Celebrating Marie

Subtitle

Christmas Letters 1990-2009

So many people mentioned enjoying Marie's annual Christmas letter that we decided to include them here.

1990

Dear Friends, Relatives, and Casual Acquaintances,
       
            Well, 1990 is drawing to a close, and as I look back on it I  wonder if it was worth all the trouble.  We got up every morning  and went to bed every night, which meant we had to do a lot of dressing and undressing and then all the clothes we were changing  into and out of eventually had to be washed....  We also ate a couple times every day, which takes up time and makes a mess.  Even if you get take-out pizza you have to put the box in the trash!
       
            Actually, waiting for the garbage truck every Monday was one of the more exciting events of 1990.  During the school year Don just went to work every morning and came home every night while I  did laundry and hunted for those little twist ties that close trash  bags.  By summer we were pretty tired of that routine, so we decided to see if there is a limit to how much togetherness two  people can tolerate when cooped up inside a moving Subaru.  There is....
       
            We drove to Wyoming and reconfirmed our suspicions that there is indeed a reason why it has the lowest population of any state in  the whole country.  While there we attended Don's 35th high school class reunion in Cheyenne.  I had never met any of his classmates,  but it really didn't matter because they spent most of their time  peering at each other's name tags!  We also went camping on the Washington coast twice.  We actually got a glimpse of the sun on  the first trip, and on the second had a marvelous opportunity to observe first hand which campsites flood in a heavy rain.  Did you know WD-40 takes tree sap out of your hair?
       
                 I turned 50 this year.  Didn't have a big  celebration, though - we just sat around and  contemplated how many times people tie their shoes in 50 years.  Don, of course, insisted on being  scientific by pointing out that one must allow for the times shoes accidentally become  untied (3.207943 times per month). I, however,  was the one who remembered to subtract the first  few years when someone else had to tie them!  This brought to mind the joys of velcro shoe    fasteners, especially for parents of children who are a tad slow learning to tie shoes.
                                                                            
            That reminds me of the twins.  Both girls came home for the summer, but we rarely saw them unless they were hungry.  They are  seniors in college, and heaven only knows what they will do next.   Unfortunately, they have done so well academically they won't be able to work on undergraduate degrees too much longer.  Neither one  seems to have found an appropriate (or even inappropriate) potential mate, so I guess they will have to get a job or go to graduate school or something.  They could move back home, but that would mean FOUR people living here and changing clothes every  morning and every night and eating pizza from boxes that had to be put in the trash....
       
        That's the news from here - try your best to enjoy the holidays despite a tree in the middle of the livingroom, and having  to wrap all the presents you struggled through crowds of rude    people to buy and now sort of wish you could keep for yourself.  You'll probably have a bunch of friends and family running around  under foot, too!
       
            We hope to make 1991 more exciting that 1990 was - perhaps having the garbage collected twice a week would do it....
       
                                          The Merry Millers

 

 

1991

Hi!
          Although it has come to my attention that some people "never-read-a-typed-Christmas-newsletter-no-matter-what," it has also come to my attention that my hand writing is so bad there were old friends who never knew until last year that Don and I had children.  Consequently I  have decided to try to satisfy everyone while still imparting a bit of information, with the MERRY MILLERS' FIRST ANNUAL TRUE/FALSE TEST!
          The answers are provided at the end of the quiz, but just to make sure everyone gets at least one correct, I'll do the first one.
     
     (1)   True    I just had a check-up last week and everything is fine!
     
     (2)              We visited the coast in March and it was sunny and 60.  
                
     (3)              We went camping on the coast in August and the trip gave new meaning    to the words dreary, dismal, damp, dismaying, dreadful, disastrous, and downpour....
     
     (4)              We redecorated two more rooms in the house and decided we want to be  reincarnated as carpet installers.
     
     (5)             On an incredibly cold windy day in May, Tamara graduated  from Washington State University summa cum laude in the honors program with a major in  Philosophy and minors in both biology and math.
     
     (6)             My mother flew to Pullman for Tamara's graduation, after which we all flew to Ohio and then drove to Annandale-on-Hudson, New York, where Kim, having    successfully completed a 100 page senior thesis, graduated from Bard College with
a degree in sociology - this time on an incredibly hot and humid day.
     
     (7)            While in Ohio we were able to see most of my family and a few high school classmates, most of whom I hadn't seen for at least 10 years, and no one looked any older.
     
    (8)              In June we looked around and decided we either had to get rid of some of our  "junk-which-may-turn-into-valuable-possessions-someday" or build something to
store it in.
        
    (9)             In July we purchased an ostensibly ready-to-assemble pile of precut lumber and pooled the entire family's carpentry skills to construct a mini storage barn.
     
    10)           If Don hadn't worked summer construction while in college it would have taken 2 years instead of 2 weeks to build!
     
   (11)             Our 25th Anniversary was in August and we are still speaking to each other after all those years.

     (12)            Kim has an internship with the National Park Service in Great Smoky Mountain National Park, Tennessee, helping prepare for a March conference concerning air pollution threats to the Southern Appalachians.
     
   (13)            No one in Tennessee speaks English.
     
   (14)             Tamara is now at the University of Chicago working on her Ph.D. in Philosophy.
     
   (15)             Even though she drove into Chicago, Tamara will have to stay there forever rather than risk life and limb trying to get back out!
     
   (16)             Thanks primarily to Don's efforts over the past five years, WSU's Museum of  Natural History (which contains everything from an aardvark to a zebra) reopened in new quarters this November to rave reviews.
     
   (17)             Garbage pick-up is still only twice a week...
     
   (18)             WE HOPE YOU ENJOYED 1991 AS MUCH AS WE DID, AND THAT 1992
                       BRINGS EVEN MORE HAPPINESS!
     
