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Sunday, December 30, 2012

Friends

Terry and Diane are friends that we met through another couple about three years ago when the three couples spent a week together at the Word of Life Conference Center in Schroon Lake, New York. In the years since, the friendship has deepened.

Three weeks ago, Terry and Diane celebrated their 45th wedding anniversary and invited us to attend. I took photographs of the event, and Doug shot video of it, to give to Terry and Diane afterward for a memento of the celebration.

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The Cake

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The Table Decorations

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Terry and Diane, playing a version of the Newlywed Game

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As their son and granddaughers watch

Terry and Diane live about 45 miles from us, so getting together takes some planning. One of our favorite places to meet is at a hospital cafeteria in a town about halfway between our two homes. This particular hospital cafeteria serves delicious food for a very reasonable price. Okay...cheap. Let's face it...cheap makes good food taste even better.

So Diane emailed me this week to see if we'd like to meet for lunch at the hospital today. We put the plans in motion. Then Diane discovered that today would be my birthday. So, when they met us, they came bearing gifts.

As a thank-you for recording their anniversary celebration in pictures and video, they gave us one of the table decorations from the party. They also gave me a birthday gift of a beautiful book of photographs from all fifty states in the United States. It's called "Walking with God in America," by Ken Duncan. It's full of beautiful nature photographs, with accompanying quotations from scripture.

And...they brought chocolate! Diane had made some chocolate caramel brownies for the occasion. After we ate our meal, we enjoyed the brownies for dessert. And...she sent the leftovers home with us.

On top of Terry and Diane's generosity, Doug came through with some special gifts, too.

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Truffles from DeBrand Chocolates

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And a new television set for my computer room. 
 
December birthdays, especially those that fall as close to Christmas as mine, often get lost in the holiday hoopla. But, thanks to good friends and a sweet hubby, this one didn't.

Monday, December 24, 2012

The Christmas Story

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Luke 1:26-35
And in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God unto a city of Galilee, named Nazareth, To a virgin espoused to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary. And the angel came in unto her, and said, Hail, thou that art highly favoured, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women. And when she saw him, she was troubled at his saying, and cast in her mind what manner of salutation this should be.

And the angel said unto her, Fear not, Mary: for thou hast found favour with God. And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name JESUS. He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David: And he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end.

Then said Mary unto the angel, How shall this be, seeing I know not a man? And the angel answered and said unto her, The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God.

Matthew 1:18-25
Now the birth of Jesus Christ was on this wise: When as his mother Mary was espoused to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Ghost. Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not willing to make her a public example, was minded to put her away privily.

But while he thought on these things, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared unto him in a dream, saying, Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost. And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins.

Now all this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us. Then Joseph being raised from sleep did as the angel of the Lord had bidden him, and took unto him his wife: And knew her not till she had brought forth her firstborn son: and he called his name JESUS.

Luke 2:1-20
And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus, that all the world should be taxed. (And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.) And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:) To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child. And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered. And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.

And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.

And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men. And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us. And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger. And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child. And all they that heard it wondered at those things which were told them by the shepherds. But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart. And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told unto them.

John 1:1, 14
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.

John 3:16-18
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved. He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.

Merry Christmas, my friends.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Mishmash

As the title implies, this post is going to be kind of a mixture of unrelated things.

Great-nephew, Cooper, age 8, has taken up competitive swimming. We attended one of his swim meets last Saturday. I haven't quite mastered the art of photography at an indoor swimming pool, but here are a couple of images that give a feel for the event.

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Here, Cooper is showing the adult helpers his arm, on which each of his events is written in magic marker.

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Cooper, between events

Monday night, as Doug and I were enjoying "America's Funniest Videos" reruns, our doorbell rang. There on our doorstep, and spilling over into the yard, were 25 or 30 Christmas carolers. They burst into song as soon as I opened the door; and, my goodness, what beautiful singers they were! Our hearts were so blessed as they sang four or five beloved Christmas carols and then prayed for us before they left. And our tummies were blessed by the plate of homemade cookies they presented to us.

