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Plan ahead for free entry at federal, state lands

PUBLIC LANDS — Federal land managers offer free entry to parks, forests, U.S. Bureau of Land management lands, refuges and other national interest lands where fees are charged on certain holidays scattered through the year.  

  • Washington State Parks also sets dates for fee-free entry. 

The first freebie date of the year links to the National Park Service birthday.

Following is a list of other free-entry dates and participating federal agencies, which vary by holiday: 

  • Presidents Day weekend, Feb. 15-17 — National Park Service, National wildlife refuges, national forests. 
  • National Park Week opening weekend, April 19-20 — National Park Service.
  • National Get Outdoors Day, June 14 — national forests.
  • National Park Service Birthday, Aug. 25 — National Park Service.
  • National Public Lands Day, Sept. 27 — National Park Service, National wildlife refuges, national forests. 
  • National Wildlife Refuge Week, first day, Oct 12 — National wildlife refuges. 
  • Veterans Day, Nov. 11 — National Park Service, National wildlife refuges, national forests.

Washington State Parks also offer 11 days in which the Discover Pass is not needed for entry in 2014:

  • Jan. 19 and 20 – Martin Luther King holiday.
  • March 19 – Washington State Parks birthday.
  • April 19 – Spring Saturday Free Day.
  • April 22 – Earth Day.
  • May 11 – Spring Sunday Free Day.
  • June 7 and 8 – National Trails Day and WDFW Free Fishing Weekend.
  • June 14 – National Get Outdoors Day.
  • Aug. 25 – In honor of National Park Service’s birthday.
  • Sept. 27 –National Public Lands Day.
  • Nov. 11 – Veterans Day holiday.

Read on for details about year-round free or discounted passes for military, disabled and seniors.

It’s a civic holiday in much of Canada

But you live in the U.S., so get ready for work.

Plan ahead for free entry at federal, state lands

PUBLIC LANDS — Federal land managers offer free entry to parks, forests, U.S. Bureau of Land management lands, refuges and other national interest lands where fees are charged on certain holidays scattered through the year.  

  • Washington State Parks also sets dates for fee-free entry. 

The first freebie date of the year is National Get Outdoors Day.

Following is a list of other free-entry dates and participating federal agencies, which vary by holiday: 

  • Presidents Day weekend, Feb. 15-17 — National Park Service, National wildlife refuges, national forests. 
  • National Park Week opening weekend, April 19-20 — National Park Service.
  • National Get Outdoors Day, June 14 — national forests.
  • National Park Service Birthday, Aug. 25 — National Park Service.
  • National Public Lands Day, Sept. 27 — National Park Service, National wildlife refuges, national forests. 
  • National Wildlife Refuge Week, first day, Oct 12 — National wildlife refuges. 
  • Veterans Day, Nov. 11 — National Park Service, National wildlife refuges, national forests.

Washington State Parks also offer 11 days in which the Discover Pass is not needed for entry in 2014:

  • Jan. 19 and 20 – Martin Luther King holiday.
  • March 19 – Washington State Parks birthday.
  • April 19 – Spring Saturday Free Day.
  • April 22 – Earth Day.
  • May 11 – Spring Sunday Free Day.
  • June 7 and 8 – National Trails Day and WDFW Free Fishing Weekend.
  • June 14 – National Get Outdoors Day.
  • Aug. 25 – In honor of National Park Service’s birthday.
  • Sept. 27 –National Public Lands Day.
  • Nov. 11 – Veterans Day holiday.

Read on for details about year-round free or discounted passes for military, disabled and seniors.

Memorial Day, Veterans Day different

Sure, OK. You know that.

But you have to admit that it seems many people do not.

Plan ahead for free entry at federal, state lands

PUBLIC LANDS — Federal land managers offer free entry to parks, forests, U.S. Bureau of Land management lands, refuges and other national interest lands where fees are charged on certain holidays scattered through the year.  

  • Washington State Parks also sets dates for fee-free entry. 

The first freebie date of the year links to National Parks Week.

