Thursday, June 30, 2011

Cynthia Cluff

When my parents were newly married my father joined the Navy and was sent to Oak Harbor, Washington to serve on Whidbey Island. That is where I was born. My father's sister and her husband were also newly married. My uncle was in the Army and they were also sent to Washington. That is where my cousin was born, just 25 days before me.

Cynthia and I were fast friends. Our mothers dressed us alike and for our entire lives we always had a lot in common. After the service my father took our family home to California. Cynthia went with her parents to Arizona. She and her brother would come at least once a year to visit. As we got older and able to read and write we became pen pals, writing to each other of experiences we shared in our young lives.

Cynthia was 10 when tragedy struck and her mother died. Cynthia's life would be altered forever. Aunt Peggy was a happy person. She loved her husband and children. She enjoyed being a wife, mother and homemaker. She sewed, cooked and always had a smile on her face. Her life was cut short by breast cancer.

Uncle Milford quickly married again to a young widow with two children. It was not a marriage of love, but of necessity and companionship for two young widows with a need--hers for support and care--his for two young motherless children. The family continued to grow--5 more children were added to the union. In this large family Isabel ruled with order and firmness. Each child had a responsibility--Cynthia became quite the seamstress, making clothes for the entire family. Other daughters did the cooking and cleaning--each had a specific assignment. The three boys kept up the mini farm with their father. If it was not a home of love it was certainly a house of order.

Cynthia and I kept in touch. Her visits to California were more seldom, but we still wrote letters. We were both married quite young at the age of 18, me in March, Cynthia in May. Our first babies were born a year later, hers in May, mine in July. Our next three children all came along in quick succession totaling four children each, all under 4 years old. Cynthia and I loved to get together and discuss our crazy lives--being newly wed (5 years) and having 4 children was quite the challenge--it was good to have a friend who understood what I was living.

As the years progressed the lack of maternal attention started to show in Cynthia's life. Her postpartum depression increased after each baby. She had her fifth baby when my sixth was born. This time I don't think she ever recovered. When we would get together and visit I felt like she had the personality she inherited from her mother peeking out and it would clash with the training of her step mother. It was like she had two opposite personalities dwelling in the same person and she did not know how to let them live peacefully together. Our families were young and large. We were young--under 30 years old and married just over 10 years. As I read back over my journal entries of those years I am reminded of how difficult everyday living was.

Soon Cynthia could not handle it any longer and walked away from her husband and family. She walked away from her parents and siblings. She started pursuing an interest in acting and enjoyed community theater. She met and married Joe Sorensen, changed her name to Amber Dawn and started her life again in a quiet, solitary way. She kept minimal contact with our grandmother. For over 20 years I had very little knowledge of where she was and how she was dong. In the last five years I occasionally made an effort to find her but met dead ends or non returns on my efforts.

Last summer I decided to try again. I left a message on the answering machine, but unlike in times past, a few days later my call was returned. Amber and I talked every few weeks over the course of the next 9 months. We caught up on all of the lost years. She had reunited with her children one by one. She was a happy grandmother busy crocheting blankets for each of her grandchildren. She and Joe had made a happy life together. She, like her mother was dying of breast cancer.

We still had a lot in common. She told me she always thought of me as a sister. I must admit our bond was close and I too had those same feelings. I missed our companionship during those middle years as she floundered trying to figure out who she was--torn between the teachings of a step mother and the inborn creative personality of her natural mother.

I asked why she chose her new name and she answered it represented a bright new beginning. She was born Cynthia Cluff, daughter of Milford Cluff and Peggy Kidman. She married Stan Thompson in her youth and together they had 5 children: Jared, Tenay, Kendra, Tesha, and Ryan. She finished her life as Amber Dawn, married for 25 years to Joseph Sorensen. She was happy and content. She passed away April 28th after a 3 year battle with breast cancer.

Today Amber would have been 57 years old. Happy Birthday, Cynthia. I love you and pray you are finding peace in your mother's arms.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011


Where have all of the days gone?? Where are the blog postings??

Packed in my suitcase, tucked away in the memories of my mind and images of my camera.

