You’re Wright We’re Todds – Family Reunion – 1982 Gridley, CA

Grandma Arlene with her little helpers...



Grandma Arlene with her little helpers...

Grandma Arlene with her little helpers…

My Grandma,  Arlene Todd is the second oldest daughter of 9 children born to Renna & James Wright.  Every couple of years, for as long as I can remember (up to fairly recent years) she & her sisters each held a Wright Family Reunion, getting all of the families together.  Sometimes it would be back in Arkansas where they were all raised, and I remember going once to Oregon where a couple of the sisters lived.  Grandma didn’t always get to go, but most of the time she made a huge effort to leave the flower shop in the hands of my mother or other wonderful staff member and she was off!

The In-laws

The In-laws


The Outlaws...

The Outlaws… also know as Grandma and her siblings…

In 1982, it was finally time for the reunion to be held at Grandma’s house in Gridley, California.  We kids were all beside ourselves with excitement… not only were the cousins coming, but extra kids and family members!  Now, if any of you remember my grandfather Bob, he was what you would call a pack rat… well, today we might say hoarder.  Nevertheless, his ‘collections’ were what made exploring out at the farm an ideal paradise for children.   Around every corner a new mystery awaited us as we climbed over old truck beds, under tractor pieces, and through broken peach bins.  Well, I heard many a grumble as many of Grandpa Bob’s ‘collections’ were moved, shuffled or hauled away to clean up the place for visitors!

Mom looking fabulous beside the sign that she painted.

Mom looking fabulous beside the sign that she painted.

Since our family lived nearby, of course we jumped in helping out.  My mom wanted to paint a sign marking the long driveway down to the house, so we racked our brains about what to put on that sign…  we tend to go big in our family, no small paper sign would do!  Mom, found some great old cowboy cartoons that she wanted to incorporate and I remember coming up with the slogan ‘You’re Wright, We’re Todds’.  She easily whipped up our large sign and no doubt Dad & Grandpa Bob hung it up out at the road.

Family hanging out that hot summer weekend...

Family hanging out that hot summer weekend…

 Grandma made arrangements to have some friends trailers brought in to house family that flew in.  I specifically remember her borrowing a camp trailer from Bob & Sandra Waller, some local friends from around the corner here in the Manzanita area.  Many family members brought their own trailers, and it looked like a small trailer park when everyone finally arrived!  Hay bales were brought in to sit on, and tables and chairs from grandma’s church were set up.

Waiting for the outhouse...

Waiting for the outhouse…

I’m not really sure how this tradition began, but Grandma insisted that we needed an outhouse so a couple were built between the house and the barn.  That was a big joke, and many photos were taken by that obligatory outhouse!

Grandma Arlene & Grandpa Bob

Grandma Arlene & Grandpa Bob

More congregating...

More congregating…

I remember loving to listen to the siblings talk… each in their own adorable cadence of accents.  It was so soothing and frankly amusing in my 11 year old mind.  In the evenings they would all gather together and sing in the same fashion that their parents taught them as children, splitting into parts.  Grandma played the old green piano in the living room, some family standing around her, some sitting.  They sang songs that they learned as children, and the old hymns that never get old.  I attempted to read the music and join in, but I never quite got the hang of singing with them.  They had been doing it for their entire lives and it was second nature to them.

The girls...

The girls…  I love James peeking in!

The cousins arrived as usual, and we were a force to be reckoned with…  there are 8 of us used to running wild during the summer visits, but when you add in all of the bonus kids, well it was complete chaos.  Granted most of the new kids were much younger and immature, practically babies in our eyes, and didn’t warrant very much of our attention.  Those of them old enough to participate in our night time hide & seek, and other daily rituals were allowed to participate, and the others we begrudgingly let tag along or no doubt we would get in trouble from our parents.  We were filthy.  We were at full speed.  We were completely content.


Blurry boys on prune bins...

