April 24, 2012

Change is...

Change is ___________.  How do you fill in that blank?  Do you love it or fear it?  I don't know how you feel about change, but one thing is true.  Change is inevitable, and it happens to all of us. 

My friend, Lisa Ray, and Dede Fischer have just beautifully captured another truth about change in their new book, The Joshua Tree.  No matter what the change might be, God is there every step of the way. 

Be strong and courageous; do not be frightened or dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go. (Joshua 1:9)

This beautiful book, illustrated by Pamela Walker, uses the Angel Oak as inspiration for the setting, and Pamela has cleverly hidden eight angels inside her drawings throughout the story. 

Set in the surroundings of a beautiful old live oak draped in Spanish moss, the animals of the forest lived a very happy and carefree life.  The tree, who had been there longer than any of them could imagine, was a constant source of wisdom and comfort for them.  Beside this wise old tree ran a mighty river.  Unlike the old tree, the river was constantly changing, and except for an occasional drink, the animals were wary of it.  Life was good.

Then came CHANGE.

A violent thunderstorm strikes and the forest is set ablaze.  They immediately turned to their wise old tree for shelter only to learn that they would have to face the one thing they feared the most...the river.  In her last moments, the tree told the animals about the "One, the Maker and Giver of life, who loved and watched over them always. No matter where they were, He would always be with them."

I won't spoil the rest of the story for you here, but have faith.  It ends well. 

I love this book.  I love the setting, the little animal characters (even the possum) and beautiful drawings. But most of all, I found myself reflecting on my own situation and feeling a wonderful sense of reassurance.  Yes, Grammy fears change.  But I, also, believe the message of the book and Joshua 1:9.  I encourage anyone who thinks they or someone they know might be faced with a change to have this book on their bookshelf or give it as a gift.  You can order it directly from Lisa's website.  I have bought three already and may be ordering more.  You know Grammy.  She loves to give a good book away.

Lisa and I met as fellow teachers in a middle school.  She taught social studies.  I taught in the special education unit.  We underwent a big change together.  We instituted a team teaching concept where we planned classes and shared teaching responsibilities instead of "pulling out" the special ed students for isolated tutoring. Lisa and I made a great team.  More importantly, the model of teaching that we strived to achieve, made a positive impact on the students, and after all, that is what mattered most.   We even trained other teachers in other schools and districts on how they, too, could implement such a model.  I remember Lisa using a little story in our training sessions, where she dubbed herself the "Queen of Routine" prior to changing to team teaching.  She has also authored another book, Once Upon a Time, Y'all - Southern Origin Stories, available at Mast General Store. 

Off to make a change...

April 20, 2012

A Hip Trip

Papallama and Grammy are in their "go-go" years.  It comes just before the "slow go" years that come just before the "no go" years. 
Our latest "go" was to San Francisco and the wine country of California.  Since this blog is dedicated to my boys, bear with me as I write a little travel journal entry for them.  Thinking back thirty or forty years, I realize travel and technology have changed tremendously, so in the future, I am sure their travels will be something we can not even imagine today.

Boys, to get to San Franciso, it takes about 4 1/2 to 5 hours by plane from Charlotte, NC.  But before you even get on the plane, you are taken through a security check where you must remove your shoes, pack liquids in containers under 3oz, and walk through a scanner where you are checked for weapons or explosives.  Why?  Look up 9/11. For some reason, Papallama always gets a thorough inspection.
Caught the early flight out

To pass the time on the plane, it's a great idea to download a movie from iTunes.  You know iTunes.  It's on your Apple iPad. Speaking of Apple, Papallama keeps bemoaning the fact that he never bought stock in the company. Our first computer was an Apple. We loaded programs on it with a cassette player.  What's a cassette player?  Okay, this is birdwalking...back to the trip...

Didn't take long for the iPad to catch PBuddy's attention!
We really acted like tourists on our trip...seeing as how that's what we were.  We wanted to see the major landmarks that we had read or seen whenever San Francisco was mentioned. 

Alcatraz was a famous prison there.  Nicknamed "The Rock", it was supposed to be impossible to escape and the conditions on the island were brutal.  Our tour was one of the highlights of our trip.  When we arrived by boat, we were given an audio tour (headsets with an audio player) and a former prison guard shared many interesting stories and events about this national landmark as he led us around with his narration.  There were two prisoners who escaped and have never been accounted for. Wonder what happened to them?
Even on a sunny day, this would be a miserable place to be.
If Papallama looks scary, imagine a real prisoner!

My favorite day started at the tiny diner, Mama's, for breakfast, followed by a walk up a beautiful street to Coit Tower.  Coit Tower was a gift to the city from wealthy Lillie Hitchcock Coit and built in 1933.  You can really get some spectacular 360 views of the area from there, including Lombard Street, the crookediest street.  Plus, the walls are covered in murals painted by post depression workers, and they are a lesson in the areas history beautifully depicted in art form.  From there, we were lucky to catch a bus to Fisherman's Wharf, where all the tourists wind up sooner or later.  We saw sea lions hanging out at the pier enjoying a little bit of sunshine which we saw very little of while we were there.
Typical San Francisco residential neighborhood
Top of Coit Tower
A very diverse city
The Golden Gate Bridge seems to be visible just about anywhere you are in SF!
Crookedest Street
Just a small sample of the murals!
Sea Lions have taken over the piers.
Coit Tower from Fisherman's Wharf
San Francisco has a large population of Chinese, and when you are older, they may even be the majority in that area.  We ate at Hunan's Home in China Town.  It was one of our better meals, especially for the price.
If you look closely, you will see Hunan's Home, a great Chinese restaurant.
Beautiful Japanese Tea Garden in Golden Gate Park
You can see the Golden Gate Bridge from lots of vantage points, and it's what most people associate with San Francisco.  It's an engineering marvel for its time and still serves the infrastructure of the area very well.  We crossed it to get to Muir Woods and wine country. 
The bridge is always being painted as rust is it's worst enemy.
The giant redwoods were something I had dreamed of seeing since I had read about them as child.  They were as big and beautiful as I had imagined all these years.  I do believe the whole trip was worth it just to see them and stand in their shade in person.

