me…art collector?!

I am now officially an art collector. Oh, I have bought prints and posters over the years. And I confess to owning a Thomas Kincade painting of Venice’s Grand Canal (same light, no flower gardens or english cottages in sight). But I’ve moved up a level now. I have a painting commissioned specifically for me by a professional artist! (I still can’t believe that’s true…)

My new painting by Greg Gutierrez

My new painting by Greg Gutierrez

I participate in a number of on-line artist forums. It is invigorating to see what other artists are doing–whether something I love or things I don’t enjoy, all of it sparks my own creativity. Sometimes I join art swaps or on-going projects. Other times I merely enjoy what others are doing and posting.

A few months ago a bright, cheerful painting was posted. It was from this artist’s “Ward Series.” I was fascinated by the painting…and I was intrigued by the series name. (My mother-in-law’s maiden name was Ward.) I contacted the artist to ask more questions. And I kept looking back at that painting over and over. Every time it made me smile. It made my heart sing!

Eventually, since I had some birthday gift money, I got brave enough to contact Greg Gutierrez and ask how much it would cost for me to buy one of his Ward Series paintings. I was sure it would be far above my means…but was quite excited to find out I was wrong. It took every penny of my birthday money, but, oh how it was worth it!

After receiving my money, Greg bought supplies and started the layers and layers of paint. Color is added even on the sides of the canvas. It takes a few weeks for him to finish these paintings. Greg kept me posted on the process. And finally at the beginning of this week I was told that the package was in the mail.

Detail of Painting--notice it wraps all the way around the sides of the canvas

Detail of Painting–notice it wraps all the way around the sides of the canvas

YAY! I was so excited to rip open the envelope when it arrived this morning. After unwrapping layer after layer of protection, I finally saw the painting made especially for me.

I am now the proud owner of Ward Series #60, by Greg Gutierrez. It hangs right above my desk, where I can look up and enjoy it over and over. Thanks, Greg!

My painting's new home--right above my desk so I see it often!

My painting’s new home–right above my desk so I see it often!

Hmmm…I wonder how long it would take me to save for another painting in the series?!

Take a look HERE at Greg’s on-line gallery and enjoy his colorful, eclectic paintings!

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Top 10 Travel Tips

Daughter Anna and I are finishing up small scrapbooks about our 10 week adventure in Europe. One of the pages is a “Top 10.” At first I wondered how in the world I could summarize that length of trip in just 10 lines.

Day 1 of our Travel Adventure

Day 1 of our Travel Adventure

I thought of using one line for each week we were away from home. That didn’t feel right for two reasons: the scrapbook itself was already covering the basics of where we went, what we saw, and what we did during our travels. Plus, we spent seven of the weeks staying (mostly) in one place, living with and helping our friends. Most of the travel action occurred in just three weeks.

One of the things I love about travel is thinking about the trip, both before and after the adventure. I have been pondering on the highs, the lows, the lessons learned, and travel advice I might share with others. I finally decided to combine all of that with the Top 10 list for my little scrapbook (in no particular order).

1. Take time to SEE family heritage in person. This moves dates and facts from the realm of knowledge into personal memory and emotion. I was surprised by the how colorful life was in the Alsace region of France. We also enjoyed exploring the small town (Erbach) along the Rhine River where Emmelhainz used to be a significant name.

Colorful Historic Homes from the Alsace region of France (collected at the Ecomusee)

Colorful Historic Homes from the Alsace region of France (collected at the Ecomusee)

The Emmelhainz Haus in Erbach, Germany

The Emmelhainz Haus in Erbach, Germany

2. ENJOY in person things you have previously enjoyed in print. I confess to being an incurable royalty-watcher. Seeing castles throughout Germany and England felt like fairy-tales coming to life! And, yes, there was a thrill in knowing that the Queen was “in residence” when we were touring Windsor Castle in England…

The Queen's flag flies high over Windsor Castle when she is "in residence."

The Queen’s flag flies high over Windsor Castle when she is “in residence.”

3. Be BRAVE and try using the language. There was an old shopkeeper in the small town I walked to regularly in Germany. I speak no German and he spoke no English, so we did business while fumbling through greetings and using lots of smiles. One day I memorized a question (about mailing cards) from the phrasebook. I’m not sure whose smile was brighter when he exclaimed “Perfect!” (So far from true, I’m sure. But others truly appreciate the effort you make to speak their language.)