With the crazily warm weather that we've had thus far in December, our grass is green and could stand being mowed. And we found dandelions blooming in our yard on Tuesday. I didn't get a picture of the dandelions, but I did get this rather unusual picture for December in Indiana:

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A Robin in the Crab Apple Tree

Tuesday afternoon, I had an appointment with my dentist, to have Tooth #25 extracted. Afterward, the dentist told me that, on a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being the worst, my extraction was a 2. Well, easy for him to say. For the one sitting in the chair, it was a 12!

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An implant wasn't possible to replace the tooth, making a bridge necessary. But there is reason to fear that a bridge attached to the adjacent teeth might damage them. So we may have to do a bridge that extends over several teeth. Meanwhile, we decided to let the extraction site heal before doing anything further. So I'm walking around with a missing tooth at the moment. May the hillbillies of the world forgive me, but I look like the stereotypical hillbilly.

That reminds me of a joke: Do you know how we know that the toothbrush was invented by a redneck? If anyone else had invented it, it would have been called a "teethbrush."

Are you all familiar with Groupon? They offer some pretty neat deals from time to time. Well, about a month ago, we ordered a soundbar to use with our television, hoping that the sound it produced would be a better quality than the sound that comes from the television speakers. There was a delay in shipping, so the soundbar wasn't delivered until December 7th. Since then, we've driven ourselves crazy, trying to get the thing connected. Finally, today, we called the company's customer service department and got a guy who not only spoke English but who was persistent in resolving our problems. It took the better part of today and two trips to town to buy different cables, but we're up and running. Thank you, Zach! You are one of the best customer service representatives I've ever encountered.

I've done a few posts about the horses that I owned a number of years ago. This week, a woman was led to this post on my blog when she typed the name of her horse, Sera Diamond, into the search engine. Sera Diamond was one of those foals produced by my beloved Half-Arabian mare.

We exchanged emails, and here is what she wrote: "Sera Diamond, Sammy to me, was my horse in the 80's. We showed the Arabian circuit and took many wonderful trail rides. He was amazing! We loved to play tag in the field and he always loved a good carrot! He made the 'teen years' much easier."

Thank you, Melanie. You made my day.


Sunday, December 16, 2012

The Olden Days

I grew up in the fifties and sixties. My parents and the parents of just about everyone I knew were married. Once. For life.

I learned songs like "Faith of Our Fathers" in public elementary school music class. I went to a public high school, with about 2,000 other students, where the Bible was read over the public address system by the school principal.

Hit songs featured on the popular "Hit Parade" television show included faith-based songs like "This Old House" and "He's Got the Whole World in His Hands." People on television shows were often portrayed as praying or otherwise acknowledging God. Television hostess, Loretta Young, kept a Bible on the set of her show and occasionally read from it on the program.

An awareness of the existence of God and our accountability to Him was present in most of our culture. Morality was taught at home, in school, and by society in general.
 
The elderly were respected and held in high esteem.

Teen pregnancy was rare. 
 
In our town of about 250,000 people, murders were so uncommon that it was headline news when one occurred. Homes and cars were often left unlocked and were seldom molested.

In 1962, the United States Supreme Court ruled that organized prayer in public schools was unconstitutional under the First Amendment Establishment Clause, which says: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof."

In the fifty years since that ruling, children have been taught that they are nothing more than highly evolved animals. That there is no God who loves them and to whom they are accountable. That there are no absolute rights and wrongs. That they shouldn't be expected to control their sexual desires any more than any other animal does. That sexual perversion is just an alternative lifestyle. That life has no intrinsic value. That pre-born babies are nothing more than tissue to be destroyed so as not to inconvenience the mother.
 
Untold millions of pre-born children have been murdered in the womb, by the very person God intended to be their greatest protector.
 
Why, then, are we so surprised that a culture which so devalues human life should produce mass murderers?
 

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Carson

We are proud of our three great-nephews, all of whom have enjoyed accomplishments in various activities, both in and out of school. These boys are the children of my brother's son and his wife. My brother didn't live to see his own children grown and never had the joy of seeing his grandchildren. So I do my part to enjoy them in his stead.
 