Where's the top?

My new screen saver
 Wine country included Sonoma and Napa Valley.  Not much of a wine drinker, this wasn't my favorite, but we did travel through pretty rolling hills covered in grape vines.  No wonder...the land sells for $300,000 an acre in Napa Valley.  Grapes are grown and sold there just because of the name and what it signifies to wine makers. 

Wine caves underground are great way to store it as it ages.

Sonoma was a cool little town and we had lunch at Sunflower Cafe.
And we met the Bush Man!  We kept seeing "Have you seen the Bush Man?" on travel brochures, but we had no idea what it was talking about.  Then, as we were walking down the sidewalk in Fisherman's Wharf, a branch of a shrub jumped out at us and growled!!!  Papallama jumped a foot off the ground and said, "Hey, man, you scared me!"  The "Bush Man" makes his living jumping out at poor unsuspecting tourists and yelling, "I made you holler, give me a dollar!"  (No, he didn't get a dollar from Papallama.)

We left San Fran happy for having had the experience. Grammy wants to stay on the east coast for the next trip. Papallama says we may cross the pond.
Cable Car ride is a must in San Fran!

But first, laundry...maybe in thirty years, we won't know what that is!

April 10, 2012

I Give Up

I thought life had slowed down enough to allow me to catch up here on all that had been going on in March.  Wrong! It's moving just as fast, if not faster, than ever.  So...to make a long story short...that bug that Mama Cat and Baby Bird had?  Well, it landed Mama Cat in the ER at our local hospital running a scary high fever, and she and Papallama would spend the next week sleeping away the days with the virus while Baby Bird and I explored the nooks and crannies that a new crawler so easily finds.  Because she was here longer than expected, she and Jaybird decided that he would join her here for the weekend to attend a cousin's wedding.  That wedding, which I directed (pat on my back), was beautiful with a funtastic reception.

Spring forward to April and Grammy started a makeover of a dining room, supposed to be living room combo.  I have used the living room space as an office for a while now.  We hired a painter for the first time in our married life.  We're just too busy to accomplish all of the projects we want to do right now on our own.  I'll post a picture (maybe) when it's all done. 

And now, we are off for another grand adventure! 

~California! Here we come! 

April 6, 2012

And then...

After our weekend in Alabama, I got ready for my return trip to help Mama at Law for another week.  She had requested my help long before P Buddy was born when she saw the possibility that she would be in a trial in March.  Trials in family law are not frequent, according to Mama at Law, so this was a pretty big deal and meant it would need her full attention. 
Photo Credit: Anna Kate Photography

It was the first time that I had the challenge privilege of taking care of both boys at once including having them both in the car and out in public together with me.  How I raised two children of my own is now a mystery to me.  It is scary business.  Once when making a quick left on a busy road, the car's tailgate flew open.  I pulled off the road and proceeded to fix the problem.  When I returned to driving, PDub sweetly shouted, "Oh, crap! Dat's silly, uh, Gwammy?"  That's when I realized that I could no longer vocalize my thoughts while driving in the car with the grands.  Obviously, he picked up on a new phrase from a reaction I didn't even know I had broadcast.  Then one afternoon, I decided to grab some early supper for PDub from the nearby fast food place.  I thought I would just drive through, but I couldn't turn down his excited request to get out and play a while at their playground.  PBuddy, meanwhile, was wailing like a banshee, his usual response to short car trips with me.  "Oh well, he'll stop when I get him out," I thought.  And he did.  Until we got inside the restaurant.  Then he commenced to wail again.  The workers' eyes got real big, and their pace quickened.  (Oh, they thought I was going to take the wailing baby out?  Ha, ha...no such luck!)  PBuddy was given the distinction of being the loudest baby they had ever heard.  Well, he's got a good set of lungs.  What can I say?  Luckily, he did settle down and PDub enjoyed some time playing.  Again, how did I raise two of my own?  I felt a little better when Mama at Law said she would have never attempted to do it alone.  I have to give PDub props for being a super listener and for leaving peacefully when I told him it was time to go. 
Photo Credit: Anna Kate Photography

Now, don't let me leave you thinking that PBuddy is a cryer.  He is the sweetest, cuddliest butterball of a baby.  I just love to hold him because he appreciates it so much.  He and I are kindred spirits given our position of #3 in family position.  We #3's gotta stick together.  He will never have to worry about me neglecting him because I've tired of ballgames, concerts, or programs.  God willing and the creek don't rise, I'll be there, PBuddy...and Baby Bird...and PDub...

I returned home after a successful conclusion to the trial and welcomed Mama Cat and Baby Bird for a special visit.

Remember that virus that they had?  It came along, too.