    Answers:  All statements are true except:

        (4)  Not carpet installers - we really want to be plumbers or roofers!
        (7)  Alas, my nieces and nephews had grown up, but the rest of us stayed the same.
        (11) No, Marie is still talking - Don is still listening.
        (13) False, someone in Kim's office is from Texas.
        (15) Nonsense! She just took the train home for Christmas - only her car has to stay in Chicago forever.
        (16) Sadly, there is no zebra among the 500 critters on display -  maybe you have one you want to donate?
        (17) Aha!  You didn't read last year's letter - it's once a week!

 

 

1992

     Because of the overwhelming demand (*) for a repeat of last year's
     Christmas letter, I have slightly re-edited the 1991 text to bring you
     "The 1992 Mischievous Misadventures and Mundane Moments of the Merry
     Millers."  Although actual exciting events were a tad limited in 1992,
     we did manage to discover some interesting chunks of information:
     
        (1)  When camping, no matter how ecologically correct and one-with-
     nature you feel as you repeatedly crawl into a cold sleeping bag in a
     damp tent, a tent trailer (complete with real beds, a furnace, water,
     etc.) eliminates unnecessary joint and muscle pain and greatly improves
     the disposition of individuals both over and under the age of 50.
     
        (2)  If a skunk decides to raise a family under your driveway
     culvert, that is where she's going to raise her family, no matter what!
           Subfact (A)  Skunks like cat food.
           Subfact (B)  Yelling  "Yo Skunk! I'm coming out!"  before leaving
     the house after dark will encourage munching skunks to amble away, but
     it's still best to pause a moment before actually zipping out the door.
     
        (3)  You can save a lot of money by re-roofing your house yourself.
           Subfact (A)  Sitting on a roof in the sun pounding little nails
     into shingles makes you very hot.
           Subfact (B)  You get really crabby sitting on a hot roof pounding
     little nails into shingles, especially if yellow jackets are helping.
           Subfact (C)  Crabby days seem longer than normal days....
     
       (4)  You can also probably save a lot of money putting new windows in
     your house yourself, but we chose not to find out....
     
       (5)  If the actual name of one of your children momentarily escapes
     you as you are chattering away, your spouse will know which one you are
     talking about if you refer to them by location rather than first name.
     (As in "We are so lucky that Tennessee [Kim] managed to drive home last
     week without getting caught in a blizzard," or "I wish Chicago [Tamara]
     didn't have such a short Christmas break from grad school.")
     
               We are all in good health (Yippee - even me!), and if all the
               needles don't prematurely fall off the Christmas tree, 1992
               will have been the kind of good year I hope you have enjoyed.    
      
         (*) Two people admitted that they read it....

 

 

1993

TOP TEN LIST OF THINGS THE MERRY MILLERS LEARNED IN 1993
     
     1.  You probably really should change the antifreeze in a car every
     few years, unless you are really adept at replacing radiators and water
     pumps and own stock in an auto parts store.
     
     2. Thanksgiving is not the best day for a refrigerator to quit working.
     
     3.  It is silly to try to grow a vegetable garden if the last "spring"
     frost is July 13th and the first "fall" frost is August 29th, but with
     the help of a giant blue tarp it can be done.
     
     4.  If a skunk thought the culvert under your driveway was a good place
     to raise a family in 1992, there's a good chance she will like the idea
     in 1993, too....
     
     5.  The average yearly rainfall at Cape Lookout State Park on the
     Oregon coast is 100 inches, and an appreciable portion falls in July
     and August.  However, rain along the Washington coast seems to fall in
     June.  We can testify to these facts from first hand experience.
     
     6.  Craters of the Moon National Monument in Idaho gets only one inch
     of rain most summers, and 1993's entire allotment fell July 23 between
     4 and 8 PM....We were there for that event, too....
     
     7.  Agate hunting along coastal beaches is even more fun than
     collecting shells, but agates are a lot heavier than shells.
     
     8.  If you happen to try to haul too many heavy "treasures" from the
     coast in your camping trailer and your tires blow, Les Schwab dealers
     are located all over the west and carry a good stock of 6 ply tires.
     
     9.  If one's child gets a master's degree in Philosophy at Univ. of  
             Chicago and is working on her Ph.D., it is best to keep a
             dictionary of philosophy handy when conversing with that child.
     
     10.  Christmas is the best time of the year, especially when everyone is in good health  (now I'm a "4 year survivor"!) and both girls will be home for the holidays!

 

 

1994

           1994 ALBUM OF "PHOTOS THE MERRY MILLERS FORGOT TO TAKE"
     
     Just finished putting our 1994 snapshots in albums and discovered that
     although we had taken the requisite number of pictures of commonly
     photographed events (e.g. our two summer camping vacations to the
     Pacific coast - the second with Kim and Tamara along), we hadn't
     managed to catch all of 1994's memorable events on film.  The photos we
     missed include:
       1)  Marie's mother during her April visit deciding that if her
     daughter could go down a spiral playground sliding board, she could,
     too - and like it just as much, even if she was 80!
       2)  Marie turning a 54 year-old's version of a cartwheel to celebrate
     the facts that:
            a) after 5 years there is still no sign of throat cancer
               recurring, and
            b) modern science has invented a procedure called pneumatic
               retinopexy to reattach retinas - and it left only a small
               spot missing in the visual field of her good eye.
       3)  Kim and Tamara trying to decide who had the biggest scoop of ice
     cream and the most frosting on their 25th birthday cake.  (Ah, the
     "good old days" now come back to me....)
       4)  Don under Kim's car putting on a new muffler just before she left
     for graduate school in environmental studies at University of Oregon.
     (The 1995 Rose Bowl winner?)
       5)  Don under Tamara's car replacing the disintegrated exhaust pipe
     just before she returned to Chicago to continue work on her Ph. D.  
     (Yes - U of C also has a football team, but no one discusses it.)
       6)  Don under our two cars trying to find out what diseases the
     various "blops" on the pavement below the engines indicated. (Bet you
     didn't know WSU plays Baylor in the Alamo Bowl Dec. 31st till now!)
       7)  Don shaving off the beard he grew this summer - in case it was
     causing "car rot" and/or our unusually hot dry weather.  (It rained!)
       8)  The skunks who previously lived in the culvert at the end of the
     driveway moving to a new home - under our patio....
       9)  Our entire family trying to squeeze a really fat Christmas tree
     through the front door.
      10)  All of us wishing you a happy holiday season and hoping 1995
     brings you many enjoyable moments to keep in your "mental photo album".