4. Don’t forget to PLAY! By having a younger child with me this time, I discovered there are wonderful playgrounds all over Europe. Traveling with a child gave me new eyes to see things I had missed on past visits.

A common toy on German playgrounds.

A common toy on German playgrounds.

5. Get used to WALKING everywhere you go. Trust me, you will miss this when you get back to the States where everything is designed to get around by automobile.

6. In a similar way, Teach your child to be COMFORTABLE with many different means of transportation. We used planes, trains, subways, taxi-cabs, rental cars, and even a bike-cab. We also figured out the variety of ways to pay for parking! Hopefully these things will be less intimidating for my daughter when she eventually travels on her own.

We made in impulsive decision to take a bike cab in Paris--what FUN!

We made an impulsive decision to take a bike cab in Paris–what FUN!

7. Discover the UNEXPECTED. Some of these will be disappointments (such as finding out the room we reserved in a castle was actually across the way in the servants quarters…sigh…). Some of these will be magical. Don’t forget to allow your child’s imagination run wild. Finding “fairy trees” is a favorite memory for my daughter!

The Light Festival in Amsterdam was unexpected MAGIC!

The Light Festival in Amsterdam was unexpected MAGIC!

The "Royal Fairy Academy" was found in Germany.

My daughter discovered the “Royal Fairy Academy” in a small town in Germany.

8. TASTE new things. Yes, there will be things you don’t particularly like (or even things you hate). But you just might find a new “favorite” or two! The only down-side is not being able to get that thing back home.

Some of our favorites from the bakery in Schweinfurt Germany.

Some of our favorites from the bakery in Schweinfurt Germany.

9. Enjoy ADVENTURES that aren’t possible in the USA. Most places in the world allow greater levels of risk to tourists, things that would never be allowed in the States. You can climb steep pyramids with no railings in Mexico, freely wander ancient ruins in England, and explore a maze of tunnels under a castle by candlelight (and thread reeled out by another family) in Germany. Don’t miss the fun—sometimes “scary” makes the best memories!

10. Building MEMORIES together is the absolutely best thing about travel. And there is something extra sweet about watching your youngest child and your oldest child get to know each other better and learn to appreciate the other…

Sharing tastes in music.

Sharing tastes in music.

What about YOU? What are some of your favorite bits of advice for enjoying travel adventures? I’d love to hear your comments…

Princess Anna’s Sparkly Birthday

My “baby” daughter, Princess Anna, had a birthday this past weekend.

Anna -- still a Princess, not really my "baby" any more!

Anna — still a Princess, not really my “baby” any more!

Many of you saw my plea on facebook or via email:

Daughter Anna turns 11 on Feb 2nd. We will have a small celebration with the family we are living with in Germany. There will be a big birthday party the following weekend for 2 of the children in this family. Anna understands in her head why we can’t have a big party with lots of guests and gifts for her…but she still gets teary thinking about it. And THAT makes this mama’s heart hurt for her.

So…I want to surprise her during her family “Sparkle Party.” Could you please send me (fb comment, fb message, or email) a short note for Anna, focused on “sparkles” or “glitter” and on how special SHE is? I will type them out, print them, cut them out, and tie each one with sparkly ribbon for her to open all the affirmations on her birthday!

THANK YOU in advance for helping her feel special! (Also, IF you are so inclined, please consider mailing a sparkly card to her for her to get an extra birthday surprise when we get back to Ohio in early March…I will message our address to anyone who wants to do this.)

Anna’s 11th birthday is over—celebrated with lots of SPARKLES! I thought you might like to see photos of four (count ’em, FOUR) days filled with special activities and fun.

Day One–early in the week Anna and I went clothes shopping. She needed new pants and wanted to add some sparkle to her wardrobe. (The shirt in the top photo was from this shopping expedition.)

Searching for a sparkly wardrobe is tons of work

Searching for a sparkly wardrobe is tons of work…

Obviously, we "needed" sweet refreshments to recover from the shopping!

Obviously, we “needed” sweet refreshments to recover from the shopping!

Day Two — My friend took her daughter and Anna for all three of them to get “new ‘do”s. What fun!

