It's That Time of Year...

When the world falls in love.  Every song you hear, seems to say:  Merry CHRISTmas, may your new year dreams come truuuuuuee...."

I love that song.  The version of it that I have is Robert Goulet and Ann Margaret (you know her, the Mom in "Tommy").  Before we moved 1200 miles from my hometown I recorded a bunch of my favorite CHRISTmas songs from my Mom's albums.  I get the tape out and listen to it over and over (in my ancient mini-van because no one manufactures tape decks anymore), reminiscing about CHRISTmas' past.  I'm eventually going to wear out the tape.  I don't what I will do when that happens.  I did take a precautionary step and found Johnny Mathis' "Merry Christmas" album on CD.  But there are some albums I may never find...

More and more, as I mature physically and especially spiritually, what CHRISTmas means to me has evolved.  I am more aware of our physical separation from our families.  I really don't care about the gift exchanges.  I care more about spending time with our families and friends.  There isn't any gift more important than that.  And the time with our f's and f's is a gift.  I realize that now.  We take for granted that our f's and f's will always be around.  As I see my nieces and nephews grow up from afar, I hate that distance keeps us apart.  We keep up virtually, but it is nowhere near the same as face-to-face.   Cherish the time you have with your loved ones.  I do every chance I get.

John 1:1-5,14
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

14The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.*

This passage from John is more revealing as to God's reason why He joined us here on Earth than any other version of the story of Jesus' birth.  Jesus was sent to shed light on all the darkness in the world, revealing the evil that hides in the darkness.  God knew we had to have living proof of his Glory and Majesty because we are mere humans and have to have living proof to believe.  We are a stubborn, pig-headed lot, arguing with God at every turn.  Kinda reminds me of my 14 year-old daughter.  There is very little she won't contradict.  God calls us His children for good reason!  : )

Perhaps this hasn't been the most cheerful CHRISTmas message, but this is where I am this year.  I wish for you to have a very Merry CHRISTmas-enjoy the time off work and school and most importantly, enjoy your families and friends.  I know I will.  I am excited about seeing our families very soon. 

Many joys and peace to you in 2013.

*Bible  New International Version

The Annual Divorce Ritual

Today was the day for our Annual Divorce Ritual.  It's a very sacred ritual and has been performed every December for the last 19 years.  The ritual didn't go very smoothly this year.  In fact, I would say it didn't really happen at all. 

What, you are wondering, is the Annual Divorce Ritual?  It is the day we get the Christmas tree and attempt to get it in the stand, tall and straight.  In the past, there was a lot of yelling, cursing and crying, resulting in no talking to each other for a couple of hours.  It's pretty ugly. 

I think ADR may be coming to a halt.  Our daughters are big enough to help get the tree in the stand, so it is no longer left to just my husband and I.  A tree holder, a sighter and 2 of us screwing in the bolts at the same time makes things go soooo much better.  I say it may be coming to a halt.  I'm fighting for an artificial tree next year...

Cuttin' 'er down...

A GOOD AMERICAN by Alex George

I frequent the new book section in our local library.  I like to find "new" authors this way.  Most of the time, the authors have been around for years and sometimes decades, but I hadn't discovered them just yet.  In this case, Alex George is a new author.  A GOOD AMERICAN is his first foray into novel writing.  Mr. George is a Brit and a lawyer, practicing exactly where you would expect an Oxford educated lawyer to be:  Columbia, Missouri. 

After reading the synopsis of the novel on the front flap and the 2 sentence author bio on the back flap, I wasn't putting this one back on the shelf.  The story begins in the year 1904 all the way overseas in Hanover, Germany.  A young, unwed couple flee to America when the woman's mother discovers (to her dismay and disgust) she is to be a grandparent to a bastard child.  The couple's adventure begins when they find the ship they thought was sailing to New York is, instead, sailing to New Orleans.  With a change in their port of entry comes a change in plans.  In short, they end up in Central Missouri, just as my husband's ancestors did (some of whom also emigrated from Hanover).  Ergo, I had to read this one.

The novel follows this couple as their family expands and their children and grandchildren grow up in small town America.  All of the sadness and confusion as the family travails through life are portrayed in detail.  But, as life really is, not all is gloomy.  The family experiences moments of happiness and success to counter balance the professed bleakness of their lives.