Following is a list of other free-entry dates and participating federal agencies, which vary by holiday: 

  • Presidents Day weekend, Feb. 15-17 — National Park Service, National wildlife refuges, national forests. 
  • National Park Week opening weekend, April 19-20 — National Park Service.
  • National Get Outdoors Day, June 14 — national forests.
  • National Park Service Birthday, Aug. 25 — National Park Service.
  • National Public Lands Day, Sept. 27 — National Park Service, National wildlife refuges, national forests. 
  • National Wildlife Refuge Week, first day, Oct 12 — National wildlife refuges. 
  • Veterans Day, Nov. 11 — National Park Service, National wildlife refuges, national forests.

Washington State Parks also offer 11 days in which the Discover Pass is not needed for entry in 2014:

  • Jan. 19 and 20 – Martin Luther King holiday.
  • March 19 – Washington State Parks birthday.
  • April 19 – Spring Saturday Free Day.
  • April 22 – Earth Day.
  • May 11 – Spring Sunday Free Day.
  • June 7 and 8 – National Trails Day and WDFW Free Fishing Weekend.
  • June 14 – National Get Outdoors Day.
  • Aug. 25 – In honor of National Park Service’s birthday.
  • Sept. 27 –National Public Lands Day.
  • Nov. 11 – Veterans Day holiday.

Read on for details about year-round free or discounted passes for military, disabled and seniors.

Plan ahead for free entry at federal, state lands

PUBLIC LANDS — Federal land managers offer free entry to parks, forests, U.S. Bureau of Land management lands, refuges and other national interest lands where fees are charged on certain holidays scattered through the year.  

  • Washington State Parks also sets dates for fee-free entry. 

The next freebie date of the year is Presidents Day Weekend, with fee-free days at all federal lands that charge an entrance fee.

Following is a list of all the 2014 free-entry dates and participating federal agencies, which vary by holiday: 

  • Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Jan. 20 — National Park Service, National wildlife refuges, national forests. 
  • Presidents Day weekend, Feb. 15-17 — National Park Service, National wildlife refuges, national forests. 
  • National Park Week opening weekend, April 19-20 — National Park Service.
  • National Get Outdoors Day, June 14 — national forests.
  • National Park Service Birthday, Aug. 25 — National Park Service.
  • National Public Lands Day, Sept. 27 — National Park Service, National wildlife refuges, national forests. 
  • National Wildlife Refuge Week, first day, Oct 12 — National wildlife refuges. 
  • Veterans Day, Nov. 11 — National Park Service, National wildlife refuges, national forests.

Washington State Parks also offer 11 days in which the Discover Pass is not needed for entry in 2014:

  • Jan. 19 and 20 – Martin Luther King holiday.
  • March 19 – Washington State Parks birthday.
  • April 19 – Spring Saturday Free Day.
  • April 22 – Earth Day.
  • May 11 – Spring Sunday Free Day.
  • June 7 and 8 – National Trails Day and WDFW Free Fishing Weekend.
  • June 14 – National Get Outdoors Day.
  • Aug. 25 – In honor of National Park Service’s birthday.
  • Sept. 27 –National Public Lands Day.
  • Nov. 11 – Veterans Day holiday.

Read on for details about year-round free or discounted passes for military, disabled and seniors.

Plan ahead for free entry at federal, state lands

PUBLIC LANDS — Federal land managers offer free entry to parks, forests, U.S. Bureau of Land management lands, refuges and other national interest lands where fees are charged on certain holidays scattered through the year.  

  • Washington State Parks also sets dates for fee-free entry. 

The first freebie date of the year is Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Jan. 20, a fee-free day at all federal lands that charge an entrance fee.

Following is a list of other free-entry dates and participating federal agencies, which vary by holiday: 

  • Presidents Day weekend, Feb. 15-17 — National Park Service, National wildlife refuges, national forests. 
  • National Park Week opening weekend, April 19-20 — National Park Service.
  • National Get Outdoors Day, June 14 — national forests.
  • National Park Service Birthday, Aug. 25 — National Park Service.
  • National Public Lands Day, Sept. 27 — National Park Service, National wildlife refuges, national forests. 
  • National Wildlife Refuge Week, first day, Oct 12 — National wildlife refuges. 
  • Veterans Day, Nov. 11 — National Park Service, National wildlife refuges, national forests.