 

 

1995

                            THE MERRY MILLERS' ANSWERS TO QUESTIONS
                            ONLY A FEW PEOPLE ASKED ABOUT ANIMALS IN 1995
     
                       Q) Why do the bunny rabbits which look so cute in
                      one's yard at Easter develop a rather mean and sneaky
                      appearance by mid-summer?
                       A) All the petunias and bean seedlings they greedily
                      gobble up in June make their little faces pucker.
                         (Note: The beautiful pheasants one feeds during the
                         winter don't look very attractive after taking a
                         dust bath in baby cucumbers plants, either....)
     
                       Q) Does black clothing really attract mosquitoes?
                       A) Absolutely YES, and for a small fee I will tell
                      you exactly which hiking trails not to take when
                      camping on both the Oregon and Washington coasts.
     
                       Q) Why does one see a cat in almost every front yard
                      in Eugene, Oregon?
                       A) Eugene is a very nice city for cats (as well as
                      people!) and Kim might walk past and pet them on her
                      way to grad school classes at University of Oregon.
     
                       Q) Why do the cockroaches around the University of
                      Chicago appear to be unusually vigorous, healthy and
                      mentally alert?
                       A) Tamara has them on a vegetarian diet, makes them
                      exercise regularly, and assigns them weekly philosophy
                      papers requiring library research.
     
                       Q) Why would a raccoon family choose to evict a
                      skunk family from under one's patio and claim the
                      space for themselves?
                       A) Raccoons are into car repair, and like to wander
                      around the driveway on warm summer evenings and give
                      Don helpful hints on his latest automotive endeavors.
     
                       Q) Why is the stray orange sort-of-tubby tabby cat
                      Marie adopted so happy right now?
                       A) All the members of his "people family" are healthy
                      and will be in Pullman for two weeks at Christmas.

 

 

1997

                 THE MERRY MILLERS' 1997 NOT-SO-FAMOUS LAST WORDS
     
                January: We already have three feet of snow on the ground
                 so I'm sure there couldn't possibly be anymore - if there
                 is we might have to shovel the roof.....
     
               February: Do all of the parking lots in Pinedale, Wyoming,
                have outlets to plug in engine block heaters just because
                cars might not start well at 30o below without them?
     
            March: Don't worry - the "Car Talk" guys said if the defroster
             isn't working it probably isn't a bad heater core unless you
             find a puddle of antifreeze on the passenger side floor.....
     
          April: I've refinished so much furniture over the years I'm sure
           building a grandfather clock from a kit will be a snap.....
     
        May: As long as Memorial Day is rainy and dreary, why don't we go
         check out all of the garden stores for tree and shrub sales!
     
     June: I'm sure if we start digging the hole for the next tree way
      over here we won't hit bedrock 6 inches down yet again.....
     
     July: If we just buy 18 more hoses and another 4-station electronic
      water timer the yard will take care of itself while we're camping
      on the Washington coast!
     
     August: No way can a mother raccoon and 5 babies gobble up 50
      pounds of cat food while we're camping on the Oregon coast.....
     
     September: I'm sure the girls will think it's a grand joke
      when they come home for their birthday and discover I've
      moved their beds into a big tent in the back yard.....
     
     October: It couldn't take too much digging to make a pond
      out of that lower flower bed, could it?
     
     November: If I just store these grandfather clock parts in
      a box I'm sure I'll finish it after Christmas.....
     
      December: This year I'm going to have my Christmas
       cards mailed and all of the presents wrapped BEFORE
       the girls get home for the holidays!
   

 

1998

                                            A TALE OF TWO MILLERS
                            Manuscript of a 1998  novel by Marie Miller

                    "It was the hottest of times, it was  the windiest of times.  Don and Marie finally visited Tamara in the heart of Chicago, and were sure that when the pilot said it
was 96 in Chicago it was a big joke.  Alas, not only was that true, but also the
predictions of high winds and tornadoes in Ohio a week later." (Too weather oriented -
people will think you're getting old....)

             "It was the driest of times, it was the wettest of times....  Don and Marie were quite
dismayed to discover a few days before they planned to go camping on the Oregon coast
in August (where Kim would join them for two weekends), that the pump for their 250 ft. well had quit.  They were, however, even more depressed in November when La Nina
brought heavy rain  and they ended up shoveling mud out of the back yard - even Marie's garden pond."  (Way too depressing - start over.....)

"It was the most surprising of times, it was the least ethical of times.  When a natural gas company decided to install a larger pipeline adjacent to the Miller's land, Don and Marie actually convinced them that it could be done without destroying any of their trees and shrubs.  However, it has been reported that Marie was spotted handing out fresh garden tomatoes and possibly even cookies to the surveyors and/or the construction crew....." (Too incriminating if Don or Marie ever runs for president.....try again!!!)

"It was the most sentimental of times, it was the most nostalgic of times.  Marie
returned to Ohio in July to visit her Mother and also stay in the house she had
grown up in one last time before it was sold.  Marie's sister hosted a 4th of July
picnic with almost all of her nieces and nephews and their families - a really delightful
 and heart-warming event.  The trip was timed to coincide with the Glenwood High
 40th Reunion. All the festivities and getting reacquainted were so much fun Marie
 really wished she had attended all the other reunions!." (Perhaps too wistful???)

