I started this blog at the urging of friends and family in April 2010 when my husband and I were given an opportunity to relocate in Maryland for one year. We have now returned home to Arizona and continue to walk by faith as we watch God orchestrate the adventures in our lives. I invite you to share in our adventures as we watch God at work!

We live by faith, not by sight. 2 Corinthians 5:7


Thursday, August 18

a happy place??

As I was scrolling through my newsfeed on Facebook the other day, a post from one of the many crochet sites I follow had this meme:


I suspect most people who saw that post smiled and scrolled on by but it grabbed my attention and I thought about it for quite some time. I've heard people say things like, "A glass of wine is my happy place" or "Quilting is my happy place." 

Do you have to have something or be doing something or be in a certain place to be happy? If that is the case, then happiness is something we have virtually no control over. Things can be taken away, circumstances change so that you can't engage in an activity or go to a particular place.

I get that the idea behind the meme is that you enjoy that activity. It's not meant to be taken literally, and is in fact, meant to be humorous.  But I wonder if phrases like that have an effect on us like subliminal messages. 

If they are subliminal messages, it might explain why I have more yarn than I have projects. And why some people are never happy - they either don't have the right stuff or the time to do it.

Or maybe I have too much time to ponder such things....

Thursday, August 11

thankful thursday - light

This is my last "thankful Thursday" post. I have enjoyed posting something I'm thankful for every week for the past year - I hope you have, too. But now I'm looking forward to random posting - it might be a "Wacky Wednesday" (remember those?) or "Thankful Thursday" post or something totally different - like a restaurant review or someplace I've visited or something about my sweethearts. I will post weekly (or more often) but not necessarily on a specific day. Check back often - you don't want to miss anything!


I never thought much about light until I started dabbling in photography. It was either light or it was dark; I could see or I couldn't. When it got dark, it was time to turn on some lights.

helix

But as I have learned more about photography, I realize how important light is. I have "discovered" all kinds of light, both natural and artificial - filtered, direct, indirect, bright, not bright, soft, harsh. And then there's directionality of the light - backlighting, side-lighting, overhead lighting.

Untitled

Light provides ambiance, it creates a mood. In photography, it helps us see more of the picture (pun intended ;-)). It enhances the story being told.

flashlight fun

And as I dabble deeper into photography, I am learning to look at light... all the time... even when I don't have my camera. I see beauty in the light. I think about light A LOT... how it enriches our lives, sometimes in ways we don't even give a second thought. Or how different light, like using a flash, could completely change a scene or photograph.

God  Light

The more I thought about light, I came to realize it is a gift from God. He created it and declared it "good." (Genesis 1:3-5). And I absolutely agree. 

Not that darkness is "bad."  It serves a purpose. Our bodies recognize it as a time to rest. Some plants ONLY bloom at night, in the dark.

I have only been in absolute, complete, total darkness for about a minute when they turned off the lights in a cave and it was disorienting, bordering on scary. And I didn't like it very much. 

Yes, I much prefer "light!" In fact, I would say I need light. And that makes me appreciate the gift all the more!


Thursday, August 4

thankful thursday - simple things

My mom used to tell us that we would be about as happy as we decided to be. This was usually in response to one of us moping about lamenting the sad fact that we didn't have something one of our friend's had. There was no point in moping about and being upset because the only thing that got us was extra chores.

In today's world, many would find that to be harsh or even cruel. Some would say that our self-esteem would surely suffer. (I'm here to tell you that is blatantly untrue in this case!) And others would claim that it was an infringement of our civil rights - surely we have the right to be unhappy. (To be fair, she didn't say we could not be unhappy, just that we would be as happy as we decided to be. The extra chores were for moping about what we didn't have - and the chore usually involved taking care of what we DID have - for example, cleaning something.) More than a few would argue that we wouldn't like our parents if they treated us that way, like we were inferior to them. (Nope, that wasn't true, either. We grew up respecting out parents and as adults, had great relationships with them.)

I am glad, grateful even, that my mom taught me that important lesson about being happy. I learned from an early age to be satisfied with what I had, to find contentment in my life. As an adult, that is still true.