Three "New 'Do"s for the "ladies"

“New ‘Do”s for the three “ladies”

Day Three — I took both “big girls” to Bamberg. A day with no responsibilities added to the pleasure of the outing!

We discovered an awesome "pocket playground" where Fairies could vanquish the giant (invisible) spiders.

We discovered an awesome “pocket playground” where Fairy Anna and her friend could vanquish the giant (invisible) spiders.

...and we found an entire fairy village with multiple homes (aka holes) in each tree

…and we found an entire fairy village with multiple homes (aka holes) in each tree.

As we wandered the old part of Bamberg, the girls were Princesses.

As we wandered the old part of Bamberg, the girls were royalty.

We finished the day at an indoor mini water park. (Thanks, Aunt Jan!) Can you find Mermaid Anna?!

We finished the day at an indoor mini water park. (Thanks, Aunt Jan!) Can you find Mermaid Anna?!

Day Four — On Anna’s actual birthday, we continued the annual tradition of taking a photo of Groundhog Anna to record her prediction for Spring’s arrival. I took all 4 kids back to Rothenburg ob der Tauber for a little shopping, some yummy food, and a climb up the medieval walls.

Groundhog Anna in Rothenburg...

Groundhog Anna in Rothenburg…

YAY! No shadow! Spring is on the way...

YAY! No shadow! Spring is on the way…

We visited the Teddy Bear stores and Anna bought a fairy at the "Knights and Fairies" store. (Thanks, Grma June & Grpa Bob!)

We visited the Teddy Bear stores and Anna bought a fairy at the “Knights and Fairies” store. (Thanks, Grma June & Grpa Bob!)

We finished Anna’s SPARKLE celebrations with a little family party at home that evening:

Anna had sparkly decorations and gifts at her birthday dinner.

Anna had sparkly decorations and gifts at her birthday dinner.

We fixed favorite German McDonald's food--Nurnberger sausages, Rosti (potatoes) with applesauce, and some Broccoli to make it healthier!

We fixed favorite German McDonald’s food–Nurnberger sausages, Rosti (potatoes) with applesauce, and some Broccoli to make it healthier!

At 11, "little girl" Anna still delights in sparkly toys...

At 11, “little girl” Anna still delights in sparkly toys…

...and my "one-teen" likes bling, LOTS of bling! (earrings, rings, hair doo-dads, lip-gloss, and more)

…and my “one-teen” likes bling, LOTS of bling! (earrings, rings, hair doo-dads, lip-gloss, and more) (photo taken by Anna’s friend)

At first Anna was bored with the bag filled with little rainbow tied scrolls...but her face lit up when she realized there were 18 different notes celebrating SPARKLE GIRL ANNA! (Thanks, friends and family!)

At first Anna was bored with the bag filled with little rainbow tied scrolls…but her face lit up when she realized there were 18 different notes celebrating SPARKLE GIRL ANNA! (Thanks, friends and family!)

And everyone enjoyed their first (??!!) banana splits for dessert---Happy 11th Birthday, Anna Bananas!

And everyone enjoyed their first (??!!) banana splits for dessert—Happy 11th Birthday, Anna Bananas!

(THANKS to all who helped make this a very special birthday celebration for Anna. Hopefully, these sparkly memories will help her joyfully celebrate her friends at their birthday party this weekend…)

Dive In To The New…

I am linking up with 5 minute Friday. You can read more about it HERE. This week’s prompt is “dive.” I’m starting with a 5 minute write…then adding photos of 2 weeks of wandering in Europe with my oldest daughter and my youngest daughter.

Ready…Set…GO!

Dive in! That’s easy for me. I love to experience new things, meet new people, go new places, try new foods.

Yes, it can be stressful when I’m someplace new. What if I’m on the wrong train? Where do we get off? (I can’t read the signs. After all, they are in German, an unintelligible language to my ears and eyes.) What landmarks do I need to remember to get back to the hostel? Where will I find friendly people who are happy to help poor, confused me?

But…there is a thrill in just diving in. If the water is cold, it is also refreshing. It makes the adrenaline pump, adds excitement to my life.

