My Grandpa — The Measure of A Man

I’ve been fortunate that I haven’t experienced the loss of many loved ones in my 40 years. My grandpa who I saw once or twice a year passed away in October of 1993 but really, that’s about it. All of that changed last week. My other grandpa — my mom’s father — fell and broke his neck in two places and passed away 2 days later. I was exceptionally close to my grandpa Jackson. We grew up literally next door to him and my grandma. For nearly 23 years I saw him on a daily basis. And he was my hero in so many ways. I always said that I wanted to marry someone like my grandpa. And you know what? I did.

Handsome Grandpa

I was given the task of writing and delivering his eulogy this past Saturday at his memorial service. It was an honor and a privilege. I managed to deliver it through sniffles, tears and a constricted throat at times. We ended the service with a slideshow that I also put together. You can see it here. But following is the eulogy that begins to capture just how remarkable my handsome Grandpa Rolly really was.

Rolly Jackson — The Measure of A Man

When someone has lived nearly 90 years, it’s almost impossible to summarize that person’s life. Over this past week, as we were remembering old times, family members would offer words to describe how they viewed my grandpa. It didn’t take long for us to see that many of us hold a similar view of Rolly Jackson. The adjectives his family and friends use are consistent and they are powerful. Dedicated, steadfast, humble, responsible, loving, faithful, selfless, welcoming, honorable. These aren’t just the choice descriptors that rise to the surface, these are the very essence of my grandpa.  Looking back, it’s easy to see how and when many of these attributes became a part of him. The a-ha moments multiply and his timeline takes on a sense of destiny — of divine orchestration.

Rolly had a happy childhood and told lots of stories of riding his bike and being carefree with friends in Portland, Oregon. He held a paper route from the time he was about 12 till 16. From this he most likely learned responsibility, consistency and got a feel for what it took to be a self-starter. From 16 to 19 while working at the gas station that also operated as the funeral home in Forks, WA he served people from all walks of life and extended acceptance and grace. He also learned that the mortuary business was not for him. Instead he began to work for a builder which suited him much better.

When his family decided to settle on a piece of land west of Longview, WA when my grandpa was 19, the outline of God’s hand on his life really began to come into focus. The prettiest girl in Abernathy valley, Eva Marks, caught his attention and over the course of about four years he won her heart and married her. You would think that this courtship would’ve taught him patience but I can’t help but think that was a trait that he was born with. In the 40 years that I’ve known him, I can’t think of one thing that he did hastily. He believed that anything worth doing was worth doing well. In fact, my brother, Jeremy, recalls him explaining that “a job is not complete until everything is just right; your finished work is a reflection of you.” This belief not only served my grandpa throughout his life, but continues to guide my brother daily.

My grandma remembers that although Grandpa went to church with her all of the time and was a believer, he didn’t truly dedicate his life to the Lord until 1947 when he was baptized. He then became a youth leader at the Abernathy church. This was the beginning of a dedication to serving God that included (but certainly was not limited to) teaching Sunday School, serving on the board, song-leading, physically constructing the new church building, and picking up neighbors to bring to church. My cousin Corky’s wife Michaela shared with us the day my grandpa died that she credits my grandpa for changing the course of her life. By picking her and her brother and sisters up to bring to church on Wednesday nights, she met and accepted Christ and her life would never be the same.

My grandpa served through church activities and outreach but also in the personal decisions that he and my grandma made throughout their 66+ year marriage. In reading through the memoirs of both my grandparents, I am struck by the simple, quiet promptings that led them to make decisions that would eventually impact hundreds, if not thousands of people. The decision to apply for a foster care license, to adopt the first kids placed in their care, to open a bona-fide girls home — all began with a comment from a state agency worker that my grandpa looked like a guy who would make a great foster parent! Of course those decisions were accompanied by prayer, time in the Word and fasting as well.

And I am struck by the constancy of Abernathy Valley itself throughout my grandpa’s story. Along the banks of Abernathy Creek, my grandpa built their first house and it’s the exact place that their current one sits. The 88 acres of land along the creek that he purchased in 1966 was a move that he wasn’t sure he should make. But that land is what enabled him to be extremely generous over the years. And it allowed him to do what he did best — build. It provided a place for him to not only build the group home but several plots have been home to some of his children, grandchildren and many pastors’ families.

Several years ago, I asked my grandpa how he knew he was supposed to build the group home. His answer was that the Lord told him to. Three times the Lord spoke to him. The first time He said “build”. The next week He said “now”. And the third time “obey”. I’m not surprised that my grandpa and God had these kinds of conversations — simple, quiet, to-the-point. And I’m not surprised that still, today, in builder circles, my grandpa is still talked about. His reputation as a skilled and careful craftsman was matched only by his character.