In no particular order, here are three simple things that bring me joy, happiness and contentment:

1. Flowers - One of my favorite things to do in the spring is search for wildflowers. They are vibrant and delicate bringing a special beauty to the outdoors. But I don't have to be outdoors. I have a miniature rose bush in a pot on my kitchen window sill where it gets a lot of indirect light. It blooms often and brings a smile to my face daily.

baby rose

2. A hand-written note - The art of writing a note with pen and paper has almost become extinct having been replaced with email and texts. While I appreciate personal emails and texts - they let me know the person sending them is thinking about me - there is something special about a hand-written note. I can feel the paper (soft, smooth, coarse, rough, ...) and the hand-writing evokes a special, almost emotional, response as I recognize the writer from the strokes of the pen. Texts and emails often get deleted but hand-written notes are carefully saved and reread time and time again. 

hand-written letter

3. Flags on houses - I love seeing flags flying on houses. I love the patriotism they show. In this world of division, seeing flags flying on houses in neighborhoods reminds me are united in our love for our country. And who wouldn't be happy about unity?!

flag

But godliness with contentment is great gain.
1 Timothy 6:6

Thursday, July 28

thankful thursday - lists

I have a confession. I am a list-maker. I make a list of things I have to do,  things to take on vacation,  books to read, restaurants to try, things to buy with separate lists for each store, places I want to visit, and the list goes on and on.

I've written about this before.  50 Shades of Summer is a list of 50 things I did one summer and Amazing Arizona... 100 Things  is a list of places to see or things to do in Arizona that I completed during our state's centennial celebration.

I recently read The Next Thing on My List by Jill Smolinski. It's a quick, fun read about a woman who is in a car accident and her passenger dies, leaving behind a list - "20 Things to Do by My 25th Birthday." The tasks are varied - run a 5K, throw away my scale, change someone's life, etc. To work through her guilt (although the accident was not her fault), the woman takes over the list completing the remaining 18 tasks before the deadline.

Hmmmm. That's an intriguing idea - completing someone else's list for them. And not just any list - their Bucket List. The things on a Bucket List are meaningful to that person. The tasks might be challenging or learning something new or visiting someplace or about a relationship. In other words, they are personal to the person making the list.

I thought about my Bucket List. I started it when I was in my 40's with about a half dozen tasks. I have added to it over time and quite honestly, I think there are more things on it than I could do in my lifetime. But it's good to have goals and I get great satisfaction from crossing something off the list.

Some are fairly straight forward and not too difficult like:
     *  Visit all 50 states
     *  Anonymously pay for a family's meal at a restaurant - must be people I don't know

Others are adventurous like:
     *  Visit Antartica
     *  Ride in a hot air balloon

And a few are edifying like:
     *  Read through the Bible in a year
     *  Secretly give something to someone I know

What would be like for someone else to do the things on my Bucket List? For someone who is always cold, visiting Antartica could be torture, not adventure. Or they could rise to the challenge, dress very warmly, have a great adventure and learn they can do more than they think they can.

I think at some point, as the woman in the book discovered, the list would become their own. They would learn different things and feel differently about completing the tasks than I would.

I am thankful for my Bucket List. It's good to have goals and I get great satisfaction from crossing something off the list. It's okay if I add two more things the next month. It's not about completing the list as much as it is just doing the list.

And that's what the woman in the book eventually learned.

Thursday, July 21

thankful thursday - the entrepreneurs

While our sweethearts were visiting us a few weeks ago, we were telling stories about past 4th of July celebrations when our children (aka their mom and aunt) were their age. Like most kids, the older four enjoyed hearing what their mom and aunt did when they were kids. We laughed about the year our oldest daughter along with several neighbor kids worked all day decorating their bikes, trikes and a wagon (to haul our youngest daughter who was a toddler) with red, white and blue signs and streamers in preparation for the "Big 4th of July Parade." The parents and other extended family members gathered in the afternoon to watch the parade... which lasted all of a minute and a half! And we  laughed about the year all the kids in the neighborhood set up a lemonade stand in the drive-way but ended up drinking all their product since it was so hot... and there were no kids left to BUY the lemonade.

That story intrigued the kids and they kept bringing it up, asking questions. Pretty soon the inevitable, dreaded question was asked: Can we have a stand and sell something?

I told them they could do a snack stand on the 4th of July but they needed to prepare for it and do the work.