Washington State Parks also offer 11 days in which the Discover Pass is not needed for entry in 2014:

  • Jan. 19 and 20 – Martin Luther King holiday.
  • March 19 – Washington State Parks birthday.
  • April 19 – Spring Saturday Free Day.
  • April 22 – Earth Day.
  • May 11 – Spring Sunday Free Day.
  • June 7 and 8 – National Trails Day and WDFW Free Fishing Weekend.
  • June 14 – National Get Outdoors Day.
  • Aug. 25 – In honor of National Park Service’s birthday.
  • Sept. 27 –National Public Lands Day.
  • Nov. 11 – Veterans Day holiday.

Read on for details about year-round free or discounted passes for military, disabled and seniors.

Photos capture wildlife’s view of the holiday season

WILDLIFE WATCHING — Here's a glimpse of the holiday season from the view of the region's critters, courtesy of the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.

Two kinds of holiday grocery shoppers

One type sighs about the overflowing parking lots and crowded stores but sort of gets into the spirit of the season when filling the cart and seeing others do the same.

The other type dreads the crowds and plans grocery shopping excursions at this time of year with the grimness of a military planner.

Which are you? Or are you in a third category?

Plan ahead for free entry to federal lands Nov. 9-11

 

PUBLIC LANDS — Federal land managers offer free entry to parks, forests, U.S. Bureau of Land management lands, refuges and other national interest lands where fees are charged on certain holidays scattered through the year.

  • The last big freebie of the year is Nov. 9-11 — Veterans Day Weekend — with free entry to virtually all the federal public lands.

The 13 Fee-Free Days in 2013 include three  holidays that involve ALL federal lands such as national parks, forests, BLM lands and wildlife refuges — Martin Luther King Jr. Day (Jan. 21), National Public Lands Day (Sept. 28), and Veterans Day Weekend (Nov. 9-11).

The fee waiver does not cover expanded amenity or user fees for things such as camping, boat launches, transportation, or special tours.

Additionally, active duty military members and their dependents are eligible for a free annual pass that provides entrance to lands managed by the National Park Service, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, Bureau of Land Management, Bureau of Reclamation, and the U.S. Forest Service.

The America the Beautiful National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands Pass Program also offers a free lifetime pass for people with disabilities, a $10 lifetime senior pass for those age 62 and over, and an $80 annual pass for the general public.

Plan ahead for free entry to refuges Oct. 13

 

PUBLIC LANDS — Federal land managers offer free entry to parks, forests, U.S. Bureau of Land management lands, refuges and other national interest lands where fees are charged on certain holidays scattered through the year.

  • The next freebie is Oct.13 — National Wildlife Refuge Day — which is honored by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service areas such as Turnbull and the Little Pend Oreille national wildlife refuges. 

The 13 Fee-Free Days in 2013 include three  holidays that involve ALL federal lands such as national parks, forests, BLM lands and wildlife refuges — Martin Luther King Jr. Day (Jan. 21), National Public Lands Day (Sept. 28), and Veterans Day Weekend (Nov. 9-11).

A list of other dates and participating agencies is listed below. The fee waiver does not cover expanded amenity or user fees for things such as camping, boat launches, transportation, or special tours.

Nov. 9-11, Veterans Day Weekend — National Park Service, Fish & wildlfie Service, BLM, Bureau of Reclamation, Forest Service.

Additionally, active duty military members and their dependents are eligible for a free annual pass that provides entrance to lands managed by the National Park Service, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, Bureau of Land Management, Bureau of Reclamation, and the U.S. Forest Service.

The America the Beautiful National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands Pass Program also offers a free lifetime pass for people with disabilities, a $10 lifetime senior pass for those age 62 and over, and an $80 annual pass for the general public.