My grandpa has been described as a true gentleman by many throughout the years and the word honorable comes up quite often. By today’s standards, a man with that kind of integrity alone is rare but those traits combined with his movie star looks is impossible. And that smile. That smile. You’d think that alone would have been enough to reel in my grandma all those years ago, but you’d be wrong. The thing that made my grandma fall in love with him was how well he treated his mother. And the same care and honor he showed to his mother, he extended to his mother-in-law.

Over the years my grandparents cared for many family members — from parents to aunts and uncles to sisters-in-law. They did it because that’s just what you do for family. Each situation and length of care was different but the openness and willingness to serve was unwavering. And it makes perfect sense that the same openness and willingness to care for my grandpa during his final years was never even a question from his own children. You see, the measure of a man of faith is in the legacy he leaves behind. And for many of us, the depth of our grief that he is gone from our lives is matched by the pride we feel for having known him, loved him, been served by him, carried his name or inherited some of his features.

The ripple effect caused by my grandpa’s obedience to build throughout the years is still being felt. In my lifetime that will always be the case because I have been indelibly marked by Rolly Jackson’s influence. But as far as my grandpa is concerned, the good work the Lord began in him has been faithfully completed.


Quirky Is Good

I’ve started a collection of sorts — pretty much by accident. A couple summers ago I picked up this painting at 2nd Saturdayz Market in Seattle on a whim. There was just something light hearted and happy and quirky about this guy that compelled me to bring him home.

I included him in the gallery composition that I’m slowly compiling in my entryway. He’s mixed in with old family photos, Owen’s Mona Lisa and other pieces of artwork. 
See? There he is down in the corner.

Well, this past weekend, I was again at 2nd Saturdayz. Lo and behold, I found this little gem.

So, of course, I HAD to bring her home. She looks like a Margaret, I think. I will add her to the ever growing mix in the entryway (as much as my mom disapproves) because I think they can’t help but make you smile. Whether you’re coming to or leaving my house, I hope everyone does so with a smile.

What about you? What collections do you have that are a bit on the quirky side? What in your home makes you smile?

The Lesson of the Paper Tooth

I’ve recently come across this quote a few times around the internet and it’s become a sort of pep talk for myself. It’s by Ira Glass, host and producer of radio’s syndicated This American Life.

“Nobody tells this to people who are beginners, I wish someone told me. All of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste. But there is this gap. For the first couple years you make stuff, it’s just not that good. It’s trying to be good, it has potential, but it’s not. But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. And your taste is why your work disappoints you. A lot of people never get past this phase, they quit. Most people I know who do interesting, creative work went through years of this. We know our work doesn’t have this special thing that we want it to have. We all go through this. And if you are just starting out or you are still in this phase, you gotta know its normal and the most important thing you can do is do a lot of work. Put yourself on a deadline so that every week you will finish one story. It is only by going through a volume of work that you will close that gap, and your work will be as good as your ambitions. And I took longer to figure out how to do this than anyone I’ve ever met. It’s gonna take awhile. It’s normal to take awhile. You’ve just gotta fight your way through.” 
 Ira Glass

So I’ve BEEN fighting my way through this. Every day I go through the litany of self doubt: Am I any good at this at all? Should I be doing something else? Can I AFFORD to keep doing this?

But for whatever reason, I DON’T create every day. I stall. I waver. I second guess EVERYTHING. And I’m not satisfied. I’m not filled. I’m not . . . myself.

But I know someone who creates every day. He creates paintings, sculptures, drawings, stories, contraptions, comic strips, cards and 3D paper objects (to name a few). He creates because he’s compelled. He creates because it occurs to him. He creates because creativity is at the very heart of his wiring. He’s 8 and he’s my son.

Now some of you cynical types may be tempted to stop reading. “Yeah, yeah, yeah . . . another mommy bragging about their kid.” (Confession — I MAY be one of these cynical types . . . ) BUT I think I’m at that stage of parenting where my kids are teaching me as much as I’m teaching them. And thank God for that! My personal development didn’t end at 18. In fact it’s only recently that I’ve begun to embrace my gifting and wiring. It’s only recently that I’ve begun to believe that MAYBE I’m creative after all. But my creativity didn’t look or feel or have the intended effect that I thought it should.

I’ve taken the past 3 months off — intentionally. Financially it seemed irresponsible. But I think my soul needed the break. I don’t know that I’m any closer to an absolute decision of any kind, but I do know I feel refreshed. I know that I am discovering creativity in things I once considered mundane. I know now that I’m not really being truly creative when I alter my vision for a piece of furniture to fit within what I THINK the potential customer would want.