I’m really sad that this is blurry… it captures visiting cousin Mark showing off his guns alongside the regulars…

Loaded up and heading down the driveway to the candy store!

Loaded up and heading down the driveway to the candy store!

Grandpa Bob made sure that we all got to ride in his old tan pick-up truck to the Candy store…  Granted any kid on a bike could pass grandpa at the speed that he drove, but babies tended to roam in the truck bed so they were moved to the front.  Seatbelts were shared, two or three kids per belt.  It was a mile up to the little Manzanita store and back.  Talk about making memories… this was the epitome of childhood joy.

BBQ - where the men gathered...

BBQ – where the men gathered… Nice stache Dad!

A large barbeque was built where the men took turns adding wood, and turning the meat.  They talked about the ‘olden days’ and what was to come.  Looking back at the photos I see a lot of short shorts, plaid shirts & tube socks supervising that fire next to the mimosa tree. 

The masses have arrived...

The masses have arrived…

Calvary Baptist Church

Calvary Baptist Church

Grandma has always been a faithful member of the Calvary Baptist Church in Gridley and on Sunday we all dressed up and attended church with her.  This is a tradition that each visitor has done for as long as I can remember.  I’m pretty sure that church was at full capacity that weekend.  I do remember enjoying listening to them all sing together… and not understanding why Grandma didn’t just sing the melody?  I’m pretty sure that my kids wonder the same thing about me when I sing alto at church!  They will understand one of these days.

The cousins with their parents...  we don't look especially happy!

The cousins with their parents… we don’t look especially happy! Notice our dirty little clothes… he he he…

To this day, when gathered, family members continue to talk about that summer reunion back in ’82…  I think probably because we had such a wonderful turn out!  

In 2007, my husband and I thought that it would be great fun to head out to Arkansas for the reunion to be held that summer…  it was quite a road trip!  We arrived in Mount Ida, Arkansas and fell in love with the beauty of the area!  They had a Dairyette, just like our Gridley Ice Burgie, so we felt right at home!  Grandma flew out to meet us with my aunt and cousin, some other relatives drove down from Ohio, and several family members still lived in the same town!

Game time on the lawn...

Game time on the lawn…

We got to hang out, play games, and eat at yummy restaurants that served biscuits with chocolate gravy!  A lot like when we were kids… but not quite as dirty!

The boys quickly went to work getting dirty!

The boys quickly went to work getting dirty!

I think that it’s pretty incredible some of the traditions that we’ve managed to continue for the past half century… definitely a testament to the commitment to family, near and far. 

Playing in the creek with their new cousins!

My boys playing in the creek with their new cousins!


Sitting around talking...

Sitting around talking…


Grandma with her sister...

Grandma with her sister…

 Now, conveniently, Mike’s family is from a town, quite near where we went… it’s called Waldron, Arkansas, and as we headed back to California we had to make an early morning stop by the sign announcing the town of his father’s family.

Waldron, Arkansas

Waldron, Arkansas



Summertime Memories

One of my cousins shared this pic with me shortly after I wrote this piece...  this would be me (top center) my brothers, and the cousins from the south, all waiting in the back of the tan farm truck where we would ride up to the candy store.

I recently received one of those wonderful junk e-mails about getting to know your friends. You know the one… where you list your favorite soda pop, movie, eye color, etc. etc.  Well this one in particular asked you to list your favorite childhood memory. Now, I have issues (and which of us does not?),  I cannot retain certain memories for very long.  If you give me a start with a couple of details then I can run with it, but to just pop up with a memory, I will just look at you with a blank stare. Pathetic but true. This particular question, however, I did not delay in my response and knew immediately which of my memories would top out all of the others…

Summertime with the cousins.