            " It was the happiest of times it was the......"   Oops, Tamara is home
              already, and Kim on her way, so will have to write my novel next year !

 

 

1999

            The Merry Millers' Y2K time capsule memorabilia for 1999:

A copy of the detailed list of the 85 birds and mammals Don identified as inhabitants of a newly-acquired WSU research station on Puget Sound while on sabbatical leave spring semester - including notes on how hard it was raining when each observation was made.....

A sample of the mud last winter's monsoons re-deposited in Marie's garden pond excavation -  along with a list of all the things it can be used for.

Don's collection of broken roof shingles left over from repairing the Christmas night 1998 wind storm damage - plus bonus pieces of old chimney mortar that decided to start crumbling.

A picture of the 5 exceptionally cute baby skunks that spent all spring and summer living under our patio - decorated with some skunk-scented black and white fur they shed....  

An 8"x16" patio brick left over from Marie's greenhouse remodeling - with an only-slightly-bloody copy of her trial and error instructions on how to make 56 of them exactly level without smashing one's fingers irreparably.

Rusted pieces of all the old plumbing Don replaced under the kitchen sink -  artfully arranged around the burned out hot water tank element with the whole ensemble tastefully framed by some copper pipe left over from replacing the well's pressure tank.

A piece of the owl-shaped cake the girls made when they came home to celebrate their 30th birthday in September - along with a tape recording of their conversation while creating it by using Kim's environmentally friendly techniques and Tamara's mathematically logical approach.

A bag of sand from the Washington coast, a bag of sand from the Oregon coast and a bag of sand from a good friend's lake cabin - all collected from the seats and floor of the car.

25 pounds of agates gleaned from the 350 pounds of rocks Marie has collected on various beaches over the years - with directions for making agate bugs and really heavy paper weights.

A photo of the whole family Christmas morning - wrapped in a crumpled copy of Marie's 1999 New Year's Resolution to send her cards on time this year.....

HOPE YOU HAD MANY FUN THINGS TO PUT IN YOUR 1999 TIME CAPSULE AND THAT 2000 HAS EVEN MORE!

 

 

2000

                               SORT-OF-ABSOLUTELY-FINAL RESULTS OF THE
                MERRY MILLERS' YEAR 2000 HOUSEHOLD EVENTS ELECTION

Most fun:  Although the June camping trip to the Washington coast was a close second, our August Oregon coast camping trip won because both Kim (still in Eugene, OR) and Tamara (who continues to philosophize at University of Chicago) were able to join us for several long weekends for the first time in 5 years.  Cold windy weather apparently had no impact on the final vote.

Most surprising outcome:  Marie's proto-type pond actually holds water!  It turned out to be a big summer attraction for birds; but unfortunately smelly skunks, garden-raiding raccoons, and plant-chomping deer and bunnies also found it refreshing.  Extensive research has revealed that those uses are still allowed under Washington state's environmental regulations and therefore these participants may not be disqualified.

Final results not due until spring:  Marie's "gazeboette" project.  Despite a literal structural collapse during the initial phase of the frame construction due to an overlooked design flaw, the problem was successfully dealt with and there was only a slight cost overrun and a small time delay.  The roof phase has been approved by the planning commission but is contingent upon the arrival of warmer weather.

Most decisive come-back:  Don, who has completely recovered from his October hernia surgery. Unfortunately this dramatic victory means he can no longer claim his "no lifting over 20 pounds" household chore exemption.

Unexpected loser:  Marie, who rather suddenly discovered that there is a condition known as alopecia universalis, which is not at all health threatening, but necessitated a crash course in "Current Fashions in Wigs".  Please note that Marie's previously frequent boast that she had no gray hair despite her age is now beyond dispute.

Still awaiting a Supreme Court decision:  The final verdict on Don's exact retirement date. This June is currently heavily favored, but there is still some question as to whether cats get to vote.

Most anticipated December event:  Our annual family Christmas gathering tied for first place with the prospect of hearing from relatives and old friends.  As predicted from the exit polls, shoveling snow received no votes at all....


                                             HAPPY HOLIDAYS!

 

 

2001

The Merry Millers'  "Happy 2002!"  Poem
(by C. Clement Mouse)

‘Twas the week after Christmas
and all through the house,
All the Millers still stirred
 and woke this poor mouse.
(I wanted to hibernate....)

Though they'd seen Kim in August
and Tam came in September,
Both girls had come home
   the last half of December.
(Noisy creatures!)

Don had finally retired
and I hoped he'd sit still,
But his long "want-to-do" list
means that he never will.
(Marie made up most of the list!)

They coast-camped in August
   and most of June, too,
Then once back in Pullman
 they had yard work to do.
(I think they dug up my burrows on purpose....)

They roofed the gazebo
   and planted some trees,
When not on a ladder
they wore out their knees.
(And kept me awake besides!)

 I'd hoped they would quit

when it really got cold,
But I've no hope of sleeping
If truth must be told.
(I need mouse ear plugs!)

Though ‘twas freezing outside
 Marie loves Christmas lights,
And they put them all over,
even working some nights.
(None are draped over my bed, thank goodness!)

AT LAST!!!!!  They are quiet,
and I've no more to write,
So have a great year
and to all a good night.
(I'm not getting up till spring.....)

 

 

2002

                                      THE MERRY MILLERS' 2002 RETIREMENT GUIDE
                                    (or How To Have Fun Without Breaking Many Bones)

Buy a really big 4WD crew cab Dodge truck that requires 40 acres to turn around.  (Note: Do not look at the bill when you fill the gas tank - just hand them all the money you have and hope they give you change.)

 Acquire an inflatable kayak/canoe and try it out on as many lakes as possible.   (Note: Make sure you have not only good life jackets but lots of flashlights in case one of  the participants really likes to view sunsets from the water.)