And this trip? Aaahhhh…I get the fun of traveling with two of my kids. They can enjoy the “dive” with me. And if they get nervous or afraid, hopefully my pleasure can help them overcome their discomfort. Perhaps this is a gift I can give them… Come to think of it, with the ways most of my kids like to wander the world, I must have already given them this gift!

Are you ready? C’mon! Let’s DIVE!

Here are a few photos for each day of our wandering in Germany, Alsace France, and the Netherlands. Photo-evidence of our DIVE In To The New in Europe!

Day One: Travel Day (Tuesday, Dec 18th)

At the airport, ready to DIVE!

At the airport, ready to DIVE!

Just when we were getting bored in the Philly airport (delayed flight), SANTA appeared!

Just when we were getting bored in the Philly airport (delayed flight), SANTA appeared!

Day Two: Frankfurt Germany (Wed, Dec 19th)

We wandered the streets around the youth hostel, and finally met up with Celia late in the afternoon.

We wandered the streets around the youth hostel, and finally met up with Celia late in the afternoon.

An evening in Frankfurt: Jewish Museum, walking along the river walk, and finding yummy indian food for supper...

An evening in Frankfurt: exploring the Jewish Museum, wandering along the river walk, and finding yummy Indian food for supper…

Day Three: Travel to the Rheingau (Thurs, Dec 20)

We rented a car and drove to the Rhein River region. We walked around Frauenstein...and Anna discovered a FAIRY TREE!

We rented a car and drove to the Rhein River region. We walked around Frauenstein…and Anna discovered a FAIRY TREE!

We also laughed at what we later realized was the first Santa trying to break into a house...

We also laughed at what we later realized was the first Santa decoration of many that seemed to be breaking into a house…

We drove to neighboring Erbach (home of Emmelhainz ancestors) and found the family church.

We drove to neighboring Erbach (home of Emmelhainz ancestors) and found the family church.

And we walked the streets of Erbach...where Emmelhainz ancestors had walked for generations...something special about that!

And we walked the streets of Erbach…where Emmelhainz ancestors had walked for generations…something special about that!

Day Four: Christmas Markets in the Rheingau (Fri, Dec 21st)

Our German host took us to Rudesheim in the afternoon, to introduce us to a lovely Christmas Market.

Our German host took us to Rudesheim in the afternoon, to introduce us to a lovely Christmas Market.

Christmas Markets include yummy food, lots of people, wonderful booths of crafts and decorations, and...did I mention the food?!!

Christmas Markets include yummy food, lots of people, wonderful booths of crafts and decorations, and…did I mention the food?!!

In the evening, our host took us to the huge Christmas Market in Weisbaden. I didn't like the crowds...but the lights were beautiful...

In the evening, our host took us to the huge Christmas Market in Weisbaden. I didn’t like the crowds…but the lights were beautiful…

...and Anna loved her ride on the 2nd story of the Carousel!

…and Anna loved her ride on the 2nd story of the Carousel! (Did YOU know there was such a thing??)

Day Five: Emmelhainz Heritage (Sat, Dec 22nd)

We met German Emmelhainz relatives...still living in the family town. They shared stories and old photos.

We met German Emmelhainz relatives…still living in the family town. They shared stories and old photos.

And we were shown the Emmelhainz Haus, an old winepress originally used by the Emmelhainz, and other area landmarks related to family.

And we were shown the Emmelhainz Haus, an old winepress originally used by the Emmelhainz wine-makers, and other area landmarks related to family.

Day Six: Castles and Roman Ruins along the Rhein (Sun, Dec 23rd)

Castles line both sides of the Rhein River...

Castles line both sides of the Rhein River…

Castles line both sides of the Rhein River. We explored Rheinfels Burg, still majestic even as ruins.

We explored Rheinfels Burg in St. Goar, still majestic even as ruins.

For an extra adventure, the tunnels under the castle could be explored by candle light. (And some were pitch black and low-ceilinged...)

For an extra adventure, the tunnels under the castle could be explored by candle light. (And some were pitch black and low-ceilinged…)

I always enjoy taking photos at the same places as daughter Celia...and seeing just how different our "eye"s are for what makes good pictures!

I always enjoy taking photos at the same places as daughter Celia…and seeing just how different our “eye”s are for what makes good pictures!

One of the things I find most fascinating in Europe is the Roman Ruins scattered throughout the countries outside of Italy. (This is a mix of old and older in the riverside town of Boppard.)

