Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Blessed New Year!

We are finally headed home!!! Almost all of my family, a gaggle of cousins and two brothers in law are there waiting for us. They even waited to open all the Christmas presents until we were there to celebrate with them! My family is too wonderful!

We hope to have three whole days home and we will be celebrating Christmas, the New Year and throwing a bridal shower for my baby brothers bride to be (sshhh!!! It's a secret!). Busy,busy, busy- as always. I'll be lucky if I have the chance to run any of the errands that I need to, but its worth it to celebrate with family.

Anyhoo, I just wanted to wish the world a happy, peaceful, Christ-centered new year!!! Be safe!

Monday, December 28, 2009

Walking in a Winter Wonderland

Sleigh bells ring! Are you listening?
In the lane snow is glistening!

Christmas eve was spent in the little town of Summersville Lake, West Virginia. Hubby used to come here when he was in college and has spoken about moving here and opening a wilderness outfitter/ camp.

It was a beautiful snowy evening. Hubby flew his remote control airplane/boat on the thin sheet of ice that the entire lake was covered with. The dogs caused the entire lake to gurrgle by attempting to catch air bubbles trapped below. They were so hyper and had so much fun running through the snow trying to catch the plane.

It was a glorious evening. I'll let the pictures speak for themselves :)

Hope everyone is enjoying the Christmas Octave!

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Adoption and the Holy Family

This morning Paul and I stopped in a tiny town nestled in the mountains of West Virginia. We were worried when we walked up the road towards the church, twenty minutes early, because there was only one car parked by the church. Had we gotten the mass time confused? Where else could we go at such late notice? Especially with an 18 wheeler! We had already walked there from the edge of town.

The doors were unlocked. We went in and discovered that the church was half filled with people who had walked. I was in love! I would love to just walk to my church, particularly on a snowy winter morning like today. I know that I had walked, but that was out of neccesity and not a decision based on living down the street. It just seems so quaint.

Fathers homily for the Feast of the Holy Family was about love being the driving force that makes the difference in a family. Not blood relationship. He spoke of families that fall apart during hard times because of the lack of love required for sacrafices that must be made in a family. He reminded us that St. Joseph was not the paternal father to Jesus, but rather an adopted father whose love bound him to Christ as much as any father could possibly love their child.

Father joked that looking at an image of the Holy Family is a not what you would expect to see from a "good, Catholic" family. Here was a family with one child. A father who was "a mere adopted father." But, they had love and were doing as God called them to do.

Father spoke about adoption, love and sacrafice.

I found myself crying. Its been a little over a year since I lost my baby, Paul Joshua. Was Father's homily God's way of asking Paul and I to prepare and try to adopt a downs syndrome baby? It has been on our minds since before we got married, but we aren't financially able to come up with the 20 to 30,000 needed for the adoption. There are so few jobs at home right now. So many potential mountains to climb.

Almost every day I ask myself why God is waiting to give us a baby. I know He has a reason. I just wish I knew what it is! At mass I found myself asking Him, "Lord, is this the reason you are waiting to give us a baby? Do you want us to choose a baby for our family?"

I look over the pages and pages of listings of children on Reece's Rainbow that desperately need families. We pray for them and the families that God is asking to adopt them. Are we one of those families??? We are pretty sure the answer is yes, but the timing is the question. Oh, and the money of course! :)

We have been working so hard. All of our student loans are paid off. The credit cards are gone and paid off. We have one last loan to pay off and we are debt free. Its an amazing feeling!

We've worked so hard to pay everything off that we haven't really saved anything but an emergency fund so far. So now the question is do we keep driving this truck over the road (which we think may be the reason we haven't been able to get pregnant yet) and save up money or go home and try to find a job that won't pay as well (the major industries in our area have gone belly up this past year and our county has the highest unemployment rate in the state), but potential get pregnant sooner? Of course that is a pretty cut and dry version.

Lord, what are you calling us to do???

All I can really do now is pray and trust Our Lord. I guess it just helps to verbalize my emotions and speak what's on my heart.

Please, Lord, give me patience and trust.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Words for a Silent Night

Mary, did you know that you're Baby Boy
Will give sight to a blind man?
Mary, did you know that you're Baby Boy
Will calm a storm with His hand?
And when you kiss you're Little Baby
You kiss the Face of God!
Oh, Mary, did you know!
Mary, did you know that your Baby Boy
Is Lord of all creation?
Mary, did you know that your Baby Boy
Will one day rule the nations?
Did you know that your Baby Boy
Is Heaven's Perfect Lamb?
This sleeping Child you're holding
Is the Great I AM!
Mark Lowry and Buddy Greene
Thank you, Lord, for sending us your only Son.
Thank you, Mary, for you're Fiat.
Merry Christmas, Mama!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Secret Santa

Hubby and I spend a lot of our time listening to Dave Ramsey. We actually refer to him as Uncle Dave since he gives advice that a family member would.