I loved the days with Shawna's family. Making memories, having fun. Deer eating from my hand, Saturday at the baseball diamond, watching the Europeans sunbathe at the lake, trampoline time, sunlight from 4am until 11pm, walking in the woods.

I rushed home from Germany and was greeted at the airport by my new grandbaby and her parents--was it just 9 months ago they met me at the airport to tell me the baby was on her way??

Beautiful baby Preslee is the sweetest new baby, sleeps well, eats well and is up to date on the fertilizing task. Her mom is healing nicely from the surgery--what a scare. Kevan and Brooke are enjoying Kevan's time off from work as they wrap their arms and hearts around Miss Preslee and the joy she has brought into their home.

After only two days at home the suitcase is repacked and we are off again. First stop, Oak Harbor, Washington--my birthplace. My father was in the Navy when I was born. Only lived there a few months and have never returned until now. We had a lovely day exploring the sights of the town and driving through the base. Bought a vintage tablecloth to tuck into my bag to remember the moment--it was brand new the last time I was in town, now it is an antique--what does that make me??

Family reunion with my parents and siblings--cruising to Alaska. An amazing vacation, beautiful sights, family memories. Breath taking views. Thoughts of my forebears who traveled to the US many years ago in the strong holds of a ship under very poor circumstances. Giggling with my sister and mother as we went on a treasure hunt for jewels and gems. Delicious food. Family pictures. Watching my dad fulfill a dream. Making my mother proud. Seeing my brothers be happy in marriage. My sweetheart's birthday and thoughts from my siblings of their love for him. Family time.

Home again for the three last days of the month. Baby Preslee has grown and changed. Having fun teaching the kids a new card game. Organizing the travel trinkets; hats, bags and jewels. Help Teri remake a dress for her cross country trip. Unpack, do the laundry, tidy the house, pick up the pieces of my everyday life. Prepare to dismantle and remodel the laundry room (we have 3 weeks to accomplish the task before packing our bags again for the north/south 8 year old adventure trip scheduled for the middle of July, but that is next month's story).

The month has flown by, my flowers are blooming and the grass keeps growing--in spots--guess it all grows better with a little bit of attention. The answering machine is full and I have not had enough courage to look at the list of emails awaiting attention.

5 days at home--not all together--is a very short month.

Memories a mile long and a world wide.

Content to be at home--for a while.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Summer Dresses

As I have been staying with the grandchildren while their parents are away I got out the sewing machine and got busy. I brought the fabric and pattern with me. Simple little dresses that look like a bowl of rainbow sherbert. Four of them from sizes 2-10 for four little blondes that are ready for summer fun.

As I was cutting the dresses out, trying to match the stripes, my daughter asked if I could also make head scarfs for the girls. Then she mentioned curtain dresses and a singing family from Austria. I guess we are a close neighbor since we are in Germany--any way I hope they will be fun summer play dresses.

As I was finishing them up I realized they would need a slip under them and the girls did not have slips. I was here without transportation or resources--only my imagination. I remember one time when we were traveling and the children were small. One of my daughters forgot her slip and a slip was needed for the dress she was wearing. I took a pillowcase, undid the top seam and pinned two pieces of ribbon to hold it up--got the job done. As I thought I remembered some extra plain white sheets that were here when they arrived, before their own things showed up. One small sheet should be enough for 4 little slips.

As the girls dressed for church today they looked so sweet--almost delicious walking along in their simple summer dresses. We wouldn't want their brother to feel left out so he put on his orange tie to match their dresses. When we got home the girls put on their scarfs and Max donned his new orange t shirt.

Shawna returns home tonight from a few days R&R with her sweetheart. The grand children and I have had a wonderful time. I need to pack my bag again for my return trip on Tuesday. I will miss being here but I know each time the girls put on their summer dresses they will remember the fun time we had making them and that their grandma loves them.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Another Year Older and New Beginnings

I am thrilled to announce that we have a new baby to celebrate. Miss Preslee Brynn was born earlier this week after a little scare for her mother and father. She decided to greet the world face first--though it was a wonderful thought, it presented a grave issue that the inspired doctor was able to deal with. I know that mommy and daddy had not gone into the birthing center with thoughts of a C-section, but when Preslee decided to enter the world in her own unique and very rare way the entire family was thankful for a healthy and happy outcome for both mommy and baby. Miss Preslee weighs in at 7 pounds 8 ounces and is 20 3/4 inches long. She has a smattering of light brown hair and a sweet little cry. Her grandfather says that she is definitely a member of the family--After the scare he noticed a few new grey hairs--Yes, she is ours.