Plant only a small vegetable garden and have the sense to give up on it the 3rd time it freezes in July.  (Note: It is difficult to cover a garden at midnight in the pitch black while trying not to fall in the pond - especially if a small cattle herd has recently run thru your yard.  No photo included so you will have to imagine how much fun we had........)

Visit the Washington coast in April stopping along the Columbia River to hike to lots of waterfalls. (Note: It is best to just buy a postcard picture of waterfalls that require a 12 mile round trip hike on very steep narrow trails unless you have very good health insurance.)

Take a long trip to the Oregon Coast in June when Kim can join you for most of the vacation. (Note: It is fun, but not necessary, to fill the entire  truck bed with beach treasures.)

 In September take a family camping trip to the Washington coast with a stop at Mt. St. Helens to do some hiking and see where all the ash that fell on Pullman came from during the 1980 eruption. (Note: It is too cold for shorts at 4000 ft. and Dead Man's Cove is not a good place to be at high tide.)


                                                                 Happy 2003!

  Footnote: Historians now believe the phrase "Better Late Than Never" was coined by one of the Merry Millers' ancestors.......

 

 

2003

                                    The  Merry Millers'  Encyclopedia/Dictionary
                                             2003 Revisions

Off-Season Rates  (pronounced cold)   Cheap way to camp in Washington during early spring and late fall when no one else wants to be where you are going.  Unfortunately, there is usually a reason no one else wants to be there, and in the case of Pacific Northwest camping it is related to cold temperatures and lots of rain.  However, for bird watchers and determined beachcombers it is still great fun - many migrating birds and even more "beach treasures" than summer provides.

Port Orford, Oregon  (pronounced very windy)  The westernmost town in the lower 48 states, located on the south coast of Oregon.  It is close to Cape Blanco State Park near the oldest (1870) lighthouse still operating in the United States, but the area is best known for extremely high winds during winter storms.  The wind, however, is not limited to winter - even in June there are sufficient gusts to remove a person's wig and blow said hairpiece half a mile down the beach like a piece of tumbleweed.....

Vole  (pronounced voracious)  A member of the rodent family known scientifically as the genus Microtus.  It eats non-stop all year long and prefers outdoor living as it has a great taste for the bark of small trees and shrubs.  It unfortunately does not always practice birth control and during overpopulation phases it causes humans to spend a lot of time and money replanting dead vegetation.

Dry Rot  (pronounced tedious repair)  A condition of older wood similar to osteoporosis in humans.  It hides under paint layers until stress is applied to the affected areas and then requires wood replacement surgery or artificial epoxy wood therapy.  It occurs most often in house parts requiring access either by hanging from a long ladder or crawling around on hands and knees.  Although the wood itself recovers almost immediately the surgeon-therapists do not.......

Closed During the Winter  (pronounced snow all year)  A sign found along some very scenic mountainous highways in northern Washington.  It is put there to trick motorists into thinking the snow will ONLY fall in the winter months.  People who are leaving an unseasonably warm lower elevation in autumn driving a vehicle with no tire chains and who are dressed for summer weather will soon develop expertise in pulling a trailer very slowly on snow covered roads as well as the ability to add multiple layers of clothing while still in a seatbelt in a moving vehicle.

Holiday Season (pronounced fun, family and friends) The time of year when days are shortest but if you put enough Christmas lights in, on and around your house you don't notice - especially if your children are home safely and you hear from lots of relatives and old friends!

 

 

2004

THE MERRY MILLERS' 2004  "E-MAILS NEVER SENT"  
          
                To: Amtrak.  We certainly had an interesting trip when returning to Pullman from Ohio in January!  However, I suspect there is a better time of year to travel cross-country on a train?  The fact that we had to fly most of the way home when the Montana avalanche covered the tracks made the trip less nostalgic than we had intended and someday we would like to try another train trip in warmer weather - but only if you promise to clean the windows in the observation car this time!
  PS: What did the train hit outside Milwaukee causing a 19 hour delay with no heat and lights?  Rumors were that a herd of deer had frozen to the tracks in the 20 below weather, but I think it was Bigfoot.

To: Jayco Recreational Vehicle Co. We really love our new 23 ft Jayfeather travel trailer - it's perfect for 2 to 6 people even when it rains 4 days in a row, and as a result it has visited dozens of places in Washington and Oregon since June.  Although many people inquire about our mental health when they hear we made a 1200 mile round trip to acquire it, we now not only own "the perfect RV" we searched for during the last 2 years but also know that there really is an intact picturesque waterfall in Idaho Falls.
  PS: In your 2005 brochure you might want to mention that when the turntable falls out of the microwave during travel the resulting glass shards can be used as steak knives in a pinch.

To Dr. "X"  It was fun playing "blood pressure tag" with you this summer.  Cardiology is an intriguing speciality and it was fascinating to observe first hand the effects of suddenly trying 4 new drugs simultaneously.  However, I am of the opinion that low blood pressure is not beneficial if one is dead, so perhaps in the future you could remember that I am allergic to sulfonamides?
  PS: Also note that I am not the Marie Miller who had knee surgery two years ago........

To: Oregon and Washington Parks and Recreation Departments  Thank you so much for providing all the great campgrounds full of trees, lakes for canoeing, long hiking trails and miles of ocean shore.  However, I was wondering whether you had ever considered moving all your mountains, old growth forests, beaches and waterfalls closer together.  Arranged as they are now we had to make four long trips between April and October in order to visit all of our favorite places as well as investigate some new ones.
  PS: It rains too much on the coast - could you also move some of that rain to the dry sagebrush areas east of the Cascades?