My grandparents lived on a farm. They raised Berkshire hogs (Grandma says that they weren’t Berkshire but I clearly remember a hat that said ‘Todd Berkshires’ and this is my recollection so I’m standing firm on this one!), and grew peach & prune trees on several acres in the Manzanita area. Each year my cousins from the north, Gerald, Melissa & James, and the cousins from the south Becki & KC would come to visit with their parents. Now I don’t remember if B&K’s parents did this but GM&J’s parents stopped at the road, kicked my darling cousins out and encouraged them to run down the long driveway to Grandma & Grandpa’s green house {remember the matching green piano cousins?}. The arrival of the cousins meant that we would have constant playmates… to run barefooted in the freshly made checks (small mounds made to keep irrigation water in-check and not running everywhere), to share in the gorging of ourselves in the ripe peaches, to pick blackberries for yummy cobblers, or to climb in the broken overloaded prune branches that littered the field (and as many times as they said that the prunes would give us a tummy ache… they never did – crazy parents).  Boy, those were the days…

At night we would play hide and seek in the peach field, screaming and running like little filthy heathens to base. I remember finding an old cow trough out in the barn that we tried to fill and make into a swimming pool, not caring that it was full of cracks and only a couple of feet deep… it was PERFECT at the time. There was a chicken coop under a fig tree, where the chickens laid blue-green eggs and we would race out to see what we could find each day. The pigs were another story… the flies were so bad that they covered the barn walls, and there was a manure ditch for the waste that sort of flowed into the ditch out back… Occasionally a visitor would come for a pig and Grandpa would go out and shoot one so that they could cook it for their celebration. We weren’t supposed to go out there, but we went into stealth mode (as much as several giggling kids can) sneaking close and could hear everything. You had to be careful of the electric fences (and yes, if you touch it with a weed, it WILL shock you), and Aunt Tanya’s drink called Green Lightening, or something like that… whatever it was… it was STRONG stuff and to be avoided (I’m sure that the adults loved it, but my unpolished palate did not… sorry Tanya).

We fit so much into the short time that we visited that I’m frankly shocked that I remember so much! One of the things we did with Grandpa Bob was to go to the Candy Store (which technically was not a Candy Store but a tiny country store around the corner)… He would have us all load up into the back of his old tan truck (In those days kids always piled into the truck bed, what were our parents thinking?) and he’d drive one mile down the road to the Manzanita Market where we would pick out a candy each, and sometimes even get a soda, then we would drive all the way back to the farm. There we would either find a tree to play under or go inside the house to lay on one of Grandma Arlene’s vinyl couches (you got to choose the red or the tan one) in front of the air conditioner. There was an old zenith tv to watch, with a lovely star shaped clock above it right out of the 50’s-60’s. Those were the days!

I love that we built our home next door to that old farm, which holds so many memories for me… Sometimes, in the evenings those wonderful smells of the summer bring me right back to that place in time when life was so blissfully innocent. I think that it’s rather comforting that my children, and my nieces and nephews are able to share now in creating their own memories on the same plot of land, enjoying the same smells of summer in their own way that are sure to be remembered for a lifetime. They run around barefoot, like we did, play hide & seek, like we did and they occasionally get a trip to the Candy Store too! I guess moments like these are timeless! Thank you to whoever sent me that junk e-mail… I needed to take a minute to ponder the past. If any of you cousins have any photos of our adorable selves, send me a copy… I can’t find any good ones!

One of my cousins shared this pic with me shortly after I wrote this piece...  this would be me (top center) my brothers, and the cousins from the south, all waiting in the back of the tan farm truck where we would ride up to the candy store.

One of my cousins shared this pic with me shortly after I wrote this piece… this would be me (top center) my brothers, and the cousins from the south, all waiting in the back of the tan farm truck where we would ride up to the candy store.

This is our candy store about 30 years later.  The owners have done and incredible makeover and this was our first trip to check it out!  I remember that my mom and I had just left the local county fair in 100+ temperatures so please ignore my dumpy hat and pose.  Mom always looks good.  Hate that about her... LOL!

This is our candy store about 30 years later. The owners have done an incredible makeover and this was our first trip to in check it out! I remember that my mom and I had just left the local county fair in 100+ temperatures (blah) so please ignore my dumpy hat and pose. Mom always looks good. Hate that about her… LOL!