One of the things I find most fascinating in Europe is the Roman Ruins scattered throughout the countries outside of Italy. (This is a mix of old and older in the riverside town of Boppard.)

Day Seven: the flooded Rhein and a drive to Alsace Region of France (Christmas Eve)

...and even one castle in the MIDDLE of the river! (usually the island is visible...)

Castles tower above riverbank towns and one castle is in the MIDDLE of the river! (usually the island is visible…)

A German friend tried to convince us that wild and crazy Germans like to picnic in the water! We thought he was joking...until we actually saw some guys climb out to some tables for the fun of it!! (ha-ha!)

A German friend tried to convince us that wild and crazy Germans like to picnic in the water. We thought he was joking…until we actually saw some guys climb out to some tables for the fun of it!! (ha-ha!)

Since the rain finally stopped, we took a break for Anna to play on the awesome playground back in Erbach.

Since the rain finally stopped, we took a break for Anna to play on the awesome playground back in Erbach.

When we finally got to the hotel in France, Anna got her traditional Christmas Eve PJs. (Fortunately she had mentioned the importance of this in the morning...when I had time to run around like a crazy thing in the small town where we stayed; looking to buy some PJs. Whew! Found some!)

When we finally got to the hotel in France, Anna got her traditional Christmas Eve PJs. (Fortunately she had mentioned the importance of this in the morning…when I had time to run around like a crazy thing in the small town where we stayed; looking to buy some PJs. Whew! Found some!)

And for a mix of old and new...I did the traditional sewing of doll clothes late on Christmas Eve, this time with HAND sewing!

And for a mix of old and new…I did the traditional sewing of doll clothes late on Christmas Eve, this time with HAND sewing!

Day Eight: Ecomusee (Living History Museum) in Alsace France (Christmas Day)

The day started with a pile of mixed Christmas gifts and stocking stuffers. How weird to not have stockings! How weird to not be with more family! How weird that I had no gifts to open! (This trip was already an amazing gift...)

The day started with a pile of mixed Christmas gifts and stocking stuffers. How weird to not have stockings! How weird to not be with more family! How weird that I had no gifts to open! (This trip was already an amazing gift…)

Then we explored the village: with live farm animals, peacocks, and real-true-living-STORKS on the roofs!

Then we explored the village: with live farm animals, peacocks, and real-true-living-STORKS on the roofs!

8_b_WEB_2012_1225_ecomusee_architecture_SAM_0822

It was fun to imagine how my maternal ancestors might have lived in this area of France, before emigrating to America. The buildings were fascinating. If only I could have understood the signs (in French and German).

We finished the evening walking around the museum (in the rain), following actors in a Christmas play, carrying candle lanterns to light our way. It finally FELT like Christmas when we had a community carol sing---the songs still felt right, even when sung in French.

We finished the evening walking around the museum (in the rain), following actors in a Christmas play, carrying candle lanterns to light our way. It finally FELT like Christmas when we had a community carol sing—the songs still felt right, even when sung in French.

Day Nine: Travel Day (Thurs, Dec 26th)

We spent this day driving back to Germany (easy to do with a GPS), returning the rental car, and taking a train to Celia's friend in the Netherlands.

We spent this day driving back to Germany (easy to do with a GPS), returning the rental car, and taking a train to Celia’s friend in the Netherlands.

Even with spending so much time together, we got along pretty well. (It was cool for Anna to get to know her big sister better...)

Even with spending so much time together, we got along pretty well. (It was cool for Anna to get to know her big sister better…)

Day Nine: Maastricht Netherlands (Thurs, Dec 27th)

Maastricht, another fascinating city with a mix of medieval and roman history still visible...

Maastricht, another fascinating city with a mix of medieval and roman history still visible…

According to the stories, this beautiful gate had a horrible use---to kick anyone who was sick completely OUT of the town to try to survive all alone. It was called "Hell's Gate."

According to the stories, this beautiful gate had a horrible use—to kick anyone who was sick completely OUT of the town to try to survive all alone. It was called “Hell’s Gate.”

Although we don't know much about Catholicism, we DO know about the beauty of candles and the wonders of prayer. Anna lit a candle and prayed for some friends while we visited the Basilica in Maastricht.