The first thing was deciding what to sell. They suggested lemonade, homemade chocolate chip cookies, popsicles, and chocolate candy. After being reminded that it would be really hot outside, they realized popsicles, chocolate chips and chocolate candy would melt too quickly. They finally decided on lemonade, Otter Pops (they don't make a mess if they melt and can be refrozen) and Red Vines.

They figured out how much to charge for their goodies. They, of course, were thinking "dollars" while we were suggesting "cents." We talked about what happens when you over-price your product... and they finally agreed cents made more sense (Oh yeah, they made that joke!).

Next was making signs. We cut up some cardboard boxes and they went to town with markers. They decided to make an arrow sign that someone would twirl and dance with to get people's attention.

We practiced making change and counting it back to the customer. We talked about making eye contact, smiling and being friendly. We talked about wearing food-service gloves when getting the Red Vines out of the container. Good customer service is priceless!

Finally, the big day arrived and the kids were sooooooo excited. We had decided 2:30 in the afternoon would be a good time to catch people coming and going as they connected with their family. At 2:30 on the dot they set up the card table in front of our driveway. They agreed beforehand on who would sell first and who would dance with the signs.

Stand #1
Christopher and Ben were the first salespersons. 

Sign Dancers collage
And Nick and Lexie were the sign dancers down on the corner.

Although they got a few cars to come down the street, they quickly realized they would have better success if their goods were on the corner where the cars passed by. We packed up the table, chairs, goodies and ice chest and walked down to the corner to set up. 

Stand #2

It was 108 degrees that afternoon. And these kids are not used to our extreme heat. But there was no complaining. They waved at cars and danced with their signs... and people stopped! Cars made u-turns to come back. A couple of times there was a line of cars waiting for their turn. People were talking and laughing. A few told stories of their own lemonade stand when they were a child.

Stand #4

After an hour, the adults decided to pack it in. When we got back to the house, the kids cleaned the table and put stuff away. Finally it was time to count their money. Christopher was the counter and Nick watched to make sure he counted correctly and didn't take any. Such brotherly love! Their mom and dad reminded them they needed to pay their supplier (me) for the goodies before they divided up the money.

Everyone - adults and kids - was surprised to learn they made $60! In an hour! They had quite a few large tips because they were "so friendly" and "so sweet" and "enthusiastic" but no one thought they made that much. After I told them I would donate the supplies and they could keep their $60, they were all very quick to calculate that was $15 each! 

I am thankful for the lessons my sweethearts learned through this entrepreneurial adventure. Things like it takes hard work to make money. To evaluate your business plan and modify it as needed. And how to work together towards a common goal. That having a good work ethic is important. And I am thankful we were only out in the heat for an hour!

Thursday, July 14

thankful thursday - rules??

When my sweet hubby and I were first married, before we had children, we had many opinions (most of them incorrect!) about raising children. For example, I was convinced that no child of mine would ever be plopped down in front of the tv so I could get something done. That lasted until our first child was about a month old and I discovered I could brush my teeth and get dressed before my hubby came home from work if I positioned our daughter (who was VERY colicky and awake most of the day) so she could "watch" Sesame Street. The shapes and colors of the characters and sing-songy dialog seemed to calm her - or at least distract her - for a few minutes.

We eventually learned to relax and trust our instincts while following the "rules." Rules like bedtime is bedtime, no snacks if you didn't eat your meal, no running in the house, keep your hands and other body parts off the windows, and we don't have cookies or candy before lunch.  It's important for children to have routine and to know what the boundaries are. I firmly believed that children are happier when the "rules" are consistent.

Then I became a grandma.

And the "rules" changed. Dramatically. Almost over night.

At grandma's house, bedtime is more like a starting point or suggestion. Dessert and snacks are always an option if you ate at least some of your meal. Running in the house doesn't bother me as much as it used to. And not only do I not mind fingerprints (and other body-prints ;-)) on my windows, I have each of them make a handprint up high on the window that remains pristine for several weeks after they leave! M&M's or a cookie before breakfast is good clean fun. As is having ice cream for breakfast.

Yep. I became my mother and my mother-in-law. They "spoiled" our children in good ways. Spending time with them. Bending the rules. Eating ice cream for breakfast one day a year isn't going to harm anyone but is a memory kids never forget. Going to their houses was always a treat for our kids, something they looked forward to. I am thankful for the wisdom my mother and mother-in-law shared on being a grandparent and on rules.