My mom just found this pic in my grandmother's albums...  my brother & cousin enjoying our pool.  Love it!

My mom just found this pic in my grandmother’s albums… my brother & cousin enjoying our pool. Love it!


Originally written: Friday, August 29, 2008

Wordless Wednesday – Grandma

grandma the arbitrary swoon

grandma the arbitrary swoon

Wordless Wednesday – Rock the Easter Pic



Roadtrip!!!! circa 2008

bison close

Friday, June 20, 2008

On the Road Again…


Last summer we decided to take a road trip to a family reunion in Mount Ida Arkansas, my father’s birthplace. We were excited about getting out on the road, hitting all of the normal highway hot spots. I had planned it all out… we would stop at the Grand Canyon, 4 corners, Cadillac ranch, then hang out at with some friends who had just moved to Texas, and eventually we’d make it to the little cabin in which we were to stay nestled in the Ouachita Mountains. It was a wonderful trip, although I didn’t enjoy sitting in the truck for 10 hours at a time on a few occasions. We managed to touch 12 states in less than two weeks. I took hundreds of photos {none of which have actually been printed out yet}, and relished in the fact that my children were experiencing a once in a lifetime adventure that few children get to participate.
Now fast forward one year… it’s the spring of 2008 and we hear that our brother-n-law Bryan is going to participate in another Iron Man competition in Coeur d’Alene Idaho. Mike & I think, “Fabulous! Another Road Trip!”. I proceed to get on the internet and check out everything from here to there, research all of the places to visit. I order brochures, travel dvd’s and get on mailing lists hoping to hear about the latest and greatest places to stop. I finally narrow things down… we will leave early, stop in Quincy Washington to visit relatives, hit Coeur d’Alene for a few days, and then… since we are in the area we might as well head over to Yellowstone to see all of the natural wonders in that part of the world, and then… you know, since we are already in the area a short jaunt over to South Dakota to see Mount Rushmore was not really out of the question… so of course I booked it!
Now… last summer we traveled light… just the truck and the family. This summer… things would be different… we had bought a HUGE 31 foot camp trailer so instead of reserving at a cushy hotel that left us chocolates on our pillows we were looking at RV Resorts {as they are called now – apparently no one calls them RV parks anymore… la dee dah!}. I have come to find out RV Resorts are no small business… not only do they all have pools, internet & cable tv, but some of them even have huge waterslides to attract families {we plan on frequenting one of them in South Dakota in a few days… it was my obligation as a good mother to let my children try one out}. Anyway, things were also going to be different this year because of an addition to the family, our keeshond puppy Shasta was going to be coming along.
In my mind I had everything worked out, how fun it would all be… an opportunity for the entire family to see all of the incredible sights of the north western states… I had however forgotten one little detail that seemed quite small at the time but turned out to be quite large as our vacation plans proceeded… it turns out that my children don’t like road trips. It apparently ruins their summer vacation. {gasp} At this point in their lives they have no interest driving for hours at a time to stop for 5 minutes at a roadside attraction and then drive on… What in the world was wrong with them? Why… those… little ungrateful turkeys! Didn’t they have any idea how lucky they were that their parents wanted to travel with them and that we could afford gazillion dollars per gallon fuel prices. I apparently had failed as a parent creating two boys that could care less that Old Faithful was going to blow every 90 minutes! I quickly got over my anguish of a doomed trip and decided they were going and they would like it! They would surely appreciate all of our attempts at exposing them to new and interesting sights in the future… much later in the future, like perhaps when they have their own children, but nevertheless that day will eventually come. And then… I will bask in the glory of the unwanted road trip that we forced them to go on.
Now fast forward a bit more to this very morning… I sit here in a lovely RV resort, on the banks of the Coeur d’Alene lake (I didn’t think to research what it’s name was!), typing on our laptop, internet signal strong, listening to the sounds of camp around me. The boys & Mike are asleep… the dog finally is back to sleep… but not me. The sun apparently comes up at around 4:30 in the morning this far north and my little internal clock says that it’s time to wake when the world gets light. So for… oh… about 4 days in a row, I’ve waken up early to take the dog out (his internal clock gets up with the sun too), and haven’t been able to get back to sleep. I WILL enjoy this trip though… sleep deprived and a bit grumpy… my back hurts from the crummy trailer bed, and my feet hurt from living in flip flops for the past week. I will go on… because heaven forbid I go over to the dark side with my children and join the ‘ANTI-ROAD TRIP’ club. Send me “happy” thoughts & prayers.
Another note… I have always prided in my ability to take great photos… I don’t think about it I just see it and take it. Apparently my gift is fading because I have not taken a single great photo in the few days that we have been on the road! I have had more beautifully scenery around me within these few days than I have … well since our last road trip! Surely it’s the camera getting old. I’ll post a few pics though… and promise to make an concentrated effort to resume to my normal fabulous photography today. HA HA HA! The photo at the top of the page is our rig… lucky my husband is a truck driver and can drive it like a breeze…