The day after Preslee was born we celebrated 27 years for Uncle B. Brian admits that he was a bit disappointed that Preslee came 2 hours and 6 minutes too early to share his birthday, but we all agree a healthy baby two hours earlier than expected is a much sweeter prize than the distress her mother was beginning to feel and the strain on the babies neck.

Later this week we will recognize the decade remembrance of our oldest grandchild, Dallin. It seems like just yesterday when he was the sweet new baby we welcomed into the world on a warm June evening. Now he is an active and happy 10 year old boy who still brings his family great joy.

On that same day I take time to recognize my sweet sister, Ann, and the pleasure it has been to have her for a sister. I am excited because next week I get to go and spend an entire week with her. Lucky me.

To round out that family day I also take time to remember my great grandmother, Marie Elizabeth Sorensen Jensen. She was a strong and great woman who raised her family alone after her husband died young. It was at her request that I have my name, after her mother.

Now that is a busy week--but the birthday fun is not over yet--a week later my sweet husband will celebrate another year closer to retirement, meaning more time to go and visit these wonderful members of our family.

Happy Birthday everyone, and welcome to the family my sweet Preslee

Monday, June 6, 2011

Church Bells

I am in Germany enjoying the 5 grandchildren who live here. The youngest two like to sit in the wonderful double stroller my daughter has while I walk them around the neighborhood. The other day we were walking and I could hear the church bells ringing. Thy rang louder and louder for about 10 minutes. The girls and I were making up words to go with the ringing--

Church bells ringing
Hear us singing
Everyone gather
Time for prayer

The next morning as we were out walking, again we heard the bells ringing, calling everyone to come to the church and worship.

When I was a girl living in Yucaipa, California there was a church in town that would ring the bells every day. It was a beautiful sound that brought comfort.

The other day when we went to pick strawberries, the neighborhood church bells started ringing. The bells played songs for about 15 minutes. It was lovely and soon I found myself singing along with the hymns the bells were pealing off.

The bells here in Germany were not playing songs, just ringing and ringing, hoping some of us would stop what we were doing and think of spiritual things for a few moments. Later I found that it was a holiday--Ascension Day.

As I thought about all of the turmoil that the city of Berlin has suffered in just my lifetime, and then thought about the meaning of the holiday as I listened to the church bells, I was filled with awe.

How often do we stop what we are doing and listen for that spiritual awareness. Most often it is not bells ringing, but a still small voice telling us to call a friend, send a note or bake and take something delicious to an acquaintance. In order to hear the call it is best to be quiet for a moment and look out from yourself. Wait a moment--you will hear--it is soft and quiet, gentle and still...a quiet call to action..

Thursday, June 2, 2011


I am visiting my daughter in Germany these next two weeks. Today we were at the gas station and a white 60's vintage Mustang convertible was parked next to us. While my son in law pumped the gas I watched the car and thought of one of the first times I remember seeing my husband. I was helping at a friends wedding reception. After the reception there was a group in the parking lot and I remember seeing this guy pushing his Mustang to get it started. That was my soon to be sweetheart and his soon to be departed car--He has mourned the loss of that car ever since.

The other day I was driving down the highway and a new red Camero pulled out next to me. It looked and sounded beautiful on the road and reminded me of Jim Taylor from my graduating high school class and the beautiful red Camero he used to drive. He was a nice guy and I liked his car.

While I was still sitting in the family van at the gas station the owner of the Mustang sauntered over and climbed into the car. It was an odd sight to see in Germany--not very many American cars on the road here. As he started the car I heard the low rumble of the engine and smiled to myself, maybe with a bit of a wistful sigh. As the car started to pull away I heard my 3 year old granddaughter in the back seat quietly say "I wish I can have a car like that."

It is always nice to have a dream.