Category Archives: family

A Plum Day

The kindness of a stranger can make the difference between a totally rotten day and a tolerable one with pleasant overtones… A “Plum” Day.

plumsThis morning after mowing the lawn, I was fixing or breaking my edger (depending on whether you consider my intentions or the results) when my phone rang.  Danae was driving to Charlotte from Orlando, FL after a week of Music Therapy training.  When she got to Savannah, GA (well… almost) she stopped for a bite to eat.  When she exited I-95 the engine cut off and wouldn’t restart.  Google and I helped her find a place that would look at it today. She was towed in and the news was not hopeful.  It looks like the timing belt broke, which could be very expensive to fix.

I drove from Charlotte to get her and bring her to our house where her baby girl and dogs were waiting… in fact we are on the road as I type this (Danae is driving). I was very concerned about where she would be for the 4.5 hours it would take me to drive to her.

When the repair shop closed, she walked down the street to a little sandwich shop and made herself at home.  She didn’t know what to expect.  It was, after all, a local place hidden in the back of a little shopping center.  What she found was a gracious store manager named Michael who treated her like royalty all afternoon.

On my way down, I-26 (or as Danae says, “I-twenty-sux) was a parking lot.  I took a longer route around the traffic, which was faster than sitting in it, but slower than I anticipated.  It was clear that I was not going to make it before the restaurant closed at 7:00.

Michael told her not to worry.  Even if he had to close the restaurant for the evening, he would let Danae stay there until I arrived. When I got there around 7:20, Danae was safe and sound and full of terrific stories from her adventure at Plums Ice Cream and Sandwich Shop. Michael was a wonderful host who gave my daughter a safe and pleasant experience in the midst of a pretty horrible day.

I have three little requests for you to consider…

First: I would like to overwhelm Plums Ice Cream and Sandwich Shop with Facebook Fans.  If you are thankful and/or impressed with what they did for Danae, would you go to their page (click here) and click the button to join them?  They had 92 members before me.  Wouldn’t it be cool for their kindness to be the start of a wave of positive attention and new customers for them?  Let’s do it!

Second: Would you share this story with your friends and ask them to become a fan of Plums?

Lastly: If you find yourself traveling south of Savannah in the area called Richmond Hill, please get off I-95 at exit 87, head East on Hwy 17 for a little over a mile.  They are hidden in the shopping center right behind the Verizon store on your right.  Stop in for a sandwich or the best blueberry cheesecake ice cream you ever had.  Tell Michael, “Thanks for watching over Danae and making her day a Plum day.”

See also A Plum Ending

Listening is expensive

listenIf talk is cheap, listening is expensive.  I love to listen to heartfelt stories especially from people I love.  There’s one whose heart I love hearing above all and that is my sweetie.  Tonight, she needed to vent about some things and she gently let me know was what was coming.  Her setup helped me to listen the way she wanted to be heard.

When we want help, we want the listener to listen for understanding.  We want solutions.  However, when we want to vent, solutions is exactly what we do not want.  We want to be listened to just for understanding.  It’s a subtle difference, but it is the difference between the speaker getting what they want or not.  If the speaker owns the topic and doesn’t get what they want, the whole experience is frustrating and irritating.  When it works though, it is magical.  There is nothing quite like the feeling you get when someone focuses on you and truly listens for understanding.

Listening is expensive because it is hard work (hard emotional work) and because it is rare. One last thought.  If you want me to listen for understanding, do what Jeanie did.  Tell me what you want and, who knows, you might just get it.

Thanks Sweetie.  It is an honor to hear your heart.

A New Year, A New Collage

The new year has snuck up on me and it is time for the annual news of the Anderson family. You may not know, but this is the very reason I started this web site. It began in 2000 as a way to use the web to begin to communicate Christmas greetings to our family and friends. It has since morphed into a tradition. A couple of years ago, I mentioned that I wasn’t going to do it anymore.  I was informed in no uncertain terms that I had to do it.

As much as I chafe over doing something because I “have to”, I must admit that I do like it… especially creating the collage.  The process of going through photos and remembering all that we have done over the last 12 months is cathartic.  It is easy for someone like me to forget and begin to think that my life does not matter.  Remembering and reflecting becomes more important to me all the time… or maybe it is just my awareness of its importance.