Although we don’t know much about Catholicism, we DO know about the beauty of candles and the wonders of prayer. Anna lit a candle and prayed for some friends while we visited the Basilica in Maastricht.

I delight in noticing little scenes and gardens and doorways along the streets. I always wonder who else notices these little bits of beauty...

I delight in noticing little scenes and gardens and doorways along the streets. I always wonder who else notices these little bits of beauty…

Day Eleven: Valkenburg Netherlands (Fri, Dec 28th)

We started with a tour of the caves under the castle ruins...

We started with a tour of the human-carved maze of caves under the castle ruins…

Over the generations, the caves were used for defense, for hiding, for storage, and eventually decorated for victorian tourists. The various drawings and carvings tell the history of the area.

Over the generations, the caves were used for defense, for hiding, for storage, and eventually decorated for victorian tourists. The various drawings and carvings tell the history of the area.

From the man-carved depths of the hill, we moved to the man-made fortress above the town.

From the man-carved depths of the hill, we moved to the man-made fortress above the town.

And since we brought umbrellas, it wasn't rainy on this day...it was COLD instead! (But we enjoyed time together and had fun with Celia's friend.)

And since we brought umbrellas, it wasn’t rainy on this day…it was COLD instead! (But we enjoyed time together and had fun with Celia’s friend.)

Day Twelve: Amsterdam (Sat, Dec 29th)

Ohhh...how I loved historic Amsterdam with its canals, houseboats, leaning rows of old houses, and bicycles everywhere...

Ohhh…how I loved historic Amsterdam with its canals, houseboats, leaning rows of old houses, and bicycles everywhere…

Even the modern buildings sprinkled through the historic area had charm!

Even the modern buildings sprinkled through the historic area had charm!

Did you know Van Gogh was from Amsterdam? Nope, neither did I. But the museum exhibit was AWESOME! (loved the mix of sketches and paintings)

Did you know Van Gogh was from Amsterdam? Nope, neither did I. But the museum exhibit was AWESOME! (loved the mix of sketches and paintings)

And the "Illuminade--Festival of Light"? Pure magic as we wandered along a trail of art from lights throughout the historic city...

And the “Illuminade–Festival of Light”? Pure magic as we wandered along a trail of art from lights throughout the historic city…

Day Thirteen: A Vineyard Church Service and a Castle (Sun, Dec 30th)

We enjoyed worshiping in Dutch and English with friends at the Vineyard Church in Amsterdam. The music was inspiring...and the end of the year celebration of what God has done in people's lives, set to a jam-session of joyful blues music, was enthralling...

We enjoyed worshiping in Dutch and English with friends at the Vineyard Church in Amsterdam. The music was inspiring…and the end of the year celebration of what God has done in people’s lives, set to a jam-session of joyful blues music, was enthralling…

We definitely DOVE into this lovely city...and took time to soak up a few last views of canals and leaning houses. (Do I have to get out of this "water"? Can't I stay and "swim" awhile longer?!)

We definitely DOVE into this lovely city…and took time on this day to soak up a few last views of canals and leaning houses. (Do I have to get out of this “water”? Can’t I stay and “swim” awhile longer?!)

For our last night of wandering, we stayed at this genuine castle with a real moat around it! (So sad the exhilaration of "Diving In" is coming to an end...Let's not talk about staying in the servants' quarters instead of the castle, dealing with a very flat tire on the friend's car, and saying goodbye to daughter Celia...okay?)

For our last night of wandering, we stayed at this genuine castle with a real moat around it! (So sad the exhilaration of “Diving In” is coming to an end…Let’s not talk about staying in the servants’ quarters instead of the castle, dealing with a very flat tire on the friend’s car, and saying goodbye to daughter Celia…okay?)

Day Fourteen: One Last Travel Day (Mon, Dec 31st)

We started our travel day at the fanciest starbucks I've ever seen (in the beautiful old train station in Amsterdam)...

We started our travel day at the fanciest Starbucks I’ve ever seen (in the beautiful old train station in Amsterdam)…

We spent the day riding trains and snacking in the train stations...

It was a day spent riding trains and snacking in the train stations…

We spent the day thinking about all we experienced and enjoyed from our DIVE IN TO THE NEW of Europe...

