Wednesday, December 11, 2019

2019 Christmas Letter, Part 3

     As January of 2019 turned into February, winter descended on us here in the upper Midwest and didn’t quit until April. My kids came and shoveled off the roof of our house twice and we paid somebody else to shovel off the garage.

 I guess pictures tell the best story.

 At least, before all this winter wretchedness, the kids had traveled back to Kenya the end of January. Nick and Val had been there multiple times, but this was the first time my son-in-law had made any trip like that.  
 They took along a girl they knew from high school and her mother. Everyone had a good time, even though there was a bit of a snag with the mom. Life goes on, though, right?
 The worst thing that happened that time of year was that one of cats, Alice, the one we called the Kitten, just because she was so small, crossed the rainbow bridge, suddenly and unexpectedly. 
 She had been with us for only eight years.
 I can’t believe I don’t have many good pictures of her.   

 Unfortunately, her passing wasn’t the only loss we suffered this year.   

Sunday, December 8, 2019

The Continuing Search for Mary

So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. Luke 2:4-5 New International Version

Visitor: Excuse me. It is awful busy in this town.

Donkey: The king wanted to count all of the people in this land, so he told everyone to go back to the town of their ancestors. I guess a lot of people are from Bethlehem.

Visitor: Looks like. I am trying to find a young woman named Mary. I went to Nazareth looking for her, and they told me that she would be here.

Donkey: That’s her and her fiancé Joseph over there. I brought them here. It was a lot easier than the work that I usually do. Even though she’s going to have a baby, she doesn’t weigh as much as the carts I usually pull.

Visitor: I see. Why are she and Joseph talking to that man?

Donkey: They are looking for a place to spend the night. They have relatives in town, but all their houses are filled. I don’t know where they are going to stay.

Visitor: It looks like she could have the baby anytime.

Donkey: If you say so. Who are you anyway?

Visitor: Just someone who is trying to find out who Mary is and why she is so special.

Donkey: I wish I could help you. I could tell right away when I met her that she was special. She told Joseph that she could walk all the way here from Nazareth, but he insisted she ride and that’s why he borrowed me from my owner. I don’t think they have much money. I hope they find a place to stay.

Visitor: What about you? Where will you stay?

Donkey: I’m used to sleeping outside. What about you? You can't sleep outside. 

Visitor: I don’t know. Even though I have traveled a lot the last few days, I’m not tired. Maybe I will go out into the countryside. Enjoy the peace and quiet away from the city.

Donkey: Well, have a good night and maybe we will meet again.

Visitor: Maybe. In the meantime, I’m going to figure out why I am drawn to this woman Mary. But I guess it will have to wait until morning now.

Friday, December 6, 2019

2019 Christmas Letter, part 2

     Welcome to the Christmas Letter 2019. On Wednesday’s blog I mentioned that I was going here, but today will be the official opening of the “Letter”.

 The night of the first day of the new year should have told me something about how our year would be. Around 10:00, shortly after going to bed on January 1, Hubby and I each ended up in the bathroom (good thing we have two of them). We spent the next six hours on our respective thrones, holding buckets in our laps.

 Every year for the last six years or so, I’ve chosen a “word of the year”, a word to keep in mind, to help me focus on something, to turn to when things are unraveling. I’d chosen the word “gift” for 2019. Hmm? That first day of the year my gift was those two toilets in the house.

 Speaking of toilets, in January, I submitted my first Cologuard specimen, sending my stool sample to the lab to have it checked for cancer cells. I was pretty stressed about it, as my mammogram the month before had initially come back questionable and I had to go in for a repeat just to be sure. The second one was totally fine. Then my bone density scan came back border-line as well. I was thinking that I really didn’t want a third screening test to come back abnormal, but I guess the third times a charm as my colon is fine. (Oh, boy!)
  Other than that, January brought us colder weather than usual, and I think the average amount of snow. Then February hit, bringing with it snowmageddon. I don’t think it stopped snowing until April. No, I know it didn’t stop until then. More about that next time. 

Wednesday, December 4, 2019

The Christmas Letter, part 1

     I hate to say that I have run out of ideas for my yearly Christmas blog series, but I have spent the last week or so trying to come up with a new theme for this year.

 I asked my family, and over the weekend, while I was going through last year’s Christmas cards (yes, last year’s. I thought I’d already gone through them and only saved certain ones, but apparently, they were all there), I mentioned the number of letters people had written. You know, the “Christmas Letter”, which I am guilty of writing as well, where the writer tells you all about the year they had. My daughter thought I should blog about the “Christmas Letter”. But if I continue posting three times a week, that is seven posts between now and Christmas (not counting the Sunday posts). And there is clearly not enough that could be said about the “Christmas Letter” to take up that much time and space.

 Sometimes I am pretty dense though.

 I mean, as I was paging through other people’s letters, I even asked myself if I was going to send out the “Christmas Letter” with my Christmas cards again this year. (Every single year I fall into a quandary about whether or not to bore family and friends with it, as well as spend the time composing it.)

 And then, duh, it hit me. This will be my Christmas letter to you, over the next three weeks. Accept my apologies ahead of time if I bore you. And also, if you don’t read my blog, I guess you won’t know how my year went.

 Here’s a spoiler alert: it was a pretty rough year. But we got through it and I can look back now and remember the bright spots. So hold onto your hats and come back on Friday to hear how our year began.
Above is our grill on the deck from February 23 and below is the same grill this past weekend. 
I'm going to have to spend some time focusing on the nice three weeks of weather we had this past year. 