Plan ahead for free entry to federal lands Sept. 28

 

PUBLIC LANDS — Federal land managers offer free entry to parks, forests, U.S. Bureau of Land management lands, refuges and other national interest lands where fees are charged on certain holidays scattered through the year.

  • The next freebie is Sept. 28 — National Public Lands Day — which is honored by the National Park Service, Fish & wildlfie Service, BLM, Bureau of Reclamation and Forest Service.

The 13 Fee-Free Days in 2013 include three other holidays that involve ALL federal lands such as national parks, forests, BLM lands and wildlife refuges — Martin Luther King Jr. Day (Jan. 21), National Public Lands Day (Sept. 28), and Veterans Day Weekend (Nov. 9-11).

A list of other dates and participating agencies is listed below. The fee waiver does not cover expanded amenity or user fees for things such as camping, boat launches, transportation, or special tours.

Oct. 13, National Wildlfie Refuge Day — Fish and Wildlife Service

Nov. 9-11, Veterans Day Weekend — National Park Service, Fish & wildlfie Service, BLM, Bureau of Reclamation, Forest Service.

Additionally, active duty military members and their dependents are eligible for a free annual pass that provides entrance to lands managed by the National Park Service, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, Bureau of Land Management, Bureau of Reclamation, and the U.S. Forest Service.

The America the Beautiful National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands Pass Program also offers a free lifetime pass for people with disabilities, a $10 lifetime senior pass for those age 62 and over, and an $80 annual pass for the general public.

Plan ahead for free entry to national parks Aug. 25

PUBLIC LANDS — Federal land managers offer free entry to parks, forests, U.S. Bureau of Land management lands, refuges and other national interest lands where fees are charged on certain holidays scattered through the year.

  • The next freebie is Aug. 25, the National Park Service Birthday, with free access to all national parks.

The 13 Fee-Free Days in 2013 include three holidays that involve ALL federal lands such as national parks, forests, BLM lands and wildlife refuges — Martin Luther King Jr. Day (Jan. 21), National Public Lands Day (Sept. 28), and Veterans Day Weekend (Nov. 9-11).

A list of other dates and participating agencies is listed below. The fee waiver does not cover expanded amenity or user fees for things such as camping, boat launches, transportation, or special tours.

Sept. 28, National Public Lands Day — National Park Service, Fish & wildlfie Service, BLM, Bureau of Reclamation, Forest Service.

Oct. 13, National Wildlfie Refuge Day — Fish and Wildlife Service

Nov. 9-11, Veterans Day Weekend — National Park Service, Fish & wildlfie Service, BLM, Bureau of Reclamation, Forest Service.

Additionally, active duty military members and their dependents are eligible for a free annual pass that provides entrance to lands managed by the National Park Service, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, Bureau of Land Management, Bureau of Reclamation, and the U.S. Forest Service.

The America the Beautiful National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands Pass Program also offers a free lifetime pass for people with disabilities, a $10 lifetime senior pass for those age 62 and over, and an $80 annual pass for the general public.

Plan ahead for free forest access on June 8

PUBLIC LANDS — Federal land managers offer free entry to parks, forests, U.S. Bureau of Land management lands, refuges and other national interest lands where fees are charged on certain holidays scattered through the year.

  • The next freebie is June 8, Great Outdoors Day, with free access to national forest lands such as the Umatilla and Okanogan-Wenatche forest areas where the Northwest Forest Pass or equivalent is otherwise required. 

The 13 Fee-Free Days in 2013 include three holidays that involve ALL federal lands such as national parks, forests, BLM lands and wildlife refuges — Martin Luther King Jr. Day (Jan. 21), National Public Lands Day (Sept. 28), and Veterans Day Weekend (Nov. 9-11).

A list of other dates and participating agencies is listed below. The fee waiver does not cover expanded amenity or user fees for things such as camping, boat launches, transportation, or special tours.

Aug. 15, National Park Service Birthday — National Park Service

Sept. 28, National Public Lands Day — National Park Service, Fish & wildlfie Service, BLM, Bureau of Reclamation, Forest Service.