To: All plant nurseries within 500 miles of Pullman Our compliments on the excellent selection of trees and shrubs you've had in recent years.  Alas, our two acres are now covered with plants and our muscles are depleted of energy so please put our names on the "black thumb list" of people who aren't allowed to buy any new plants in 2005 - unless, of course, it is a really good sale.....
  PS: We have decided to just use green spray paint on any evergreens that die.  Do you have any Tam- Juniper-green paint in stock?

To: Friends and Family of the Merry Millers  Remember how I promised last year that I would send my cards on time in 2004?  I regret to inform you that it was only a campaign promise to encourage you to write to me this year - Sorry!
  If you wish to return this product because of the late delivery date please
    contact me at [email protected] for the proper procedure.


          PS: 2005 is the year I'll send cards on time......maybe......

 

 

2005

                                MERRY MILLERS MAKE MINOR HEADLINES IN 2005
                                       (back page newspaper articles you probably didn't see...)        

January 2005 (Pullman WA) NEIGHBORS REPORT BULGING GARAGE DOOR  Officials checked a report of an abnormal looking garage door.  The problem turned out to be only the misdemeanor offense of never throwing anything away for 40 years.  Couple was warned that their children would have to dispose of the stuff later if they didn't do it now.

February 2005 (Pullman WA)  GOODWILL INUNDATED WITH DONATIONS The local Goodwill and several church rummage sales notified police that astounding quantities of donations were anonymously showing up at their doorsteps.  The responding officer said the merchandise looked familiar and they would be rewarded in heaven if they accepted it.

March 2005   (Pullman WA) WOMAN DEMANDS SCHOOLS ADD COURSE TO CURRICULUM A very crabby woman disrupted a school board meeting demanding that a mandatory course in dry wall installation/refinishing be added.  She was covered with drywall mud and primer paint so the request was tabled and filed under "frustration and incompetence".

April 2005 (Grayland WA) BEACH PATROL WARNS WOMAN Grays Harbor officers issued a friendly warning to a woman spotted on the beach wearing shorts in 40 degree weather.  Told her that they no longer had funds to rescue stupid people, and also correctly informed her that record cool temperatures and rainfall were predicted for the WA coast during the next 3 weeks.

May 2005 (Pullman WA)   LOCAL COUPLE CAUGHT TRAPPING MICE IN THEIR YARD  A large number of dead mice were located on Johnson Road despite a Washington state law banning all mammal trapping.  When confronted the couple claimed that because there were so many rodents chomping on their shrubs and trees the observed deceased animals were only a tiny fraction of the entire population and had simply died of over-eating and chosen to use mouse traps as coffins..........

June 2005 (Nehalam Bay OR)  MAN SAVES COUPLE BY TAKING PHOTO  A local hiker reported meeting a sixty-something couple on the summit of Oswald West's Cape Falcon.  The woman would not leave the area until she had photographic proof that they had managed to climb that far despite the fact that they had already spent a month navigating many less steep muddy trails and also made numerous day long beachcombing excursions along most of the OR coast.

July 2005 (Pullman WA)  POSSIBLE HABITAT DESTRUCTION INVESTIGATED  The area ‘Save the Shrubs Society' was informed that vegetation was being removed in vast quantities from a 2 acre tract near Pullman.  Investigation revealed that it was justifiable herbicide as the removed branches had been mortally wounded previously by mice and rabbits.

August 2005 (Pullman WA)  EAR PLUG SALES JUMP DRAMATICALLY Area retail stores ran out of ear plugs recently.  It was first thought that many people suddenly decided to heed warnings to protect their hearing, but studies showed all were sold to one couple who found it necessary to run a loud chipper-shredder day and night for weeks to clear their huge brush piles....

September 2005 (Port Orford OR) WOMAN NOT CHARGED WITH NEGLIGENCE  Local authorities checked reports that a camper at Cape Blanco failed to read her notes from last year and led her entire family and a close friend to a long narrow beach which is always rapidly inundated with water as soon as the tide starts back in.  Said beach can only be exited by clambering up a really steep cliff-like bank but a judge decided yelling "Head for higher ground - everybody's on their own!" was sufficient warning  in Oregon.  The family safely spent the rest of September meandering up and down the Oregon coast.

October 2005  (Pullman WA)  MISTAKEN REPORT OF  SINK HOLES  Geologists thought they'd located a large number of odd sink holes probably caused by the unusually hot and dry summer/fall weather.  However, the holes were actually created by a couple intent on re-vegetating their land.  A rabbit and mouse were later seen marking the sites on a winter dinner menu....

November 2005   (Pullman WA)  ABSOLUTELY NOTHING HAPPENED  Due to the unusually cold and snowy weather it appears Whitman county residents refused to leave their houses the entire month and chose semi-hibernation instead.

December 2005 (Pullman WA)  MERRY MILLERS DON'T NOTICE RAIN  Although rain replaced the hoped-for Christmas snow the whole Merry Miller family was together to enjoy the usual family rituals - mega decorations and lights, scrumptious meals     (mostly courtesy of the younger gourmets) and zillions of presents.  All activities were accompanied by non-stop chatter to catch up with Tamara's Chicago activities and Kim's Eugene OR endeavors.  In another annual tradition Marie sent her holiday cards late.....