If you aren't familiar with him you must go to his website and see if there is a radio station near you that plays his radio show. If there isn't you should download his podcasts. Or check out his books from the library.

Dave Ramsey gives the best and most practical advice on money. He is a good Christian who really helps people, even those who know or think they know a lot about how to handle money, to truly change their lives for the better. He's a ROCKSTAR!

During a recent program he was discussing Secret Santas- millionares and billionares from around the country who go out at Christmas time and hand out money to those who are in need, but who keep their identities secret. The stories were amazing and brought tears to my eyes.

Uncle Dave discussed how anyone can be a Secret Santa like these people. This triggered a great conversation between hubby and I about St. Nicholas of Bari, the REAL Santa. St. Nicholas did what these "secret santas" do. He gave to the people who truly needed help.

Not that there is anything wrong with giving gifts to friends and family, but when you think about it that aspect of gift giving seems kind of silly. The people we love know we love them with or with out our gifts and usually don't NEED the things we give them. The people who need gifts are those who need to be reminded that God loves them and is providing for their earthly needs via us, the body of Christ! What better way to celebrate the life of Christ then to spend at least His birthday working with those who are rejected, suffering or just lonely?

My family used to go and sing Christmas carols at our local nursing home and then visit with the people who didn't have any family to visit. Paul has been trying to see if we can find a kitchen to help out at this year (if we can find somewhere to park our rig since we have to work on Christmas day!). There are so many other amazing things that we could do. Even just buying someone a meal. Something, anything! I pray that I have the wisdom to recognize the opportunities in my life to show Christ to others. We really hope to create a family tradition of service when we have children.

Thanks for the reminder Uncle Dave!

Monday, December 21, 2009

Tender Tennessee Christmas

After our cruise, we drove to Gatlinburg Tennessee. We had spent the first part of our honeymoon at my grandparents timeshare there, so it felt as though we were reliving our honeymoon- in reverse.
As a Christmas present to my parents, we had arranged a family getaway at the timeshare. Two of my brothers, two sisters and Paul and I joined my parents. The first morning together there was a pillow fight and plenty of sibling fun. It was so nice to relax and hang out the way we had as kids.
As we left to go to breakfast very early on our first morning together, it began snowing!!! It was so crazy to have a sunburn from laying on the beach one day and then be freezing in the snow the next!

Cutest diner ever! Notice the snow scene painted on the windows? They even had a working jukebox! When I buy my vintage rv this is what I want the dining area to look like!

Pidgeon Forge has a hotel and shopping area called Christmas Place.
The shop filled with Christmas decorations and nativity scenes was amazing. They had a ceiling covered with starlight and a sleigh with santa and the reindeer that was flying through the sky. Around the end of the ceiling there was also a model train chugging along.

Aren't my sisters and husband too cute for words???

My sisters and I love taking silly pictures like this. The fun thing is getting my Dad to get in the picture with us. He's very silly, but he tries to hide it as best he can.

Mom makes the best cookies. I'm sure that she's the real Mrs. Claus!

The view from our balcony at the timeshare was amazing. Mom had mentioned to the woman who checked us in that she was so excited because we haven't had a family vacation like this since before my brother had been deployed and now he and his bride-to-be are going to stay there at the timeshare on their honeymoon! The woman upgraded us as a thank you for my brother protecting our country. Wasn't that sweet?

During my brother's deployment, while Bush was still president, my brother recieved a phone call from the president on Christmas eve thanking him and all the members of the Coast Guard for defending our country. A few weeks later he was invited to have breakfast with President Bush while he was doing a troop tour. Our family is very proud of him!

"Aarrghh, Matey!"

First things first, if you go to the bottom of the page and scroll through the playlist I have a few Pirates of the Caribbean songs that you can click on to "set the mood" : )

Freeport's Gold Rock Beach was where Pirates of the Caribbean II and III was filmed. Gold Rock Beach is one of the most beautiful beaches I've ever seen and I guess Disney thought so too. They built a studio there to film, as well as a special ocean filming tank.

We drove out to check out the studio which is part of a decomissioned U.S. missile base. I was surprised to see that it has been abandoned and stripped out. There are lots of building. A baseball field, tennis courts, dorms and who knows what else. The entrance and sign are all grown over.