Oct. 13, National Wildlfie Refuge Day — Fish and Wildlife Service

Nov. 9-11, Veterans Day Weekend — National Park Service, Fish & wildlfie Service, BLM, Bureau of Reclamation, Forest Service.

Additionally, active duty military members and their dependents are eligible for a free annual pass that provides entrance to lands managed by the National Park Service, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, Bureau of Land Management, Bureau of Reclamation, and the U.S. Forest Service.

The America the Beautiful National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands Pass Program also offers a free lifetime pass for people with disabilities, a $10 lifetime senior pass for those age 62 and over, and an $80 annual pass for the general public.

Plan ahead for free week of entry at national parks

PUBLIC LANDS — Federal land managers offer free entry to parks, forests, U.S. Bureau of Land management lands, refuges and other national interest lands where fees are charged on certain holidays scattered through the year. 

But none of the perks are as sweet as the week of entry-fee-free days coming up at national parks:

  • Celebrate National Park week with no entry fees April 22-26.

The 13 Fee-Free Days in 2013 include three holidays that involve ALL federal lands such as national parks, forests, BLM lands and wildlife refuges — Martin Luther King Jr. Day (Jan. 21), National Public Lands Day (Sept. 28), and Veterans Day Weekend (Nov. 9-11). 

A list of other dates and participating agencies is listed below. The fee waiver does not cover expanded amenity or user fees for things such as camping, boat launches, transportation, or special tours.

June 8, Great Outdoors Day — U.S. Forest Service

Aug. 15, National Park Service Birthday — National Park Service

Sept. 28, National Public Lands Day — National Park Service, Fish & wildlfie Service, BLM, Bureau of Reclamation, Forest Service.

Oct. 13, National Wildlfie Refuge Day — Fish and Wildlife Service

Nov. 9-11, Veterans Day Weekend — National Park Service, Fish & wildlfie Service, BLM, Bureau of Reclamation, Forest Service.

Additionally, active duty military members and their dependents are eligible for a free annual pass that provides entrance to lands managed by the National Park Service, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, Bureau of Land Management, Bureau of Reclamation, and the U.S. Forest Service.

The America the Beautiful National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands Pass Program also offers a free lifetime pass for people with disabilities, a $10 lifetime senior pass for those age 62 and over, and an $80 annual pass for the general public.

Only 13 state senators support federal lands in Idaho

PUBLIC LANDS — Would you trust the state of Idaho to manage the national forests, rangelands and parks in the best interest of a full range of the public, recreation and wildlife?

Quotable:

“Senators, the only reason you want title to a land is to sell it. And I don't think Idaho should be for sale.”

Idaho Sen. Michelle Stennett, one of 13 who voted against House Concurrent Resolution 22, which demands Congress transfer federal lands in Idaho to the state.
- Idaho Mountain Express

Looking ahead

It's March. Easter is on the last day of this month.

Once again, it's on a Sunday this year. 

Never On A Sunday

 

I really hate what the holidays have become - so materialistic.  Everybody's on a shopping frenzy for Christmas presents today (Black Friday) for items that are almost guaranteed to be put in a yard sale next summer, or high up in a closet, or deep in the basement - totally forgotten.  These items never emit the same energy use when they were purchased.

In my lifetime I have seen quiet days with family give way to a frenetic race to nowhere.  I remember when stores - all stores - were closed on Sundays.  My parents both played the Rule of the House card on Sundays - no other people.  No friends.  

I remember when Easter, Christmas, and Thanksgiving were times set aside for quality family time.  There was no Black Friday.   It was family time - even though at major holidays, my Mom would be busy in the kitchen and Dad would hunker down to a football game.   Over the years, I have acquired many presents for family and friend that I store, wrapped, with a journal of what I bought or made and who it was for.  Then at Christmas time, I just enjoyed the caroling, the smells, drives to look at lights.  The Crescent in downtown Spokane had a marvelous turning display of Christmas carolers, Alvin and the Chipmunks, Victorian houses.  That would be part of the route my Dad took to look at lights on Christmas Eve.  It felt magical.