Vista point in Washington that points out the various mountain peaks
Hayden cares not about lovely mountains… and opts to skate near the street.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Ironman Coeur d’Alene

Well yesterday was the Ironman… an incredible race that requires the participant (around 2200 men & women at this particular event) to swim 2.4 miles (this massive start of the swim is also called the ‘washing machine’, and as you might imagine Bryan was a bit overwhelmed as he started in the second row). He finished the swim in 1:13:04. The photos show the participants in pink & blue caps ready to begin… and then as they progress into the water. Needless to say, we could not find his blue cap in midst of the masses.

After the swim in 59 degree water, the participants run out of the water, change and then grab their bikes and proceed to bike… oh about 112 miles. AHHHHHH.  {Are they crazy?  LOL}

Bryan managed to bike the course in 5:41:02 averagine 19.07 mph. At the end of the bike ride, he was ranked 373 overall (non-professionals), and his division position was 95 (he is in the largest age division) so he did great! After the bike the participants finished the bike ride, they came in, changed and begin the marathon run of 26.2 miles.

Finishing the running portion 4:20:43 he finished the entire race in a total of 11:25:48 ranking 373 and finishing 95 in his division… not bad for a Chico boy. Good job Bryan.

After the race, all the participates go the the recovery station… some need more medical attention than others. This is Mike holding Casey, with Jenny & Bryan (Casey’s parents).

Overall a great day. Here’s a quick family pic…. more photos to come.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Yellowstone… FABULOUS!

Yea! We finally made it to West Yellowstone, Montana! The drive wasn’t so very bad because the scenery in Montana is incredible! So our plan was to spend two days here but we decided to do the entire park in one day… all day today. Thanks to Shasta waking us up early once again, we got an early start, bought our yearly pass to the National Park system and were off like a herd of turtles (as my sister-n-law Lauren likes to say). There were animals everywhere and after awhile I actually stopped taking photos of the bison or buffalo as I would call them because they are around every corner! Here’s a photo of one in particular that decided to pass by our little walkway which completely freaked me out & I was screaming (quietly of course for the fear of the big guy deciding to charge at us just like the park brochure claims they do) at Mike to turn the boys around and he completely ignores my little panic attack and patiently waits for the buffalo to pass and then we proceed like it was some poodle crossing the road. NUTS!

We also saw several wild goats, elk, a couple of black bears, a fox and an eagle in her nest. It was rather incredible! The scenery was so different from one corner of the park to the other! There are miles of lovely grassy pastures, rocky mountains and sadly miles of park that were previously ravaged by a fire… the forest shows new growth but haunting upright trees remain, bleached and dead. The massive cliffs, valleys and rivers varied throughout the entire drive and fun little mineral pools were bubbling up everywhere shooting steam into the sky. The only way things could have been better were if we were in a convertible little car. Check these photos out…


Hayden checks out the topography of a burned out section of the park.