I hope you will take a few moments to read the 2009 Anderson Family News and take a look at the 2009 Collage.  You can always view collages and news pages from previous years by clicking the Family News menu on the web site

One Year Ago

Molly Pops LoveJust a year ago today my life changed forever when Molly Nicole Ogren entered and made me a grandpa.  Now all my relations are referred to by their relationship to Molly; Jeanie is “Gran”, Danae is “Molly’s Mom” etc.

I knew I was going to love being a grandpa, but I didn’t know why.  It’s hard to explain, but kinda like this…

  • First I grew up.  I wasn’t really aware of what was going on because it was the first time I’d ever grown up.
  • Next, I had kids of my own and I got to grow up again.  While I observed the things they were going through, I remembered similar experiences I had.  I wasn’t really trying to live my life through them, but it sorta happened that way when their stuff reminded me of my stuff.
  • Now as the grandpa, I get to do it again.  Only this time I am not primarily responsible for this one.  When I am with her I can just love up on her and study her.  I love watching  her learn.

The interesting thing is that I change each time I go through this process.  I think it is interesting how as parents we tended to worry about how our actions would affect our children.  What we missed in the process is how they were changing us.  I’m not the same person I was when any of my children were a year old.  Molly is already working her magic on me.  Giving me a whole new outlook on life.

Last time I was with her was Thanksgiving weekend.  Over and over, I went through the routine of placing my hand on my chest and saying, “Pops”.  Then I put my hand on her chest and said, “Molly”.  After a few times, she put her hand on my chest and a couple of times she actually said, “Pops!”  Danae said that she had to mop me up off the floor when I melted.

Here are some recent photos for fans:

2009-11-30 Thanksgiving

A Quarter Century of Erin

Erin swingingTwenty five years ago today I had an important meeting with the owners of Fox Music House.  They were rescuing me from my failed business and hiring me all at the same time.  We had a meeting scheduled to sign all the papers that morning.  As luck would have it, Jeanie was in labor, but we knew it would be hours before she delivered.  We had been through this “birthing thing” twice before, so we were experts.

We called the doctor to tell them she was in labor and I went to my meeting.  Afterwards, I picked up Jeanie and we headed to the doctor’s office.  They were beside themselves with worry by the time we arrived causing us to wonder if they’d ever done this before <just kidding>…<sort of>.  By the time we had gotten to the hospital we found out that Jeanie’s dad, Vic, had canceled the classes he was teaching, come to the hospital, waited and left!  Everyone was in a panic except Jeanie, Jim and (soon to be) Erin.  Needless to say, Erin was born later.

She was a dissatisfied little girl.  She wanted to do what her sisters were doing and was not happy to be younger and less able.  Maybe that drive helped her to achieve so much.  I remember watching her play with wooden blocks and legos.  She would make bridges and it seemed to me that she had an innate understanding of what it took to make them strong.  Maybe it’s just because I was her dad, but I was impressed.

When she was about the age she was in the photo above, Erin loved to hang out around me in the morning to watch me shave.  I would scoop off a dab of shaving cream and put it on her cheek, which pleased her to no end!  She’d run off through the house squealing with delight.  I do miss those little slices of life.

She shares my love of astronomy.  When she was in high school, she did a project with the head of the Physics dept at the College of Charleston.  If I remember correctly, her project was to map the moons of Jupiter.  It required the use of my telescope, which is rather cumbersome to move around.  Since I was commuting from Charleston to Charlotte to work that year, I wasn’t around during the week to help her set it up.  I wanted so much to be around to help her with it, but I taught her how to setup the telescope and she did it all by herself.  I guess that’s the part of letting go that’s hard for a dad… but it’s good.  She and Justin just returned from a vacation in Hawaii where they got to see the big telescopes.  When she told me how cool it was, I was so jealous.

Erin as GollumOne night when she was 16 years old, she asked me to tuck her into bed and tell her a story.  I guess she was feeling nostalgic for when she was little.  No matter what the reason, I was happy to relive some of those fun memories of the tucking in ritual.  That night, I made up a bedtime story on the spot, just like the old days.  The next night she repeated the same request, “tell me a story and tuck me in.”  This continued for a week or more until one fateful night.  As much as I loved the attention and getting special time with her, I asked if I could just read something since I just didn’t have the energy to make up a story.  She agreed.