My parents kind of hated the Christmas holidays.  They had little money and we four kids would get one clothes present and one personal present.  This year, I kind of hate Christmas just a little too.  There are two new babies 80 miles away, one son in Arizona and one in Moscow, Idaho.  We'll probably do a lot of baking and send care packages to the sons.  No more little traditions like staying home alone with family.   My sons are building new traditions.

But Black Friday is still abhorrent to me, somehow sacrilegious.  This huge pressure to get lavish presents, and more than one, for each person on your list with no mention of God or Jesus or the Nativity story.  

My humble opinion.

~Jeanie~ 

It pays to rehearse

You: “So I'll be off this coming Monday for Columbus Day.”

Your Boss: “That's not a holiday our company observes.”

You: “Oh, that's right. I meant to say I'll be off Monday for Canadian Thanksgiving.”

Memorial Day Sales: Yes or no?

The coupling of commerce and big days on the calendar has a long tradition.

So we're pretty used to Labor Day Blowout Sales and Doorbuster Bargains on Columbus Day. Or whatever.

But Memorial Day Sales are the ones that give me pause.

Now I don't assume that the people running ads for such events have any less regard for the meaning of the holiday than I do. Nor do I think the essential real-world spirit of that weekend is solemn or contemplative.

Moreover, there is nothing saying a person couldn't get a good deal on lawn furniture AND spend time thinking about those who died during military service.

Still, it seems like there's a slightly jarring disconnect here.

I almost didn't bring this up because I feared it would sound like linking arms with the sort of wear-it-on-their-sleeves performance patriots I can't stand. You know, the kind of folks who regard national loyalty as some sort of simpleminded competition.

I'm just saying I have never gotten used to the whole Memorial Day Sale idea. That's all. 

What’s your perspective on Easter?

A) I view it as a religious occasion, of course.

B) It's a chance to go to church and see if there is anything around here that can get people to dress up. 

C) I think it has something to do with pagan rites of spring.

D) Chocolate bunnies, et cetera.

E) It is a ham-based holiday.

F) It's when nitwits give live baby animals to small children as if these gifts are toys.

G) Isn't that when the Mariners are usually mathematically eliminated?

H) I know it is sponsored by Legoland. 

I) Other.

www.pzrservices.typepad.com

Holiday season is over; hunting season isn’t

How a hunting family might set up a a reindeer Christmas yard display.

Facing the New Year with Optimism


    We sat around the table at a downtown restaurant, a group of women all well into middle age and beyond, savoring a few easy minutes in the final crazed days of the holiday season.

    Looking around, it occurred to me the eight of us would make an excellent focus group. One is divorced, one widowed. Four are married, one is in a committed relationship and one is comfortably single and says she plans to keep it that way.

    There is one attorney, one CEO,  one retiree, one stay-at-home mother (who, in fact, had been in banking before marrying at the age of 40 and quickly producing two newborns in as many years) two self-employed, one unemployed and one clinging to a job she hates.

    One of us is a vegetarian, one is sensitive to a long list of foods. The rest of us agree we eat too much of everything.

    We are all very different women from different backgrounds. Between us, we have 12 children and three grandchildren with one more on the way, we speak three languages and at least two of us play a musical instrument. Our incomes range from “barely making it” to high six-figures. Our levels of education go from “some college” to advanced degrees.

    But, by the end of December we all have one basic thing in common: we’re exhausted. And this year it seems worse than usual. Talking about it, we finally realized we’re suffering from a deep collective uneasiness; a lack of confidence we just can’t shake.

    Usually, as one year ends and another begins, it’s human nature to salve any wounds with the belief that there are better things to come. The political climate will thaw. The economy will bloom. They’ll finally discover a chocolate-based cure for cellulite. But this year, one of us finally said it out loud. As we lifted our glasses to toast the end of one year and the beginning of another, one of the women around the table asked,  “But what if next year is even worse?”  We laughed but then all fell silent.
What, indeed.