It's interesting to see the different personalities and interests in these three boys.
 
This post is about Carson, age 11. He's the "artsy" one in the family. He studies piano, takes dance classes, and sings in a community youth choir. This fall and winter, he has also auditioned for and been given parts in two musical productions at a theater in his community.
 
Please excuse the quality of the following photos. They were taken in low-light situations and without flash.
 
The first two are of Carson, singing in a Christmas concert on December 6, with the community youth choir.

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I don't have any photos from the first production at the community theater. It was a children's production called "I Want My Mummy," performed around the time of Halloween. This served as a sort of introduction to theater for Carson and many of the other children.
 
Then, beginning on November 30, and running through most of December, Carson is playing the part of one of the orphan boys in the musical production of "Oliver." This is more of a "big time" production, involving some professional actors, as well as local talent from the community.
 
We were in the audience last Saturday; and, although the theater prohibits the taking of photographs during the action, I managed to sneak two shots anyway.

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We arrived early, and I saw no harm in getting a shot of the set before the play began.

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Then I captured one shot of Carson during the grand finale, when all the actors returned to the stage for final bows.


Monday, December 10, 2012

A Weekend Trip to Oklahoma

Jay, the grandson of our good friends, Jim and Sandy, is a senior in high school and plays on his school's football team. The team played in the Class 5A Oklahoma state championship football game on December 1st, and we felt that milestone accomplishment was worthy of our support.
 
So we made the trip to Oklahoma for the game. Initially, we were going to ride with Jim and Sandy; but the two couples ultimately decided to drive separately. Part of the reason for that was concerns over having enough space in one vehicle for all of us to take everything we wanted to take. Another concern was, for lack of a better term, scheduling conflicts.
 
Jim and Sandy are early risers. We're not. Not by a long shot. They were planning to leave at 6 AM on Friday and drive straight through to Tulsa, where Jay and his family live. Doug and I opted to leave on Thursday afternoon. We drove 240 miles and stayed overnight in Effingham, Illinois, knowing full well that Jim and Sandy would probably pass us the next day.
 
We called them when we got on the road Friday morning, and they were only an hour behind us.
 
Crazy people.
 
We kept looking over our shoulder as we drove that day, expecting our friends to pass us at any moment. They didn't pass us, but they did arrive in Tulsa ahead of us. I know you're wondering how that happened.
 
Well, I had our GPS set to avoid toll roads. It's not that we mind paying tolls...well, we do; but that's not the main reason. We find toll roads stressful and dangerous, unless you have the pass that lets you shoot through the toll plazas. And we don't. So we just try to avoid them. Anyway, Oklahoma must be the Toll Road Capital of the world. The most direct route to our destination was a toll road; but our GPS, following the instructions we had programmed into it, took us on a roundabout route to avoid the toll road. As a result, Jim and Sandy beat us to Tulsa by about a half-hour.
 
But we enjoyed our little detour, and we did arrive in time to go out for supper with them and Jay's dad.

Here are some pictures from the trip:

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Can you see a smoking pipe in this cloud formation? It was more defined when I first saw it but had changed some before I could get the camera out.

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This is the sunset as we were entering Tulsa on Friday night.

We had time to kill on Saturday, before the football game that night. My dad's dad had lived in Bristow, Oklahoma, not far from Tulsa, and was buried in the Bristow City Cemetery. He had died before I was born. I had never seen his grave and wanted to find it since we were so close. It's a big cemetery, but I had done a little research ahead of time, and we were able to find the grave without too much trouble.

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Entrance to the Bristow City Cemetery

The weather couldn't have been better for the football game. The temperatures on Saturday were in the mid-seventies. At the game that night, it was definitely cooler than that; but I don't think it went below the mid-fifties.

Here are a few pictures from game night.

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The contenders

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The location

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The watchers

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The players (Jay is number 56 in the black shirt.)