…and pondering all that we experienced and enjoyed from our DIVE IN TO THE NEW of Europe…

And what’s next now that our DIVE is over? Daughter Anna and I are spending the next 7 weeks living with friends as they add a newborn to their active family.  (Hmmm…maybe this is aother opportunity for DIVING, after all?!)

More things to do and places to explore? What FUN!

More things to do and places to explore? What FUN!

When Opportunity Comes Knocking

(This post is linked with 5 Minute Friday—where the host site offers a word, and many bloggers choose to write for 5 minutes on that subject. You can see more posts about “Opportunity” by participating writers HERE.)

I haven’t had much to say here for the past few months. Life has been chaotic in ways that I wasn’t supposed to talk about publicly. I wrote a few entries during that time which I will (probably) eventually post.

Quick summary: funding ran out, vision was not sustainable, job working with at-risk Navajo young people with a mission in a remote area of New Mexico has ended. (You can read a little more about it HERE.)

Needless to say, this has been a stressful time. We have applied for numerous jobs across the country, but so far all doors remain tightly CLOSED. We finally decided to move back to central Ohio in December to live with family until we can figure out what is next for our family.

As we were planning the move, I asked my husband if I should apply to a Starbucks near my parents’ house to help bring in a little income. After all, being a barista can be done early in the morning while my kids are still sleeping, it includes lots of people contact, and caffeine is involved. Seemed like a win-win to me.

My husband just looked at me, commented “do what you want,” and walked out of the room.

A few days later, I asked again. And again, he commented “do what you want,” and changed the subject.

Now, those who know me, know I do NOT have the patience of a saint. So when the same thing happened the next day, I gave a sharp answer: “what I WANT to do is travel the world, but we don’t have any money so that’s not possible. Stop saying I should just do what I want!” But again, my dear husband, just smiled and walked away.

Whew! I’m surprised you didn’t hear on the news about a murder in a remote area of New Mexico!

And then…

And then…a few days later I got a phone call from a friend. She was feeling overwhelmed with 3 young children and another baby on the way. She vented. I was feeling overwhelmed with no clue of our future. I vented. And at the end of the conversation I joked that if they would just pay my airfare to Germany, I would come help them for a month or two as a “mother’s helper.”

She said yes. I almost fell off the bed I was lounging on!

When I talked to my husband about it, he smiled again and said, “isn’t that what you wanted to do?”

And now? My youngest daughter and I are in Germany for a few months. The “doors” toward the future for our family all seem tightly closed right now. But opportunity still came knocking…

Leaving...on a Jet Plane...

Leaving…on a Jet Plane…

(Isn’t God AMAZING?!! I just love this story of His providing…for me and for my friend!)

GRACEFUL Girlfriend(s)

It is time for another 5 Minute Friday. Earlier this week, I decided to choose my own topics for blogging and not get “caught” completing an “assignment.” But then I saw the word for this week—“graceful.” I had already decided to write about some of my friends and include scans of scrapbook pages I recently completed about my girlfriends. And, voila!, the two topics mesh so well that I am once again going to participate in 5 Minute Friday.

Just in case you have missed earlier posts about it, on 5 Minute Friday blogger Lisa-Jo gives a word for everyone to reflect on. We each write for 5 minutes, with no editing, then post our links. It can be fascinating to see how many different interpretations there are of that week’s word! (If you like this week’s word, go check out posts by other bloggers HERE.)

So…here it goes…Ready…Set…Write!

 

I didn’t use to have girls as friends. During my teen years, most girls seemed to want to talk about clothes and make-up, talk about boys (rather than hanging out with them), or talk about ME (at least, that’s what it felt like). My heart was ripped over and over by barbed words from fellow females.

But then I grew up. I had kids. I stepped into leadership roles at church and in the homeschooling community. I found some women who were filled-with-grace. And these women became my good friends.

Let me tell you about one of my favorite grace-filled girlfriends. Sharon is day to my night; classy to my colorful; soft-spoken to my brashness; introvert to my extroversion. We may look like opposites…but our hearts have been knit together through tragedy and through triumph.

my GRACE-FULL friend

As we rub the rough edges off of each other, as we encourage each other, as we cheer each other on, one of the things I appreciate most about Sharon is her GRACE. She is a lovely lady, outside and in.