 

                    

2006

                                  GAMES THE MERRY MILLERS INVENTED IN 2006                

                                          WHITEWATER CREEK BODY SURFING

To Play the Game: (Two players necessary - a third optional participant helps survival odds)
   1) Explore eastern WA in your RV in early spring.  Visit Lake Chelan and on a cold windy day Player #1 must pose for a photo by a very picturesque but wide, rocky, steep snow-melt whitewater creek and somehow fall backward into it. (Note: No warning may be given to Player #2.)
  2) Player #1 must decide (quickly) how to roll down 30 yards of churning whitewater without doing too much bodily harm.  Player #1 must also be prepared to encounter deep and rapidly rushing 45o water as well as large stationary and rolling rocks in transit. (Hint: Neither pretending to be a log nor a cannonball prevents the rocks from rendering Player #1 unconscious.)
  3) Player #2 must be at least 15 feet downstream and precisely time a jump into the creek to enter the water just as Player #1's inert form rushes by.  Within 20 yards Player #2 must gain footing while rolling along with the current and also manage to grab the jacket of Player #1 with one hand and then catch a tree branch with the other hand so that both players can  be swept to the shore line.  (Hint: It is best that Player #2 be the stronger of the two players!)
   4) Both players must end up on the side of the creek opposite the campground and Player #2 must make sure Player #1 is alive as well as convince him/her that the water is not warmer than the cold wind and it is necessary to navigate on foot to safety.
    5) Both players must then search the unfamiliar area for some uphill path or road that might possibly end up in the campground - where there is a nice warm trailer waiting! (Hint: Walking as fast as you can does not make you any warmer, so odds of winning are best if there is a third participant who can stuff Players #1  & #2 into a truck and drive them back to the campground.)

To Win The Game:
   1)  Both players must survive the "game" and together must acquire hypothermia,  plus a random combination of big bruises, scrapes, several twisted knees, a minimum of one cracked bone and multiple head bruises with at least one concussion. Both players must also get warm and dry within 6 hours.
   2) Both players must also recover enough to visit several more places in eastern WA , then drive home.  Later they must also take two month-long trips to the Oregon coast before the end of October and at least one trip must involve lots of hiking and long beach walks.

    Bonus points:
        The score is doubled if Player #2 actually takes a picture of Player #1 falling and somehow saves not only the camera but also the film.  No one has as yet qualified for these bonus points......

                      
                                               FIT A CAR IN THE GARAGE        

To Play the Game:
    1) Decide to put your money where your energy-conservation-mouth is and buy a Toyota Prius.
    2) Actually find a Prius that someone didn't purchase 15 minutes before you got there.
    3) Manipulate the locations of your "treasured possessions" so that the car can fit in the garage and do so in a manner that allows all passengers to enter and exit the vehicle.
   4) Move the 90 % of the "treasured possessions" you cannot part with to the extra bedroom.

5) Spend a lot of the next 6 months on long trips along the Oregon coast and don't dispose of anything.
 6) When it's time for the annual December migration of Kim (from Eugene OR) and Tamara (from Chicago) to Pullman, wait until 3 days before arrival and then check the contents of the extra bedroom.  (Note: Dismay and/or panic commonly occurs at this point....)
   7) Find someplace weatherproof for all the "treasures" which might impede motion, cause bodily injury and/or prove to be too lumpy to sleep on - without overloading any trash containers or donating to thrift stores.

To Win the Game:
    To win it must be possible to fit the car in the garage for at least 8 months.

               Bonus points:
             These are given to players who do not "accidentally" dispose of any of their spouse's treasures  - at least until after the 40th wedding anniversary .  (Think we qualify though I  seem to be missing a box full of 1962 check stubs........)


                                  PUT THE CHRISTMAS DECORATIONS AWAY

    Sorry - this game has suffered some delays in planning and implementation - we hope to introduce it before January 2007......

 

 

2007

                    THE MERRY MILLERS' GOOD NEWS/BAD NEWS FOR 2007

      (Note:   The creative left side of my brain has joined the Writer's Guild in a strike this winter and consequently you will have to make do with more of a reality-TV-type summary of 2007.)    

       GOOD NEWS: We managed 3 month-long trips to the Oregon and Washington coasts in our travel trailer and Marie didn't fall into, off of, or through anything!!!!.   Discovered a great campground and  good birding areas near Kim, so we had a chance to visit her in Eugene, OR, where she is now quite busy as Program Assistant at the Science Factory - a hands-on learning center with science exhibits and programs.
     BAD NEWS: The truck only gets 9 mpg pulling the trailer even with a tail wind and we managed to time our trips for peaks in gasoline prices.  (Translation - we are accepting monetary donations for next year's trips?)

    GOOD NEWS: We finally threw darts at a map of our yard to determine the right locations to plant the dozens of trees and shrubs growing in pots in our greenhouse AND actually stuck them all in the ground!
    BAD NEWS: It was an exceptionally dry summer and fall in eastern WA so we got a bit more exercise keeping them alive in July and August than is  recommended for we "ancients" - and small furry gnawing creatures located the sites in 30 seconds flat.....  (Translation - not all of them survived to see Santa.).

    GOOD NEWS: After 14 years of courtship Tamara and Mark finally decided they were compatible and were married  September 23rd in Chicago in a small ceremony with family and friends. 

     BAD NEWS: It was unusually hot and humid in Chicago - and I'm now sure Daniel Boone didn't wear his coonskin cap in the summer!  (Translation - my hair never grew back and wigs are hot!)

    GOOD NEWS: Tamara and Mark enjoyed a 2 week honeymoon to Lake Tahoe, Yosemite  and the San Francisco area in October and managed to fit in lots of hiking, birding and sight seeing.
    REALLY BAD NEWS: The day after their return to Chicago Tamara was rushed to the emergency room with a massive pulmonary embolism - she had developed deep vein thromboses (blood clots) in her left leg and parts  had broken off and traveled to her lungs, depriving her of oxygen and causing her to pass out and fall against a very hot radiator.  Although the fall resulted in 3rd degree burns to her neck and shoulder area the pain finally roused her enough to dial 911.  She spent November in the hospital on various blood thinners to help dissolve clots and required operations to first put a filter in the vein from her legs so no more clots could get to the lungs and then to have skin graft surgery.  

    REALLY, REALLY  GOOD NEWS!  The doctors said it was OK for Tamara to fly back to Pullman for a week so she and Mark could join Kim here on Millers' Molehill for Christmas.  We had a great Christmas with them and were all delighted and extremely thankful that we could be together.
    BAD NEWS: NONE!  With some rehab for the heat damaged muscles and tendons plus careful monitoring of various blood components Tamara should make a full recovery!