And just to be clear, some rules never change or go out of style. Rules like speak respectfully to each other, ask permission before you use something that belongs to someone else, no means no, don't run on the kool-deck, buckle up in the car. They are rules for safety or being respectful to others. And I still firmly believe that children are happier when the rules are consistent. But they also learn that rules may be different in different places (like grandma's house) or situations (like vacation).

I think our sweethearts make lots of memories when they are at our house. I hope they will one day share those memories with their children.  And laugh as hard as their parents do when they share their grandparent memories!

Sweethearts
We love our sweethearts!

Thursday, July 7

thankful thursday - the unusual

My aunt and uncle had a small ranch in Montana when I was a child. I loved spending a few weeks with them during the summer - gathering the eggs each morning, trying to milk the cows, riding horses and watching the pigs roll and romp in the mud. It was a beautiful place to spend part of my summer vacation.

I grew up thinking all ranches were like the one my aunt and uncle had. Some were bigger, of course,  and a few might be smaller, but in general a ranch was a plot of land used for agricultural purposes or raising animals.

On our recent cross-country trip we visited four very different ranches.

1. Cadillac Ranch (west of Amarillo, Texas) - In 1974, Texas billionaire Stanley Marsh III wanted to create public art that would inspire as well as outrage the citizens of Amarillo. A group of art hippies from San Fransisco had an idea and Marsh became their silent partner. Ten caddies, ranging from a 1949 Club Sedan to a 1963 Sedan de Ville, were half-buried nose-down in a field. Visitors were encouraged to spray paint them and even take a souvenir. Today the car bodies bear little resemblance to their original form but are delightful to look at. They have now been in the ground as art longer than they were on the road as cars.

Cadillac Ranch collage

2. Slug Bug Ranch (Conway, Texas) - In 1967, Tom Crutchfield opened a service station and souvenir shop on the south frontage road of I-40. Some years later, when a Love's Travel Stop opened on the north frontage road and his business took a nose-dive, Tom decided to add a roadside attraction. He half-buried five VW Beetles nose-down and let folks go to town with their spray cans. It was a parody of nearby Cadillac Ranch and people loved it. The trouble was, they still filled up their tanks at Love's Travel Stop and then came by Slug Bug Ranch for some fun. He eventually moved on and today Slug Bug Ranch is surrounded by abandoned building on either side. 

Bug Ranch

3. Ra66it Ranch (Staunton, Illinois) - Rich Henry bought a parcel of land in Staunton, Illinois and after learning it was right on Route 66, he decided to drive the entire Mother Road. When he returned, he told his wife he wanted to open a kitchy place like Delgadillo's Snow Cap Drive-In in Seligman, Arizona (side note - it's well worth the trip!!) as a roadside attraction. About the same time, his daughter asked him to board her two pet rabbits for a few months. He fell in love with the critters and knew what his "theme" would be. In 1999, he half-buried seven VW Rabbits nose-down as a tribute to Cadillac Ranch but unlike the Caddies, the Rabbits are NOT spray painted. They are buried very close together to mimic real rabbits huddling. He also has a herd of about 20 rabbits, most of them orphaned by their owners, several semi-trucks, and a nine-foot rabbit "statue" you can climb on on the grounds.  He runs his insurance business out of the shop as well as sells  rabbit- and Route 66-themed souvenirs. We enjoyed talking to him!

Ra66it Ranch

4. Bottle Tree Ranch (north of Oro Grande, California) - When Elmer Long was a little boy, he hiked in the California desert with his dad. They collected all kinds of stuff (old garden tools, mattress springs, bottles, discarded glass insulators from telephone poles, washboards, ...) from old dumps. Fast forward several decades and he found a use for all the stuff he and his dad had collected. He started making bottle trees (large metal pipes with bottles and other stuff on them) in 2000 and now has a forest of over 200 of them! He likes to use the things he and his dad found on the top of his trees to give them character.

Bottle Tree Ranch


Bottle Tree Ranch collage

I am inspired by the creative artistry at these ranches. I appreciate their unusualness and am thankful for owners who aren't restricted by convention. I am amazed that all four of these ranches are open to public and are free of charge (although  Ra66it Ranch and Bottle Tree Ranch accept donations). And I am astonished that, at least on the day we were there, there were no gang tags, obscenities or inappropriate anythings spray painted on the cars at Cadillac Ranch and Slug Bug Ranch.