I’ve put scans on my ART BLOG of some of the scrapbook pages I made recently to celebrate my girlfriends. As I look through the pages, I realize that many of my friends (including those celebrated on these pages and others who have come and gone in different seasons of my life) are often GRACE-FULL. And perhaps that is why I am so drawn to them…

Royal Ascot

One of my favorite musicals is “My Fair Lady.” Do you remember the scene where Eliza Doolittle is at her first society event, a big horse race? That, my friends, is the Royal Ascot.

My Fair Lady at Ascot

A long-running British tradition.  A place where ladies dress in fancy clothes and wear over-the-top hats and where men wear tails and top-hats. A venue for people-watching, for seeing and being seen. The horses run their races, but the society action is in the “royal enclosure.” Royalty has been attending this racing event for over 300 years.

Imagine my absolute delight when my sister asked if I would be willing to go with her to Ascot as her guest! We had great fun together, pretending to be “posh.” We studied the official STYLE GUIDE to make sure we would be dressed appropriately. We covered our hats with bright, cheerful flowers (and I included a whimsical turquoise butterfly).

Ascot Sisters

Garden Hats

It is traditional for race-goers to have a pre-meet picnic in the car park. Many of the groups put up fancy marquee tents with wooden tables and chairs, hot food, and magnums of champagne. Ours was much simpler, with folding chairs and a small side table, but we felt fancy, and I bet our food and drink was just as tasty as theirs! (Let’s not talk about the rain, okay? It was a bit squished finishing up our picnic in the car…)

Fancy Picnic

Bubbly Drinks

Posh Picnic

We joined the throngs walking towards the special entrances reserved for those in the Royal Enclosure. Along the way, we walked on a boardwalk across the turf race track. (Just think what it would be like to stand in the middle of the track with horses thundering toward you…)

ascot grounds

turf track

We were still a little nervous that it might be obvious by our dress that we really didn’t belong in the Royal Enclosure. Whew! After doing some people watching, we realized we fit in just fine!

Ascot Hats

Proper Ascot Style

The Day’s events started at 2:00 with a parade, including the arrival of the Royal Family. The QUEEN and Prince Philip were in one of the first carriages. (No, they did not join us in the Royal Enclosure. That was surely too plebian for them…they had their own private Royal Family Box!)

Parade

the Queen arrives

Then the races finally began. Besides the wonderful people watching in the Royal Enclosure, and the feeling of being one of the “elite,” it was also a wonderful place to watch the horses. We stood along the rail, right at the finish line. That meant we saw each horse explode out of the tunnel on to the track AND we saw the actual finish of each race.

in the tunnel

entering the track

on the rail

finish line

My sister insisted that if we were at a horse race, we had to “take a flutter on the ponies.” She broke even. Don’t ask me how I did… (yes, the first two races I picked winners…but I wasn’t betting on those races…sigh…) Others could be seen intently studying the race card between races.

breaking even

studying the racing card

With passes for the Royal Enclosure, we also had front row access to the owners ring (where they could watch the race on big screens) and to the winners circle. After each race, the jockeys walked past this area to weigh in. At the same time, there was a media circus while the trophy was presented to the winner of that race.

owners

jockeys

winners circle

After all 6 races were over, thousands of people crowded around the bandstand behind the grandstand for a singalong. This is apparently a long-standing tradition. Everyone waved British flags, singing and dancing. (Quite obviously many of the prim and proper British upper crust folks had plenty to drink during the races…guess that’s why they had magnums of champagne at their picnics!!) Occasional rainbursts didn’t stop anyone from having fun—they just put up their umbrellas and carried on.

ascot singalong

dancing

brollies

singing and dancing in the rain

“Singing and Dancing in the Rain”
(This one’s for you, James)

It was an amazing day that ended with a double rainbow. I didn’t have to search for the pot of gold—even though it was a dark, drizzly day, it will always be golden in my memories! Thanks for a wonderful, extra special way to celebrate my 50th Birthday, little sis!

Golden memories

(If you haven’t seen “My Fair Lady,” you can see the opening scene and song of Eliza Doolittle at Royal Ascot HERE. And yes, I managed to restrain myself from yelling “Move yer bloomin’ arse” as the horses neared the finish line…sorry Eliza, I managed to stay in high-society character even though you didn’t!)

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