I looked on her bookshelf and saw The Hobbit.  I asked her if she had ever read it.  She hadn’t.  So we started reading it.  We continued every night until we finished it weeks later.  At the end of The Hobbit, we continued with the Lord of the Rings.  We were almost done with the first of the three books when Peter Jackson announced his epic project to bring the Lord of the Rings to the big screen.  Needless to say, we were beside ourselves.

In her senior year of high school, she won an award for playing the part of Gollum in the school theater department’s production of The Hobbit.  (The photo is of her with her award beside herself in costume).  She looked really creepy.  When the Lord of the Rings movies came out, the two of us went in costume! (Hers was way cooler than mine).

Erin has always had a sensitive heart.  I can remember once when Erin was a teenager, I was in a bad mood and snapped at Jeanie.  Erin said in a matter-of-fact way that what I said was mean.  I immediately knew that she had nailed me, but she made it easy for me to acknowledge what I did because she was so respectful in the way she said it.  Now that she’s in grad school at Berkeley, she focuses a lot of her energy into getting girls interested in science.  She’s passionate about bringing a better representation from the “other half” of the population into the scientific community.  I think that is so cool.

Erin, you are so easy to love.  I am so very glad that I get to be your dad.  Have a very happy birthday.  I love you.

P. S. This is a video Erin made recently with her new ukulele from Hawaii.  Be sure and watch until the end… it’s special.


Family Vacation

We’ve been back for almost three weeks and it’s just a little bit late to be posting stuff about our vacation, but we had such a wonderful time, it would be a shame to go without chronicling it. For those of you who follow me on Twitter and Facebook, you already saw what we were up to in real time.  You already know we traveled there on July 4th and about our trip to Pacifica where we ate Gorilla Barbecue (made with real gorillas-NOT).  You already know about the fireworks in Berkeley and brunch with the Summers at Berkeley’s first “green” café.  You know that as much as I love my new grand-dog, she stinks when she rolls in another dog’s poo!  And the blackberry picking trip and the Eucalyptus trees… and that was all before Molly arrived (with her parents of course)!

It was a terrific visit.  It was so good to get away from the busy-ness of life and just relax.  Berkeley itself is such a great place to visit.  In some ways it’s like stepping back to another time for me.  It’s a walking friendly city and not so friendly for driving.  Erin & Justin live just a couple of blocks from UC, downtown and the BART.  I absolutely loved walking around town.  Jeanie and I enjoyed brunch at a little cafe one morning where Handel’s Water Music reminded us to relax, we were on vacation.  We strolled through shops and bookstores. Such a relaxing, fun time.

I read a whole book! It felt so good to read a fairly sizable book in a week. Galileo’s Daughter was a stirring account of Galileo’s life including much about his run-in with the Church, but also about his relationship with his family–especially his oldest daughter, (many of her letters to her father still exist).  The story of his life, the scientific and historical setting was fascinating.  The stirring came from my own experience and how his story reminded me of my own.  I’m finding that the importance of reading for me is not so much from the “lessons” I learn from others, but from the stirrings I feel and explore based on the reading.  Galileo’s experience was tremendously important in history, but it is history.  I am alive today and I’m no Galileo.  I don’t want to be Galileo, but his story stirs me in many ways.  Those stirrings are about the way I am “wired up”.  The more I explore and reflect on those stirrings, the better I’ll understand who God has made me to be.  (The phrase I just wrote rubbed me the wrong way, so much so that I almost re-worded it.  I made it sounds like it’s all past tense.  As if the work of creation is done and my role is merely to figure out the puzzle that is me.  I believe that I am uniquely equipped to be the best Jim Anderson I can be.  The more I understand who I am, the more effective I will be.  But at the same time, I’m still a work in progress.  I’m still being influenced every day by the world I live in.  I still have a lot of growing up to do.

When the Ogrens arrived we did some touristy things like visiting the sea lions at Pier 39 and driving up to Muir Woods and the Marin Headlands.  Mark’s brother Jake and his new bride, Ashley joined them and they headed to Napa Valley for a day trip. While they were gone, Erin and Jeanie went off to get their toes done and Justin and I walked around town.  I talked about my stirrings from the book and Justin shared some of his thoughts.  I felt like the two of us connected on a whole new level, which I enjoyed tremendously.

