Can't believe it!)

Also in November, we got to meet Kadri-Riin, who came from Estonia to a wedding in Portland. We had a great time getting to know her!
This December, we experienced the most snow Portland has seen in a looong time. Wehoo! Our Christmas trip to Nevada has been a blast, too! (We even had a white Christmas) but we'll get those pictures in soon.

All in all, it's been an eventful year. Can't wait for 2009 ... We know of lots of good things already on their way!
--Leslie

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Bury them with my ashes...

Yesterday we went to see Grandma Paul. She gave us books out of her library for Christmas--recycled gifts, she called it--giving me a word finder that my Grandpa Paul had used when he wrote talks and a book on forms from her own poetry-writing days.

As we were talking, she told us a little anecdote. When my Grandparents were packing up their library for their move down to St. George, my Grandma said, "We sure have a lot of books, don't we?"

"Well, there are two things we can do with them," my grandpa answered. "We can give them to Venice's family or you can set them on fire and bury them with my ashes."

NOW I know where I got it from.

Tony

Friday, December 26, 2008

Sad News Just Before Christmas...

Well, on Monday, December 22nd, we got the sad news that Grandpa Buzz had died that morning. After his signs of recovery last week, it was sad to hear. He wants to be buried out at Point Loma in San Diego. So, he will be cremated. We will likely have a memorial service for him in March, after Suzanne returns from her mission in Ohio.

--Leslie

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Sajab Lund ... Juba Terve Tund







(Snow is Falling ... for already an hour)

But really, already for a week. This little Estonian children's song has been in my head all week because the snow has been falling on and off since last Sunday. The city of Portland has almost entirely shut down. The schools were closed all weeks, Christmas parties were cancelled. Jurors were told not to show to court. Urgent Cares were closed. And, they even canceled church. Today it has snowed nonstop since the early morning hours. Tonight, Tony and I went for a walk. You can see in this picture how much snow has piled up on our car. Thanks Venice and Randal for those scarves and hats. We've been using them!! Oh, and by the way ... I LOVE snow. I wish it would snow like this more often.

Happy Snow Day!!


--Leslie

Monday, December 15, 2008

Grandpa is Doing Better ...

Here is an update from my dad I received this morning:

Wednesday, Mom called me at work and said that Sandy had called and said if she wanted to say good-bye to her dad that she better get down there on Thursday. So we drove down Thursday morning. When we got to the hospital, he did not look good at all. He was all hooked up with tubes and a ventilator, which was a long large tube that went down his throat all the way to his lungs. He was very weak, but he did seem to recognize Mom, and Sandy said he could understand what people were telling him. After talking to Sandy and asking some questions, we found out he had a very weakened heart, had fluid in his heart and lungs, and may not be able to breathe without the ventilator. Sandy was wondering whether to allow the doctor to remove the respirator because he had filled out papers directing that he not be kept alive by life support. Kathy came down also and Bill came over to the hospital as well. We all thought he was about to die. The hospice lady told us that if they removed the ventilator and he lasted for at least four hours then he could be moved up to the hospice. As Mom20talked to him, I witnessed one of the most tender and touching scenes of my entire life as Mom thanked him in detail for the many things he had done for her when she was growing up and over the course of her life. I still get choked up thinking about it.

At 6 pm, they made us leave so Mom and I and Kathy and Bill all went to Grandma's for dinner. Kathy then flew back to Las Vegas. We were all quite discouraged. After dinner, about 9:45 pm Mom and I went back to see him again, but to our surprise he was much more awake and alert (the difference was like night and day) and he looked all around and tried in the worst way to talk, but that was impossible because of the tubes. We tried to get him to write a message, but his hands were so swollen that he could not hold a pen. We explained to him what had happened and why he was in the hospital and why he had to have the ventilator in his throat. He could answer questions by nodding yes or no. The nurse was very nice and she explained how he had been pretty sedated earlier in the day. She also explained how without the ventilator he may not be able to breathe. We left quite encouraged but confused about how he could breathe.