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I have to confess here that I know virtually nothing about football. I'm totally lost without the television commentators telling me what's happening on the field. It looks to me like somebody yells "hut" and chaos ensues. Above is one of the chaos pictures.

Jay's team was ahead 8 to 7, going into the fourth quarter. Unfortunately, the the other team won with a score of 24 to 8. Let's just say they were busy in that fourth quarter.

We stayed in Tulsa the next morning, long enough to have brunch with Jay and the rest of the Tulsa family. We wanted to make sure Jay knew we were proud of him and the way he had played, even though his team hadn't come away with the state championship.
 
We left Tulsa a few minutes ahead of Jim and Sandy, and they breezed by us within an hour. Both couples stayed at the same hotel in Effingham that night, but we didn't make connections. They had arrived about an hour ahead of us, and they left about an hour earlier than we did the next morning.
 
It was a long trip for a short visit. But it was fun.


Thursday, December 06, 2012

Christmas Card Follies

When I began blogging back in September of 2010, it was at the heavy-handed urging of  my friend, Sandra, and her daughter, Jenny, who both had been producing some great blog posts for a few years already.
 
Life has gotten in the way for Jenny, and she hasn't been blogging for awhile now. Because of that, I asked her for permission to "borrow" one of her most memorable posts, and she willingly gave it.

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The year was 2007.
 
Jenny had just gotten a new DSLR camera and decided to use it to take pictures of her three daughters for the family Christmas card.
 
The cast of characters was CoCo (age 10), LuLu (age 8), and MiMi (almost 4).

Girls1
Doesn't this one just scream "Peace on Earth"?

How about this one:
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Or this one:
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It's interesting to note that CoCo is smiling and looking at the camera in every shot, apparently oblivious to the chaos around her.

Jenny then decided that maybe the other two should be separated. Maybe she could do something artsy with three individual shots.

Girls4
CoCo is a keeper.

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LuLu was reluctant to show her teeth in those days, self-conscious that her two front teeth were still growing in.

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MiMi, on the other hand, was not self-conscious about anything. She was just fed up with the picture taking.

During the five years since these pictures were taken, these three girls have blossomed into smart, beautiful, confident, and competent young women. But, like their mother, they're still full of zest for life. In other words, they're not all that far removed from the personalities shown in these pictures.


Tuesday, December 04, 2012

Camcorder Stills

We're so pleased with our new camcorder, and one of the features we love is that we can snap a still shot while shooting a video, with no interruption to the video. Another great feature is that we can snap a still picture from a video while playing it back.

This post features still shots from the camcorder, obtained during our November visit to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

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The river we found on the day we followed a Quiet Walkway trail

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Lynn Camp Prong Cascades on Middle Prong Trail

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Snow and Fog on Newfound Gap Road, shot through the windshield

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Red Tree at Scenic Overlook on Laurel Falls Trail

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Along Little River Trail

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Red Leaves Along Little River Trail

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Scene Near Deep Creek Area of the National Park

Sunday, December 02, 2012

Badlands National Park, South Dakota...1988

I've been keeping my new slide scanner humming, and I'm pleased to announce that I have completed the scanning of the slides in all eighteen 140-slide carousels, plus a few miscellaneous slides that had never found a home in a carousel.

So I'll be springing some of those old photos on you from time to time. And now is one of those times.

When Doug and I went out west in 1988, our first such trip together, our first place to visit was the Badlands National Park in South Dakota.

IMG_00894_Badlands

These striking geologic deposits are said to contain one of the world’s richest fossil beds. Ancient mammals such as the rhino, horse, and saber-toothed cat once roamed here. The park’s 244,000 acres protect an expanse of mixed-grass prairie where bison, bighorn sheep, prairie dogs, and black-footed ferrets live today.

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Doug and I pretty much limited our activity to just driving the loop road through the park and didn't do much hiking at all. But, if you look closely at the center of the above picture, you can see a couple of people that lend perspective to the photo.

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This is what I looked like in 1988.

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The loop road, barely visible in the above photo, travels between those two pinacles.

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Again, a stranger lends perspective to the photo.

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