These were the dorm rooms/apartments. There's not much left. Even the sinks and toilets have been ripped out.

And all the doors are gone!

I read that the original hope was to build Pirate themed resort hotels, water park, resturants and bars. They were even going to give studio tours! So much for that idea. It would have been great. It's really too bad no one invested in it.

Paul and I drove out to Gold Rock Beach
two days in a row because it was so heavenly!
It was neat to be there and explore the places were they had filmed.

I can't imagine Eden being any more perfect than this!

There isn't really anything pirate-y on the island, but we did discover this boat close to our hotel. We road out to check it out. It was docked next to someone's house and their dogs were not too excited to see us, but we went over anyway and took a few quick pictures from the gang plank. It was really pirate-y feeling. Sooo fun! I want to sail to an island on an old pirate ship and discover a cave filled with pirate treasure!
Aren't the words cave and treasure fun?

I love the old movie Blackbeard's Ghost. My dad used to read old stories about shipwrecks and treasures. The thrill and adventure of those stories always excited me.

Paul would look cute with a bandana on his head- he already has the perfect beard!
Perhaps a parrot would look good on his shoulder too!

Or a captain's uniform! Very Horatio Hornblower.

Lucayan National Park

I, being the dork I am, researched Grand Bahama Island a lot before our trip. I had read about the amazing underwater tunnels that you can access from Lucayan National Park and knew that we had to visit there.

There are over six miles of charted tunnels and caverns. They know that there is much more to the underwater system, but it is still uncharted. You can take scuba diving trips to explore the underwater world. How cool would that be???

No bats were there when we visited. Yet another reason to visit Grand Bahama Island in December!

The rickety walkways surrounded by lush vegitation made me feel as though we were in Swiss Family Robinson. Paul and I dream of having a treehouse like theirs someday. :)

Can you see the sunlight filtering through the blue-green water? There were soooo many fish in the cave! The fresh water floats over the salt water layer. It is amazing.

I wanted to be a marine biologist when I was growing up. That or a mermaid! As a kid, one of my friends heard that the St. Joseph novena ALWAYS works, so she said it and asked that St. Joseph would intercede that she became a mermaid. She and St. Joseph weren't on the best of terms for a little while after that! : D

Maybe, being an Island Princess would be a little more attainable, hhhmmm???

Here fishy, fishy, fishy... Paul tried to feed the fish banana chips!

I once saw a PINK fish this big...!

A funny thing happened on my way to the post office...

Today, two days after THE snow storm, Paul and I walked from a truck stop in New Jersey to a post office to drop of some Christmas cards and to buy more stamps. The snow was up past my knees! We waded through the piles of snow until we made it out to the main road. As we walked along Paul yelled out "LOOK!" and excitedly started following a little field mouse who had popped out from a plowed corner. Poor little thing was desperately trying to find somewhere safe to hide, but couldn't penetrate to wall of snow.

We decided his name is Herald, as in "Hark, the herald," and that he is most definately a Christmas mouse!

He reminded me of the little mouse in the book, If You Take a Mouse to the Movies... a book that I have on our coffee table at home. I know I'm a Dork, but I'm okay with that.

Even though Paul didn't say it out loud, I'm pretty sure that Paul wanted to make Herald his very own pet just to shock people. He's funny that way. But, he bit his tongue and kept silent remembering what happened last time he tried to bring home a mouse.

I know you are saying, "Last time he did WHAT?!?!"

Yes, my husband found a baby mouse in our kayak and put it in his pocket to bring home and show me. He got in the truck and the mouse got out of his pocket. For the next month, despite the fact that I never SAW the little mouse, I found nibbled packets of food and knew Paul's little friend was still with us.

Luckily, we soon traded our truck in for a new one.

As we walked back to the truck stop, my dearest, ever-loving husband decided to push me into a mountain of snow. I must say that it was very fun. I pushed him in and he made a lovely snow angel.

Aaahhh, my very own snow baby! :) He probably won't like me calling him that out on the world wide web for everyone to read- not manly enough and all that. Lucky for me, this post will be published by the time he reads it. Heee, heee!!!! Merry Christmas, Little Herald!

Advent on an Island

Time out for Advent!

Advent is supposed to be a time of preparation, reflection and quality time with loved ones. The liturgical calendar, like the advent wreath, breaks us out of our normal routine reminding us to be ever ready and anxious with joyful anticipation!

While hubby and I were on our honeymoon cruise to Nassau, we won a cruise and hotel stay in Freeport on Grand Bahama Island. We planned to go for our one year anniversary, but my brother got married the day before our anniversary. We decided to go a few days after Thanksgiving and it was a perfect decision.