    No matter what social strata you call home, the state of the world is fragile these days. So many people are out of work and many have been for quite a while. And some who’ve managed to hang onto jobs are bringing home significantly less than before. Retirement dreams have been put on hold and skyrocketing college tuition is taking a toll on family budgets or, more and more, becoming a luxury many can’t afford. And, then there’s Europe’s leaky financial boat, tethered to our own.

    Finally, after a few seconds of uncomfortable silence, I raised my glass again.
    “Next year will be what it will be,” I said. “And I’m willing to believe it will be a good one.”

    “Always the optimist,” a friend said as she smiled at me, and I shrugged. It’s true.

    There are some who believe that optimism is baked into our DNA. It is a part of who we are from the moment we’re conceived. I don’t know about that but I do know it just isn’t in me to be anything else. It keeps me moving forward and helps me find my way. The way I see it, optimism, another word for hope, is like a candle on a dark path. And we’re only truly lost if we lose that light.

   So, here's to another year, and all it might bring. Here's to a bright and optimistic future.

 

Cheryl-Anne Millsap is a freelance writer based in Spokane, Washington. Her essays can be heard on Spokane Public Radio and on public radio stations across the country. She is the author of “Home Planet: A Life in Four Seasons” and can be reached at catmillsap@gmail.com
  

Our Christmas Story


    Each year, after Thanksgiving dinner, some time after the last of the dishes are washed and before the pie comes back out again, I bring up a big handwoven basket from the storeroom in the basement. The basket is the size of a bed pillow, a split-oak rectangle with a sturdy handle, and it is filled with books.

     There are one or two that my husband and I brought with us when we married: his old copy of Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer. My 100-year-old edition of Charles Dickens’ Christmas Stories with A Christmas Carol, a story I’ve read and reread since I first opened the book as a girl. But mostly, it holds an assortment of holiday books we’ve collected since our first daughter was born more than 25 years ago; familiar titles like The Night Before Christmas, The Gift of the Magi and The Littlest Christmas Tree.

    Some are old toddlers’ board books, with broken spines and peeling pages, showing the wear and tear of little hands. Others are children’s classics filled with familiar illustrations.

    To me, the basket is a time capsule. A record of time spent together as a family and in the company of beloved books and stories. Each year another book is added to the collection. The new book is left propped under the tree late on Christmas Eve and is passed around on Christmas Day before going into the basket and, eventually, after the tree is undressed and all the decorations are put away, back down to the basement to wait until Christmas comes again.

    It pleases me to see my grown children sit down and pull out a book when they drop by during the holidays or on Christmas Day when we’re all together. Especially the older books that were in the house when they were babies.  I steal glances at them as they read. I like to think they hear, in some shadowy corner of memory, the sound of my voice and the feel of my arms around them as we read together; that they hear again the creak of the rocking chair and recall other rooms in other houses and are reminded of the sweetest years.

    So much of what happens during the season is rushed and hurried. So much is new and shiny and meant to be tossed away as soon as the New Year arrives.  But the basket, with it’s cargo of paper and ink and memories is evergreen. Like a precious ornament taken off the tree and put away for another day.
    




Cheryl-Anne Millsap is a freelance writer based in Spokane. Her essays can be heard on Spokane Public Radio and on public radio stations across the country. She is the author of “Home Planet: A Life in Four Seasons” and can be reached at catmillsap@gmail.com

End Notes: Vodka, Bourbon For Dead

Our column today talked about how to acknowledge, during holiday celebrations, a child who has died. Cathy has some good suggestions here. We have a long tradition at our house of honoring the deceased elders by placing their favorite alcoholic drink in front of their photos on the kitchen counter. So it's bourbon for my dad, Papa Joe, scotch for my brother-in-law Adam and and vodka for Hollis, my mother's late-in-life boyfriend who died three years ago. We take sips of the drinks during the family gatherings/Rebecca Nappi, End Notes. More here.

Question: How do you remember departed family members are Christmas holiday gatherings?

Happy Thanksgiving from Sirens!

We here at Sirens & Gavels hope you'll be enjoying a dinner similar to this one with your friends and family on Thursday. (The Internets/Google Images)

Happy Thanksgiving from Sirens & Gavels! I hope everyone has a great holiday with their family and friends.