Molly was a real princess.  We had so much fun watching her grow.  She has just learned to clap.  Danae said she was imitating us because we would clap and call out, “Yeah… Molly!” which made her clap.  Actually, what I think she was learning was manipulation.  She learned that by merely touching her hands together, she could turn these big people into silly clowns.  She enjoyed her first carousel ride and her first swing on the playground.  If they gave out awards for best traveling baby, she would have won hands down.  Be sure to check out the photo of her sleeping on the plane in the slide show!

I think all of us would agree that this was just about a perfect trip.  The weather was cool and sunny and the dispositions were mostly cheery.  We spent a little more money than we intended, but that’s to be expected on a vacation.  I hope you enjoy the photo slide show below.  It was so hard to narrow down the hundreds of great photos to a somewhat manageable size, but it was worth it.

Twenty Eight Years of Danae

It’s kinda fun to hear my kids talk about how they feel so old.  Imagine how old I must be if my baby is 28 years old!  Danae was the one who first called me Daddy.  When I think of her as a little girl, so many little stories pop into my mind.  One evening carrying her on my shoulders when she was just about 2 years old, she said, “I see the moon.  I find the moon!”  It’s one of those things that I remember fondly, but I could never in a million years explain why.  If you don’t get it, just roll your eyes and move along.

One of my favorite Danae stories was when she was about 5 or 6.  I was looking closely into her face and scolding her about something.  Our eyes were locked so I could sense that she was experiencing the fear and respect I desired.  After a minute or so of fussing, she just crossed her eyes.  She was no more listening to me than the man in the moon.  I burst out laughing and asked her how in the world I was supposed to be upset with her when she did things like that.  Jeanie and I struggled with how to punish Danae.  She didn’t mind at all when we sent her to her room.  We could put her in time-out on her bed by herself with no books or toys and she would be just fine with it.  It was not at all unpleasant for her.  She had (and still has) such an active imagination!

Danae has been such a joy in my life.  She and I share so much in common that it is scary sometimes.  Not too long ago, we were riding in her car and she played a piece of music for me from the movie, Hook.  She was pointing out some complex harmonic elements and how they reminded her of something.  I understood her and I heard it too.  Then I heard something in the music that reminded me of Stravinsky.  When I said so, she heard it too.  I don’t know that we had ever connected so completely about music as we did that day.

My role in Danae’s life has grown from being her “daddy” to her friend and coach. I love it when she calls to tell me what’s going on, to ask for my advice or just to vent about something.  Now that she’s the mom of my granddaughter (did you think I could write a blog about Danae without mentioning Molly), and such a terrific mom!  It just gets better and better.

Happy Birthday Danae.  I love you so much. I am so very glad that I get to be your dad.

31 Years

I am connected to so many varied circles of people and it occurs to me that most of them only know that part of me that connects me to them.  My neighbors know me as the guy with the near perfect lawn (sure).  My church friends know me as the irritating guy that won’t stop asking questions.  My musician friends know me as the guy who hardly plays anymore.  My work friends know me as the guy who gets things done at work (or not 🙂 ).  My running buddies know me as the slow old man.  Drew knows me as the webmaster (see Danny’s Ride).  My kids know me as their flawed dad who loves them dearly.

But there’s one who knows me better than anyone else. She’s the one who puts up with me when I’m in a bad mood.  She tolerates my musical taste.  She listens to me whether I’m dreaming up one of my crazy schemes or overwhelmed with the problems  of life.  She laughs at my jokes (sometimes).  She knows my vulnerabilities and my hot buttons.  She not only knows I am broken but knows how broken I am, and she loves me in spite of it all.

I was moved to tears last Saturday as I read these words of Ruth Bell Graham (wife of Billy Graham) writing about her 64 years of marriage…

“We have often said that we would not choose to go back to some of the early days of our marriage. Too often, early love is a mirage built on daydreams. Love deepens with understanding, and varying viewpoints expand and challenge one another. So many things improve with age. Those who abandon ship the first time it enters a storm miss the calm beyond. And the rougher the storms weathered together, the deeper and stronger real love grows.”

Thirty one years is not nearly long enough.  I’m thinking we should give it 31 more, just to see if we are compatible.  What do you think, Sweetie?