Last night, my husband handed me a little piece of folded and taped white paper. I asked him what it was. “It’s a tooth,” he said. Of course it was a tooth. Owen, my 8 year old, has a habit of letting his teeth fall out when they’re ready. He hates wiggling them. So yesterday, his seventh tooth fell out. And as a very natural expression and reflection on the day’s events, he created a paper tooth. It was a very Owen thing to do and one that made my heart leap from whatever that thing is in a mom’s heart that is connected to their child’s heart.

I think I will tuck this paper tooth away. I think I will take out this little paper tooth whenever I need to remind myself of who I am. I’ll take it out whenever I need to remember that my creativity has nothing to do with whether I can sell the product or how many people say nice things about it. It will remind me that the act of creating is what’s important.

Mona Lisa and the Entryway Update

Yesterday I was able to make a little progress on the entryway. Still no baseboard or door trim, but we can all overlook that right? Over the weekend, Owen’s Mona Lisa portrait came home from the gallery. It just now occurred to me that I never posted about that! Ok, real quick —

Owen is my 8 year old artist. Over the summer, when he was 7, he participated in a large canvas art camp with his regular teacher James of Bellingham Visual Art Studio. He was the only kid in the class so he was able to accomplish quite a bit. He chose to paint his version of DaVinci’s Mona Lisa. The canvas was almost as big as he was!

About a month later, I read about a call for artists aged 7 – 19 for a month-long exhibition at a gallery in Tacoma. I submitted 3 of Owen’s works for consideration and heard back in September that his Mona Lisa was chosen! I think I was more excited than he was. Turns out they received hundreds of submissions from all over the world and 75 were chosen for the show. What an honor!
At the opening reception, Owen stood next to his painting and educated passers-by on his process and answered questions from people of all ages. To say he was in his element is a huge understatement!

The show was a hit, the run was extended and now digital prints of all the works will travel around to participating hospitals this year. In addition, a book of all the works will be published. Owen will receive a percentage of sales of any prints sold so potentially he could already be earning money to save for college or art school or whatever. If you are interested in purchasing a print, you can contact the Gary Boone at B2 Fine Art Gallery
So Mona came home and we needed to show her off prominently. As I posted a few weeks ago, our entryway was on my to-do list and Mona helped me get started.
I plan to go all out with the gallery vibe here. Kind of excited about it really. Let’s see if I can keep up my momentum over the Christmas break. Thanks for dropping by and if you know of any art lovers, feel free to share about Owen. He’d like to paint his version of American Gothic next!

Feeling Like My Old Self

Like a lot of people, I’m sure, this time of year is my favorite. I love everything about it — the decorating included. When I was in my early 20’s my cousins and I jumped at the chance to decorate my grandparents’ 10 bedroom, 5 bathroom house. All of it. Year after year. We’d cut fresh evergreen boughs making sure every windowsill and doorway was Christmas-tinged. I savored the long, quiet days leading up to our family’s gathering and marathon game nights. In fact one year I proudly completed all of my Christmas shopping by November 11th so that I could enjoy the peace of the season.

But then life changed, babies happened, major life struggles happened, financial stress happened and I just didn’t feel like celebrating. It felt like too much work. In fact in the past 7 or 8 years, there were several seasons where I didn’t put up one single decoration. No tree, even.

This year is different.

I can’t really put my finger on why, exactly. There are still financial struggles, still life changes, still events that knock the wind out of you. Yet it’s strange how a few twinkling lights and glass bulbs can smile at you, put their arms around you.

Inspired by my own Scandinavian heritage and the many cool Swedish/Norwegian blogs I read daily, I’ve gone back to a simple decorating approach this year. We all decorated as a family this year and it’s just the right amount of cheer for us. The “main” Christmas tree was 100% trimmed by the little boys and I’m leaving it as is. So what if all the ornaments are clumped together at the bottom!

How many of you have a giant, ongoing puzzle this time of year?
We harvested several evergreen starts that were growing where they shouldn’t. For now they rest in these galvanized pails and will get transplanted in better spots after Christmas.
My grandma gave me a few Christmas things when she downsized last year. One of my favorites is this wood and pinecone wreath. See the little birds?
Aww, what a face.
It’s like the wreath was made to fit around this pail.
Here’s another woodsy addition. The red candle holder (sans candles) was a recent Swedish addition from my grandma.
My older son started a nutcracker collection. This one’s his favorite. The other guy collects snowmen — can you tell?
Slowing down this year means the kids can help with the gifts we are making.
Any idea what gift this is going to be???

I’m so ahead of the game this year that even my kids’ teachers will get a gift! But seriously folks, I am glad I’m feeling more like my old self and that my happy, sparkly home reminds me each day to enjoy the small moments. Here’s wishing you a peaceful and contented season!