The weather was beautiful, but since hurricane season had just ended, there were few other tourist.

I have never, in all my many travels through out the US, Canada, Mexico and Europe, met locals as friendly as those in Freeport. Near the markets there were those who just wanted to sell you stuff, but we rented a moped and drove around the island meeting gas station attendants, waiters and people on the street. Everyone was smiling, happy and ready to say hello! I guess living in such a beautiful place must help people have a sunny outlook :) Their economy has been badly hit and the people are hurting because of it, yet they are still smiling and trying to make the best of things.

This trip was a wondeful way to begin Advent. We enjoyed driving to Florida without the dogs and it was such a treat to be able to stop anywhere we wanted without having to worry about parking an 18-wheeler! Plus, our car has a bench seat! I love riding next to my baby with his arm over my shoulders :) Quality time with my loved one was going to be the first thing checked off my Christmas to-do list!!!

Can you tell that we had a great time???

Seriously, think I'm going to have to get one of these! I loved the Vespas in Rome, but never had a chance to ride one. This little thing got us all over the island. It was truly the best way to see everything and have fun. I even got some nice color on my shoulders and face when my sweater was off! Color is a big plus when it's not RED or WHITE. They tend to be my only color variations.

The beaches in the Caribbean are amazingly beautiful. We were going to go snorkeling the day this picture was taken, but the wind and waves were too big to go out to the reef. Instead we settled for sitting under the palm trees and sipping drinks made with yummy coconut! Talk about polar opposite from living in a tractor trailer.

God is so Good!!!

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Talkin' Turkey

"If the only prayer you said during your whole life was "thank you," that would suffice." -Meister Eckhart

Thank you, Lord, for all your many blessings!

This was a Thanksgiving of firsts (is that a word? :D) for our family.

Paul and I spent Thanksgiving alone last year, so this was our first Thanksgiving with family since our marriage. It was my brother and his wife's first Thanksgiving together. They are expecting my parent's first grandchild. We were joined by a friend and her children since it was her first Thanksgiving without her father. My brother came home to our farm for the first time since my Grandfather passed away five years ago. Joy, sorrow, laughter and memories... God has blessed us all through all the ups and downs of this year.

I would be interested to do a study on the food shared by people during the celebrations of their life. Each wedding menu, Christmas dinner and family supper is a reflection of tradition, location and personalities. Unique and yet similar. Think about it! Meals say so much about who we are, especially as Catholics who celebrate the sacrafice of the Mass each Sunday when we join our brothers and sisters in Christ at the altar. Spiritually life giving and sustaining food. In the words of my students, "Dude, that rocks!"

So, what did your Thanksgiving meal say about you and your family?

Here was our menu: Turkey, Dressing, Gravy, Mashed Potatoes, Glazed Baby Carrots, Green Bean Casserole, Sweet Potatoes with Marshmallows, Butternut Squash with Brown Sugar and Pecans, Spinach Salad with Bacon, Mushrooms, Hard Boiled Eggs and Tomatoes, Green Jello Salad, Rolls, Blueberry Sparkling Cider, Southern Tea and Hot Spiced Cider and Austrian Beer.

I would say that this reflects my family's simple style, southern roots and the unique blending of new family members.

My new sister in law brought, amongst other things, a jello salad which is a must in her family. Our family only makes jello when the kids are sick, but we all found it surprisingly good!

The Austrian beer that my brother brought was a special reminder to my husband and I of our months living, studying and partying in Austria while we were in college.

We had to have not one, but three types of cranberry! My brother's only eat the canned jell stuff, I always make the cranberry-orange-nut chutney that my Grandmother always made and now have to make a batch without nuts since hubby isn't a fan of nuts and my SIL made her mom's recipe for fresh cranberry sauce. At least we'll have great digestive health with all that cranberry!

Another first this year- my brother and sister-in-law opened a gift shop, petting zoo and Christmas tree farm this year. Black Friday was their Grand Opening! My dad drove people on tractor rides around our spring. People wandered through our woods in search of the perfect tree. Children "oohhed" and "ahhhed" over the Jacob sheep, little Donkey (The lyrics to the song Dominic the Italian Christmas Donkey run through my head every time I think of the little guy!), our horses, chickens and turkeys. A bonfire was set up in the woods. People snapped pictures of their kids by the giant plywood Frosty the Snowman that my brother made and his wife painted. Good times were had by all.

Paul decided we should "adopt" one of the trees. He named it "Earl". Paul and Earl have become very close.

Hope your Thanksgiving was as wonderful as ours!
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