The blog will be back Monday afternoon.

The Wednesday before Thanksgiving

Not to get all Jean Shepherd on you, but today is one of the best days on the kid calendar.

Sure, there's still school. But in the sense that anticipation often trumps the actual event, the day before the four-day Thanksgiving holiday is tough to beat.

Four days. Just think. That's practically 100 hours. The possibilities are endless.

And then, even when children have to go back to school next week, they are armed with the knowledge that it won't be long before Christmas vacation.

I suspect that more than a few Spokane area teachers will notice that some of their students have a far-away look today.

Can't blame them. It's the Wednesday before Thanksgiving. And now, finally, the storied “holiday season” is upon us.  

Celebrating Another Extraordinary Year of Ordinary Days

(Photo by Cheryl-Anne Millsap)

 

 

 


    I turned the corner, down an unfamiliar street, my mind so oblivious to where I was going I might just as well have been a dog with its head out the window, lost in the delicious rush of mysterious and fragrant air, just happy to be out and about with no thought of what might be ahead.


    Most of the leaves had fallen from the trees, swept down by the wind and an early snowfall, and the sidewalks and street were littered with the russet and copper remnants of a spectacular autumn. But at the end of the block a scarlet tree still blazed, a burning bush, bright and vibrant against the faded landscape. Even the sun could not ignore it and sunlight danced in the tree, painting the leaves with subtle shades and shadows.


    It was impossible to look away and I didn’t try. I gazed at it as I drove by and even looked back at it in the rearview mirror. 


    Thursday my family will sit down to our Thanksgiving meal and for the first time one of our small group will be absent. My son is away, working in Japan, and we will miss him even as we celebrate his success.


    We are so fortunate to have made it this far without an empty seat at the table. Even in difficult times—and I have never pretended there weren’t some truly difficult days—we gathered, held hands, and spoke aloud the things for which we were most grateful.


    Each year I compose a mental list but when it is my turn to speak, the words fly out of my head. I tear up and can say only that I am grateful for the love of those around me. But what I can never seem to get out is that I am filled with gratitude for the gift of a million small moments.


    There were quiet Sundays spent reading, curled in the big chair beside the fire, my husband stretched out on the sofa. There were Saturday morning feasts that lured home grown children who filled the house with the sound of laughter and the smell of bacon and coffee.
   

  There were quiet walks through the park with my dogs and the rapturous look on my daughter’s face as we stood in Notre Dame Cathedral on a rainy January day in Paris. There was the afternoon my son turned to me and recited a poem I’d read to him when he was a boy, and my firstborn’s secret smile when she told us her news.
    

   There were shooting stars glimpsed from my back door and my youngest daughter’s shining face as she sat in the saddle, flying on horseback. There was, just this week, the chance encounter with a beautiful brilliant tree in a landscape that had already surrendered to winter.
   

 On Thanksgiving Day I will blink back tears and fumble the opportunity to say what I feel. But in my heart I will celebrate the quiet gift of time and the chance to have lived one more extraordinary year of ordinary days.
   


Cheryl-Anne Millsap writes for The Spokesman-Review and is a contributing editor at Spokane Metro Magazine. Her essays can be heard on Spokane Public Radio and on public radio stations across the country. She is the author of “Home Planet: A Life in Four Seasons” and can be reached at catmillsap@gmail.com

The big guy is here

Walking back to the paper from an interview earlier today I came across Santa enjoying a beverage (coffee, I’m sure) outside Starbucks. How could I resist taking that picture?
So what are your holidays plans this year? Do you have Perry specific holiday traditions? Do you know the Christmas tree lighting is on the 15th, on the corner at the Perry Street Cafe? Have you put ligths up yet? Send the blog a note and some pictures at piah@spokesman.com

Happy Hanukkah from the Capitol


OLYMPIA — As it has for several years, a Seattle-based Jewish group erected a menorrah at the Capitol. A menrrah was inside in 2005-8, but all private displays were moved outside in 2009 after controvery involving a sign by atheists and requests to put a Festivus pole and other displays.