Friday we went by the hospital before leaving for home. He had just been given more sedation so that they could do a procedure on him. When we finally got to see him, he was asleep and very much unaware of what was going on around him. I was able to give him a priesthood blessing, we said good-bye and then we left for Las Vegas. We did not really hear much mor e until later on Friday when Mom talked to Sandy and she said the doctor was surprised but he was improving remarkably. On Saturday, they took out the ventilator and he was breathing on his own. Today we heard that he is still too weak to talk, but that he is still being cared for by the doctors and nurses and has not yet been transferred to the hospice. For now, we are cautiously optimistic that he will continue to improve and we are hoping that he can talk soon.
--Leslie

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Some of My Favorite Memories of Grandpa

Last Saturday, my grandpa had a stroke. He has been in and out of the hospital a couple of times this year with heart trouble, which has been strange because he's hardly been sick a day in his 91 years on the earth. In fact, he is so fit that he has gone to the gym almost everyday of his life, even this last year.

Right now, he is in the intensive care unit at a hospital in San Diego. The doctors are saying that he won't be coming home. Today, my mom and dad drove back to see him (they were there just two weeks ago for Thanksgiving) to say their goodbyes. Just the thought of that trip made me so sad thinking about it last night. I don't relish the day that I go to say goodbye to my parents. [The thought of having a memorial service without Suzanne also makes me very sad tonight.]

My grandpa is a World War II vet. (On Sunday, they said on the news that 1000 WWII vets die everyday. I thought of him right away. This was before I even knew about his stroke. It was a strange way to foreshadow the events of this week.) He was on the USS Nautilus during the Battle of Midway. He was a radioman, listening to the sonar when the battle began. In 2007, the Navy brought him to Washington, DC, to honor his service. He said that he was just doing his job.

Later in life, he honed his art skills. He took as many classes in art that he could find in San Diego. For many years, he and his wife, Sandy, would spend about half of every year travelling in Europe and Asia and Africa. He would bring his camera and take the most amazing pictures of people and the sights.

He would come home and create artwork of the things he had photographed. Every spot of practically every wall of his house was filled with his creations, all of them unique...quite the collection after years and years of painting. [We also always loved about his house the feature that the radio was tied into the light switch in the bathroom. Turn on the light and you get your music ... gotta have your tunes. :) ]

He was a great example of learning. He always loved to learn. He spent years of his life taking classes at the community college. He even took Calculus because he had always wanted to know how to do it (even though it took him a couple of tries). And, he loved crossword puzzles. I have many recollections of him working on the New York Times puzzle with his felt-tip pen and trusty crossword dictionary book.

If you were really lucky, every once in a while you would receive a type-written letter detailing some aspect of his family history or a trip he'd been on or a note of congratulations. I believe every Republican in the White House received some of those letters, too. The first George Bush even wrote him back. My grandpa framed the response and hung it on his wall next to all of his art.

There were always a couple of constants with Grandpa:
  1. He loved to tell the stories of his life. He had had some interesting voyages with all of his travels. (I especially liked the one about bumping into Ernest Hemingway.) He loved to entertain a group of people with his adventures.

  2. He always had a black cat named Inky. I don't know how many hundreds of cats he's had in the role of Inky, but the number has got to be up there.

  3. That blue shirt ... no matter the year, he always looked the same ... jet-black hair and that blue shirt. Hah!
The world is going to be a darker place without you in it. We'll miss you, Grandpa. Here is a video with all of us singing happy birthday for his 90th. He gives his own wish for all of us. I'm the voice behind the camera.


video

--Leslie

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Resurrecting the Blog

A couple of years ago, Tony and I tried to get both of our families to keep a family blog. It was fun, and we enjoyed posting our adventures there. Unfortunately, time passed and those blogs have faded into the background.

Over Thanksgiving a couple of weeks ago, we had the real pleasure of meeting Kadri-Riin from Estonia. She was here to celebrate the wedding of one of her missionaries, Courtney Silvester. Kadri-Riin shared her blog with us, and it has caused a great deal of excitement with us again about blogging. So, we decided to try the blog again--but this time, we decided to create one just for us. If we're diligent here and it is enjoyable, we may bring our highlights out into the Allen and Walton family blogs to try to resurrect those, too. We salute you, Kadri-Riin. Thanks for the wonderful idea.

--Leslie