Above are the boys of course posing for the camera with yet another picture perfect view behind them.

We slipped into the Old Faithful parking lot… walked over to where everyone was standing around and not 5 minutes later she blew! Hows that for timing? Here’s a quick pic!

This was Shasta’s favorite spot… typically a cold weather breed (Keeshond), we pulled over to play in the snow while going over the pass & Shasta went nuts! He dug his nose into the snow, and crunched on it like it was the Gridley Burgie crushed ice (locals understand completely). Poor thing, I hate to tell him he’s stuck with summers in the 100’s and winters just cold and wet. In this photo he’s got his eyes on a snowball that Koltin threw up for him to catch.

So I took about 200 photos and feel like we saw as much of the park as one can in one day. We were supposed to stay tomorrow but have gotten the itch to move on and are leaving for Cody, Wyoming in the morning, just for fun. More photos to come!

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Home at last! Home at last!

Yea! We made it home! I lost my computer cord somewhere around Cody, WY, thus the lack of posts. We are so glad that our vacation is over! How sad is that? You hear about folks needing a vacation to recoop from their vacation and that’s where I am right now. It’s taken me all week to get caught up with the business items, i.e. billing, payroll, taxes, bills etc. etc. and my house is getting in order (thanks only to Lorna who helps me clean it). Notice I didn’t mention that our trailer is anywhere near being in order… if the kids can’t find something I just say “Check the trailer” due to the fact that it sits in our drive way in pretty much the same state as it was when we got home on the 3rd… Clothes everywhere, food still in the cabinets, camp equipment lodged in, everything sits waiting for me to have a few moments to unpack. I did however, remove Shasta’s crate and put it in it’s proper place in the laundry room in hopes that once in his old domain the barking and other annoying habits of practice during our trip would eventually fade away. I am happy to say that I was able to sleep in to almost 9 this morning without a peep from him. Thank you Lord!

On the subject of dear Shasta… he did however give me a couple of black eyes and possibly broke my nose this week! Gotta love this dog! Things just keep getting better & better with him! I came home Tuesday night from a meeting at church and immediately set my things down, excitingly asking Shasta if he wanted to go outside… needless to say that he was a bit pumped up at my enthusiastic arrival, he began jumping… and as I leaned over to pick up his leash his head came up under the tip of my nose jamming it into my brain. I’m pretty sure it hit my brain because the pain caused a complete loss of usage, and my only intelligent thought process after hearing a click was to scream “Oh my Gosh” about 6 times (such drama) as I felt my nose swell on both sides. So now I sit, my nose a lovely cast of yellow, swollen, and two dainty little purple smudges under my eyes… Not pretty… And it hurts to laugh or show any facial emotion… It better heal fast because VBS starts next Monday & I will appear a bit spooky onstage singing & dancing looking like I got beat up in a fight. So… I’m almost over it.

Okay so I have a few more photos from our trip… I didn’t mention that my cousin Becky had joined us in Custer, SD… that poor girl witnessed my family in it’s full crankiness and frankly I’m amazed that she didn’t run off in the middle of the night screaming (her bunk was over our barking Shasta… I’m sure only adding to the experience)… I might have if I had a car. Mike kept freaking out over the phone service, Koltin entertained about 200 people at Mt. Rushmore with a fit that lasted the entire hike around the faces… I did enjoy her selfishly… it was wonderful to have another female to talk & shop with! She handled us well. My kids were also impressed with the fact that she jumped right in when it came to taking funny nose picking photos & sliding down the waterslide.

No disrespect to Crazy Horse, but it was fun! The indian photo below was taken in Cody, WY at the Erma Hotel, and of course Hayden spotted a skate park in Custer, SD and had to do ‘his thang’…

I have several more photos but I’m saving them for the Christmas card… ha ha ha!