 

 

2008

             HOW THE MERRY MILLERS HAD FUN IN 2008 DESPITE THE RECESSION

1) We didn't plant any new trees or shrubs (well OK, except for a few that would produce something edible....).  However, we did plant the usual vegetable garden so we wouldn't starve this winter.
    Caution:  Fruit on trees may suddenly ripen all at once precisely the day before you leave on a long trip, and most vegetables don't like living in frost pockets - say like on the Merry Millers' Mole Hill....

 2)    We took Amtrak cross-country to Ohio to attend Marie's 50th high school reunion.    Loved the scenery over the 2500 miles and we not only went to my Glenwood Class of 1958 reunion (delightful to rebond with many old classmates and good friends), but also stayed with my sister a few days and managed to see some of her family.  Amtrak travel also meant we could stop in Chicago to visit Mark and Tamara and do lots of fun things with them for a few days.
     Caution:   Since freight trains use the same tracks as Amtrak and the one ahead of you just might be carrying corn and just might tip over in Glacier National Park and just might also cause a day's delay, it's best to leave an extra day for arrival time.....

3) To save even more money on travel we took only 3 RV trips to Marie's beloved Pacific Northwest coast, with 2 of them during spring and fall bird migration seasons to make Don happy.  Camping fees are low then and even if gas is sky high you can minimize the cost per day by staying on the coast as long as possible each trip........
   Caution:  If you are away from home for more than 3 months of the year the "To Do When We Get Back" list gets totally out of hand.

4) We tried once again to do all house and yard maintenance ourselves.  Pruning, mowing and painting the house siding weren't too bad, but repairing our front porch concrete slab required lots of digging and using a 20 ton jack to lift it - repeatedly.  This is perhaps something we will opt not to do again.....
   Caution:  Although concrete rehab is educational, builds muscles and teaches both patience and persistence, it also produces stiff joints and periodic frustration - and requires a recovery period!

5) When our December snow totals set a new  record high we didn't hire a snowplow to clear our long steep driveway.  Instead we invited the whole family for a week at Christmas - and handed each of them a snow shovel as they arrived.  This worked well because they are all young, have strong backs and think strenuous exercise is physical fitness training.....
   NO CAUTION FOR THIS ONE:  Kim and her "good friend" Patrick drove up from Eugene OR to join Tamara and Mark helping us shovel snow,  and Patrick proposed to Kim on Christmas eve!  We are all really delighted to see them so happy together!!!!

                                               
PS: I was going to add that to cut costs I didn't send my cards until January, as I was hoping that USPS would have an after-Christmas sale on stamps.  Alas, that was wishful thinking.....  Next year I'll come up with a better excuse for late cards?

 

 

2009

                         MERRY MILLERS' 2009 MODIFICATIONS OF OLD ADAGES
        
 1) Yes you can beat city hall!  However it takes a lot of work and time - as in 3 months.  A year ago a tiny sign in a snowdrift announced that the city of Pullman was planning to annex the picturesque farm across from us - and zone it  high density residential with the idea of building large housing complexes for WSU students. Once we recovered from a slight case of apoplexy I contacted all our semi-rural neighbors and with mega research by Don on current city regulations and environmental issues we managed to submit a petition to the Pullman planning commission with enough data and signatures to keep the 40 acres zoned only for single family units.

2) The coast is where the soul is - and the migrating birds and neat rocks and shells and...... As soon as last year's Christmas decorations were finally stored away the coast began calling me and the message got to Don by April and May so we saw the OR and WA spring bird migration north, then as a special 20 year cancer survival treat we took an extra long trip in June to see all the OR coast summer birds (and as a bonus Kim and Patrick spent 3 weekends with us), and finally we sneaked west again in September and Oct. for the OR and WA fall bird migration south.

3)  Too many apples spoil the tree.....  As a 43rd anniversary present of sorts, mother nature decided to overload our ancient back yard apple tree with fruit - very heavy fruit....  Consequently, most of the tree ended up on the ground and it took a week to clear 367 lbs of inedible green apples and all the wood off the lawn - very heavy wood....  (Did I mention we're getting older?)

4)  Seeing a bird is worth a thousand descriptions.  This summer we finally found an opthamologist who was confidently willing to do cataract surgery on the only eye I can see out of (most others were leery because the retina had already detached once).  The surgery was in September and it was a fantastic success!  I hadn't seen individual leaves on trees or pelicans over the ocean in years - amazing!!!!  I have almost 20/20 vision for the first time in my life!

5)  Look behind you before you leap back.  I didn't and consequently managed to fall back just like the clock should in autumn, but I was on top of a brush pile and tried to catch myself with my hand and discovered I really do have osteoporosis as I snapped both bones in my right wrist.  The addition of a titanium plate finally lined the bones up and I don't have to wear the splint all the time now.  Alas, I'm out of reasons Don has to do most of the chores.....
                    
6) Cancer, like lightning, can strike twice..... Only bad news this year is that in November we discovered the pain and slight lump on my lower jaw was caused by the same kind of cancer I had 20 years ago, except this time it has spread to the bone.  It is still very localized so in early January a surgeon at Swedish Hospital in Seattle will remove all the affected bone and concoct a new left jaw out of one of my small lower leg bones.  Titanium will hold everything together and healing will be slow, but it looks extremely promising.  It's amazing what they can do now!!!  However, at the rate I'm going I may soon have more fake body parts than real ones?

7) Better late than really late.  Think the cards will be out before New Years this time?  I have the usual excuse that everyone came home for a week or so and the 6 of us were too busy talking to even address the cards.  Hope everyone enjoyed the holidays and that 2010 is a good year!

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