For me, I especially enjoyed reading about small town Missouri.  Although I wasn't born into small town Missouri life, my husband and his parents were.  I spent a lot of time in the region where the fictional town of Beatrice, Missouri was created.  Even though this personal connection to the story made me pick this book to read, sharing A GOOD AMERICAN with you is for the story itself.  Following one immigrant couple and their family as life happens to them, could take place anywhere in the United States.  The struggles and the triumphs are common, but Mr. George presents the story in a distinctive fashion.  He has lived here in the U.S. only since 2003 and yet is still able to render a uniquely American story. 

For more information on A GOOD AMERICAN and Alex George, visit Alex George


Thanksgiving is...
...thanking God for all the blessings He has bestowed upon your life.
...spending a whole day (or extended weekend) with the people you love the most.
...stuffing your belly to near bursting.
...napping on the couch after stuffing your belly to near bursting.
...taking a walk around the neighborhood after the nap you took after stuffing your belly to near bursting.
...watching THE football game.
...leftover turkey, stuffing and cranberry sauce sandwiches.
...for some, wearing out the credit cards at the Black Friday sales that more and more are starting Thanksgiving night.

My Thanksgiving this year (as most) will be spent with the three people I love the most:  my husband and daughters.  I am especially thankful we will have the time together.  My husband has been away more often with his job this year than he has in 7 years.  This time around, he has been gone for 15 days.  I am thankful he is coming home to be with us for the Thanksgiving holiday. 

I am thankful I trusted God enough to allow Him to do His work-I have physical healing that has led to some spiritual healing.  Feeling good physically opened my eyes.  I no longer dwell on the ailments that plagued me for years, allowing me to have a freer mind and soul.

I am thankful for the support I receive from family and friends as I forge on in my spiritual journey. 

I am thankful for the technology that allows me to keep up with my family daily, even though we are over a thousand miles apart (and in one case, over 2,500). 

Whatever Thanksgiving is to you, may it be filled with love and laughter.  Thank you for reading my blog.

I Need Encouragement!!

In the last post, I revealed I had surgery over the summer.  Six weeks post-op, my energy level switch must have been turned up cause I have been like a kid on a sugar high (I am now 20 weeks post-op).  I go, go, go all the day long and then hit a wall at night (sometimes for real-you should see my bruises).  I am a walker (aren't I punny?!).  I used to be a runner but gave that up when we moved to PA.  I don't really remember why, but there it is.  Now, my lungs and knees protest when I make an attempt, so, I walk.  2 or 3 times a week, I walk for about 3 hours on a trail, no matter how cold it is (and thanks to the time of year, temps are dropping-boo hoo).  Other days, I walk in my neighborhood with its killer hills.  I'm walking 30-40 miles a week.  As a result, I have lost over 30 pounds.  As I sit here watching the Cooking Channel, being inundated with shows covering Thanksgiving, delectable desserts, savory sandwiches, etc., I feel my resolve slipping and imagine the pounds adding to my hips and butt.  I can't not watch the cooking shows.  That is pretty much all the TV I watch cause I like to cook.  This is where you come in.  I need your encouragement to keep up with my walking regime over the winter; to get my butt off the couch and unwrap myself from my super warm t-shirt quilt (I need to post a picture) and exercise.  It took 3 years for 20 pounds to pack on (I now weigh less than I did when I was 16-that extra 10 is a bonus) and 4 months to drop 'em.  I've lost the weight and I don't want it back!!! 

Headin' South Part Deux

Have you ever painted cement block?  I can now say I have.  Week 2 of our time in the South was for our church's annual Mission Trip.  A full week of hard work, fellowship and fun!  This was the 4th trip for our family and was no less impactful than the other years we have gone.  This year, God hit me over the head with a 2 x 4.  Thankfully, not literally! 

My older daughter and myself along with 2 other young ladies and one other adult cleaned and painted the exterior of a home. We were safeguarded by 4 dogs the entire time we were there.  They weren't exactly friendly, but after the first day, we were no longer strangers.  Here are a couple of them resting in the shade (that is how they spent most of their time): 

Painting cement block is an interesting feat.  Being porous, it soaks up everything!  There were 2 or 3 coats of paint already on the house prior to our application of a new color.  I was shocked how much it took to achieve a fairly even coat all over the house. 
We had a lot of fun working together.  One of the young ladies entertained us by singing.  It certainly makes the job easier when everyone has a joyful attitude.  