Sunday, December 1, 2019

What Is Everyone Talking About?

After much debate, I decided to once again share this series of Christmas blog posts. I first wrote them in 2011, then reposted them in 2016. Every Sunday, for the next six weeks I will share the next post in the series. After maintaining this blog for nine years, I still think these are some of my favorites. Also, all of the pictures were taken on one of my recent trips to Kenya.   

 All the neighbors were filled with awe, and throughout the hill country of Judea people were talking about all these things. Everyone who heard this wondered about it, asking, “What then is this child going to be?” For the Lord’s hand was with him
Luke 1:65-66 New International Version

Visitor: Excuse me, what is everyone talking about?

Dog: Well, you knew that Zachariah and his wife Elizabeth had a baby, didn’t you?

Visitor: No, I didn’t. I’m new to town.

Dog: They are a really old couple. Nice though. They throw their scrapes out to me. Anyway, they are really old and never had any kids, and then all of a sudden she got pregnant.

Visitor: Really?

Dog: But here’s the really wild part. When Zachariah found out they were going to have a baby, he suddenly couldn’t talk at all.

Visitor: Why was that?

Dog: The people say that it is because he didn’t believe that God could do this. But here’s the rest of the story. Today, when he wrote down that he wanted to name the baby John, suddenly he could talk again. He said that it is because he obeyed God.

Visitor: How did he obey God?

Dog: He named the baby John. Nobody could figure out why. Zachariah said that is the name that God chose for the baby. And that the baby is going to be very special.

Visitor: How is he going to be special?

Dog: I don’t know.

Rabbit: I do.

Visitor: Well, hello, I didn’t see you there.

Rabbit: It all has to do with Elizabeth’s cousin. She is going to have a baby too. And they say that baby is going to be even more special than John. John was born to lead the way for Mary’s baby.

Visitor: How do you know that?

Rabbit: Why don’t you go visit Mary and find out.

Visitor: Maybe I will have to do that. Where can I find her?

Rabbit: She lives in Nazareth.

Visitor: Well, thank you both for all of your help. I will have to check this out.

Friday, November 29, 2019

Thanksgiving Present

     As you know, if you read Wednesday’s post, or live pretty much anywhere in the northern half of the US, we woke up to this the day before Thanksgiving.
 Luckily, I had just turned off the water and was drying off after my shower, when the power went out. At first I thought Hubby was goofing with me and had reached in and flipped off the light switch. But it only took me a second to realize that the heavy snow on the power lines, along with the wind, had cut our electricity. Almost everyone living outside the city limits was without electricity all day. As I write this, many are still without.

 Hubby took me to work, as none of the side roads had been plowed. Which means he picked me up after work and I could get a nice picture of these two who have survived both the snow and the deer hunting season. So far. 
 I took a few pictures around the yard, but the light was waning, so most of them aren’t clear. Except this one, of the tree which actually broke off in a storm this past spring. Interesting that I got this last picture of it in this state.
 Around 8:30 Wednesday, while we were huddled under blankets, reading in the living room, thankfully with the generator running and giving us enough power for lights and an electric heater, we heard a crash and a bang. 
 Not sure if this will make it easier or harder to clean up. The problem is that I’m not sure if it will happen before the snow melts now. 
 The snow is pretty though. Even artistic.  
 As Hubby and I were lying awake in bed around three yesterday morning, we were pondering how we were going to cook Thanksgiving dinner for fourteen people with no electricity. We have a gas stove, so we could do some cooking, but we might have to skip the green bean casserole and the baked beans that we heat in crock pots. We were pretty sure that having that many people in the house would generate enough heat to keep everyone warm. But it was just the inconvenience of the whole thing.

 Hubby had just declared that if we didn’t have power by six am that we would start calling people and cancel Thanksgiving. Just like that, the lights came back on. Sent God up a huge thank You.

 Around the table, in a warm house with too much hot, freshly cooked food.
 My brother had already left when we got around to a family photo. My dear friend Julie snapped it for me. Thank you, everyone, for showing up. Wish you would have eaten more! Leftovers!

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Thanksgivings Past

     I’ve been planning this year’s Thanksgiving dinner, and I think the current headcount is 15. It depends on the weather though. Remember I live on the edge of the arctic circle, practically, so it’s anybody’s guess. Our power went out at six this morning and there's about six inches of snow on the ground with lots more falling. Might have some trees falling, too, before we're done.

 Anyway, let's think turkey day instead. Before we jump into this year’s fray, I thought I’d share the best of the pictures of Thanksgivings past, ever since Hubby and I acquired Thanksgiving as “our holiday”. 

2010. The first recorded Thanksgiving with all of us around the table in the living room (because who has a dining room big enough for this many people?).
 2011. The table is set, but what I noticed about this picture is the football player on the TV. Man, that was eight years ago!
 2012. Another very nice table set up, ready for food and guests. 
 2013. Battle of the pies, apparently. 
 2014. A shot of the prepping going on in the kitchen. 
 2015. I actually had a lot of good pictures from this year; it was hard to pick just one. But the winner was what looks like Ross pouring gravy in his beer. 
 2016. That year we had our highest headcount. 19. We had always been putting together two tables, but that year we had to make it three!
 2018. The bird resting before his big debut. (Unfortunately, we missed 2017 because Hubby was working.)
Watch for the 2019 pictures as soon as I have digested this year's meal.