Our Sunday morning worship experience set the stage for the week.  We worshiped with the congregation at Wesley United Methodist Church in Hollywood, S.C.  With drums and a Hammond organ, that church rocks on Sunday morning!  Worshipers sing loud praises to God, making sure He will hear every "Praise be to God!" and plea for mercy on His children.  Last year, one woman was so overcome by the Spirit, she had to be carried out of the sanctuary.  After that kind of experience, how can we not have an attitude of joy and gratitude to God for all that He does?

Sunday afternoon is our time to do whatever we desire.  Some people go to the beach, some to Charleston.  This year, we opted for Charleston.  I have always wanted to get out to Fort Sumter.  In a macabre sense, it holds a special meaning for me.  I was born 110 years to the day after the first shots of the Civil War were fired on Fort Sumter.  The fort actually has quite a history prior to its role in the Civil War and beyond.  If you should ever visit, make sure you go early enough in the day to request an extension of your time on the island.  Otherwise, you are given only an hour to take it all in since you must take a ferry to the island.  It is worth the time to see.

Wednesday was our picnic at Edisto State Park, about 30 minutes from where we were staying in Hollywood.  How many men does it take to start up a gas grill? 

Apparently, 3! 
Just before we were leaving, the Sea Turtle Patrol appeared.  They were there to inventory nests that had already "boiled" or hatched.  All along the beach, the nests had been identified and were roped off to protect them.  When the turtles hatch and leave the nest (which is up to 2 feet below the surface of the beach), it looks like the sand is boiling.  A female Loggerhead can lay around 100 eggs per nest.  Once the nest has boiled, the Patrol inventories to track the number of eggs in the nest and the number hatched.  If a turtle is in the process of hatching and is far enough along, the egg is set aside and the turtle makes its way to the water.  There were 3 turtles ready to head for the ocean-boundaries were set and we watched the turtles make their way.  The rest of the eggs, hatched and unhatched, were put back in the nest after counting.  It was pretty cool to see those little turtles flopping themselves down the beach into the undertow and swim off. 

The week was actually quite tough for me.  Unknown to most of our team, I had abdominal surgery less than 4 weeks before our trip, but I wasn't about to stay home and wish I was with my family and church friends.  The week in Savannah wasn't too bad since I could rest as much as I needed.  I did my best following doctor's orders on the Mission Trip, but if you know me, I don't sit around, especially when there is something to be done.  Those on the team who did know, made sure I wasn't pushing myself too hard.  Even though I survived the week intact, albeit very tired, I don't recommend a big trip so soon after surgery!  Does that mean I will take my own advice if this should happen again?  Of course, not!  I'm too much of a stubborn donkey.

So, I alluded to a revelation at the end of my opening paragraph.  It isn't really a revelation because God wasn't telling me anything new.  It was more of a "WAKE UP!" call.  In a conversation I had with the cousin of the homeowner of the house I was working on,  I realized I have not been trusting God.  God was never even mentioned in this conversation, but He was there.  It took two months for me to even realize God had used that person to talk to me.  The cousin, Rosalynn, had a house fire over four years ago.  She is living with another relative while she waits for her home to be restored.  The house is a mess; one exterior wall is completely gone, exposing the home to the elements and further damage.  Yet, she is confident that her home WILL be repaired and she will live in it once again.  That takes trust-and my first thought upon seeing the house was tear it down and start over.  Four years of rain, cold, damp, wind, animals and insects in and out of the house and she still has faith enough to believe it will be fixed for her.  I don't doubt that her faith is well placed; it does take time for homes on the list for Rural Mission, Inc. (the organization we work through) to get the attention they need as the list is in the hundreds.  I realized that all of the things I have been holding on to as tightly as I can, I need to relinquish and let God do His thing.  I have to trust God to take care of all the things I worry about.  I look back on my life and see how many times He came through for me, even when I wasn't acknowledging His presence in my life.  Why should I not be trusting Him now?  The evidence is there.  He has done wonderful works in my life and brought wonderful people into my life.  2012 has been a good year for me and the 2012 Mission Trip will forever be a reminder of God's love and mercy.

Headin' South!! Part I

Two weeks in the South in the middle of July...not the best time to go if you and summer heat don't get along!  Our first week was spent in Savannah, Georgia.  Our oldest daughter, SAW, was spending a week at SCAD, Savannah College of Art and Design, to take a couple of classes and get a glimpse of what to expect of college.  The rest of us spent time wandering around Savannah, getting to know the city.  Our budding artist had a wonderful time playing college and created some pretty cool artwork.  Here is a sampling: 
Her task was to draw a how-to.  This was in a Sequential Art class.  The other class SAW took was Animation:  Bringing Artwork to Life.  I am not able to show you that sample, but it is pretty cool!  She drew 62 pictures for about 4 seconds of animation.  At this point, she thinks she will major in Sequential Art and hopes to be a storyboard artist/cartoonist.  She is committing to attend SCAD next fall.  Pretty scary sending my first child off to college so far away!  At least it is Savannah, a beautiful, enchanting city.

While she got to know SCAD, my husband, younger daughter, JMW, and I found things to do.  We spent a lot of time walking around Savannah.  Even though we had a full 4 days, I'm sure we did not see even half of the city.  This was not our first trip to Savannah, so we skipped the museums and historical homes in favor of strolling around.  Savannah is not a city to rush through.  When you hurry through, you miss quite a lot.  Sitting on a bench in one of the many squares, watching the tour buses cruise by and the tourists and locals traversing the town on their way to wherever is recommended.  People watching in Savannah was more interesting to me than getting a canned tour in a home turned $20 museum.  Quite interesting. 

The most fun I had was visiting a couple of cemeteries.  The Colonial Park Cemetery in downtown has some unusual tombs.  The most curious thing about the cemetery was the playground just outside the main fence. 

We took a trip out to Savannah's most famous cemetery, the Bonaventure Cemetery.  The rich and famous are buried here.  We saw maybe 1/3 of the cemetery and spent a good hour, hour and a half there.  I took the most pictures here.  Talk about spooky-so many statues and mighty oaks draped in Spanish moss.

In addition to seeking out the dead amongst the living, we ate at some really good restaurants and took a trip out to the Atlantic to look for dolphins.  The food was great and the dolphins performed beautifully.  I'm excited SAW will be going to school in such a wonderful city.  It will make our time apart a little less painful.  And it doesn't hurt that we will have to spend more time there ourselves.  I'm thinking  maybe I'll just move down there with her......

Every Year at this Time

a harsh reality hits me....fall is really here and winter is on the way.  I hate winter.  I hate the cold, I hate the snow and ice, I hate winter clothes, I hate wearing shoes.  The only redeeming quality that winter has is being able to wrap myself up in my t-shirt quilt and lay in front of a roaring fire, dreaming of summer.  Since fall precedes that dastardly winter season, I have a strong dislike for it.  It is only a strong dislike for these reasons: 
How can I hate a season that gives us such scenery?

Colonial Williamsburg is my absolute

favorite place to visit!  We made it there twice already this year and hope to get a quick trip in this fall.  I have been following the saga of the Anderson Blacksmith Shop and Public Armoury for the last couple of years.  It is particularly of interest to me as my Dad was a hobby blacksmith.  It has been fun to watch the project progress from planning to archaeological digs and more planning to the actual reconstruction of the buildings.  I've been following via a blog with web-cam availability.  Check it out here:  Anderson's Public Armoury
The Armoury has a mascot named Eleanor.  She isn't the friendliest kitty; you have to get her in the right mood.  Here she is with Kenneth Schwarz, Master Blacksmith:

 The Armoury is going to be a huge complex with plans for multiple structures on the site.  It was a busy place during the Revolution and had many people working at the complex.  Another important element to the successful quest for liberty by our Founders.

As I wander around this blog,

I see that it has been a year, very nearly to the day, since I have published any musings.  I certainly have had quite a lot over the last year to muse about!  One thing I would like to share with you, my faithful readers, is a new blog I started in June of 2011:  A Girl and Her Grill.  I love grilled food and decided to share recipes, etc. with the world at large.  It turns out, I really am sharing with the world.  Browsing my stats, I have viewers from over 40 countries! 

I celebrated my 40th birthday in 2011.  Life begins at 40-who was the first person to say that?  I don't necessarily agree with that statement, but I will say life changes at 40!  The changes that have occurred in my life in the last year would have been inconceiveable to me just 2 or 3 years ago.  Some of the changes are very welcome, some have taken me by surprise and some I would rather forget about.  Here are a couple of pictures sampling one change:

1st day of school in 2003, 3rd grade and Kindergarten.

1st day of school 2012, Freshman and Senior.

I'm not sure where the time went, but I want it back!!!  Above is the very first 1st day of school picture of my daughters together and the very last 1st day of school picture of them.  I swear I turned my back for only a moment!  Next year, the photos will be dropping one off at college (14 hours away!) and a lone pose in front of the door of my high school sophomore.  Wow!