Teacher to teacher in the Pearl of Africa

It’s funny. I’ve noticed that I update this blog when there is something big going on. Something that I want to express in a way that takes more space than the typical Facebook status update or tweet on Twitter.

When I last wrote, I had accepted a position with Operation Christmas Child (part of Samaritan’s Purse) and our family was preparing to move to Boone, NC. It’s so hard to believe that that was over 6 months ago now. We have made many new wonderful friends, while of course still missing the ones we left in New Bern. We have settled into a fantastic new church family. Nathaniel transitioned well to his new school-with just a few minor bumps in the beginning-and now loves it. He has successfully survived his first year of End of Grade testing and only has one more week left of third grade. (How is that even possible?!?!?) Travis is enjoying his work-from-home position and the flexibility that gives him in his schedule. I have had the incredible opportunity to travel to Philadelphia, Orange County, Atlanta, and Chicago for our Connect Conferences-experiences that were among some of the more stressful and exhausting work experiences I’ve ever had while at the same time being some of the most rewarding as I got to meet and work with our amazing field staff and unbelievably dedicated year-round Connect volunteers.

Again, I could describe so many things I have learned during the past six months, but I am going to focus on the next leg of this journey our family has been on….a “leg” that I honestly still can’t believe myself.

Tomorrow I leave for Uganda. Yes, as in Uganda in Africa. What an amazing opportunity I have been blessed with to travel with many fellow OCC staff and some of our leader volunteers to go and serve alongside our partners in Uganda. We will be helping to distribute OCC shoebox gifts with local churches, schools and other organizations while we are there as well as serving with another Samaritan’s Purse project. To say I am excited about this opportunity would be an understatment. This is a total “bucket list” thing for me.

For several reasons, our family decided not to pack a special shoe box gift for me to give to a particular child while I was in Uganda. Instead we decided to do a couple of things that I could share with many children. I have packed stickers, lots and lots of stickers-which are apparently very popular with kids over there. Nathaniel, Travis and I also made 200 friendship bracelets for me to take and share with children. Travis and Nathaniel will wear similar friendship bracelets for the week I’m gone.

As I have been preparing for this trip several staff have told me that, at some point, I might feel led to bring something else with me, and, if I felt that, I should do it. That I never know what a blessing that “something” might be to someone in Uganda.

Well, it happened today. I was out running a last few errands and I got to thinking about the places we would be distributing shoe boxes. Last I heard (yes, I know, I know….while on any kind of mission trip flexibility is key!) our team will be distributing shoeboxes at 4 churches and 2 schools. I got to thinking about some of the things I’ve learned about the education system in Uganda.

There is free public education, through primary school, in Uganda, but like in the US, parents must provide supplies and materials for their child to attend school. This is much more difficult to do for many, many parents in Uganda than it is for most parents in the US. Because of this, many children don’t attend school because their families simply cannot afford the materials, books, uniforms, etc. that are required. (Of course other factors affect school attendance, such as children suffering from common illnesses that we don’t have to worry about in the west, children having to travel long distances to get to school, children being kept at home to help care for siblings or other family members, etc. etc. etc.)

After thinking about the children, I then began thinking about the teachers who lead these children. I thought about the struggles I have faced as a teacher. Overcrowded classes. Not enough materials to accomplish what I want to during class time. Having to spend a lot of my own money to provide the type of learning experience I thought my students deserved. Students whose home life seemed to hinder rather than help their academic success.

Suddenly I felt almost guilty for ever complaining about these things. How small the problems I have faced as an educator must be compared to those faced by educators in a country like Uganda. Educators who I’m sure want the same things for their students that I wanted for mine, but who face mountains of obstacles compared to my little mole hills. I instantly knew what I wanted to do. Yes, I wanted to share with and bless the children that I would come in contact with, but I also wanted to bless my fellow teachers while I was there too.

So I put together “care packages” to give to the schools we will visit. Each package contains pencils, pens, erasers, pencil sharpeners, paper, stickers, chalk, math booklets, word card games, a dictionary, a jump rope, a frisbee, beach balls, and a small globe.

I know it’s not much, but I hope that it will, if nothing else, encourage the teachers in their work. I hope it will let them know that teachers in the US share their love and concern for the next generation and support them and pray for them as they face seemingly insurmountable obstacles.

So if you are a current, future, or former teacher, a homeschooling parent, an afterschool or summer caregiver, or a school volunteer, know that I can’t wait to not only love on some children in Uganda, but also love on some teachers there as well in your honor and on your behalf. I don’t pretend to understand the struggles that African nations face regarding health, poverty, education, or many other issues. I’m sure that my eyes will be opened to many things in the coming week and that I will return home with not only a different perspective on Uganda but also on my own life and my own country as well. I do firmly believe in the power of education however to lead to positive change in a society, and I’m happy I felt led to support the teachers I’ll meet in Uganda that are trying to foster that positive change in their own communities.

Published in: on May 18, 2012 at 10:22 pm  Comments (1)  
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Mountain people are wise. Ocean people are happy.

The title of this blog contains the text of a bumper sticker I used to have on my car. I would say that I was both wise and happy. I was born and raised in the NC mountains and have lived in two locations close to the coast (Miami, FL and New Bern, NC) for the past 10 years.

Now, our family is getting ready to head back to the mountains-another change for us in a year that has been full of changes. In April my husband lost his job. The 6 months since then have definitely been a time of growth and discovery for us. We’ve learned a lot about ourselves, our marriage, what’s really important to us, how little we can really live on…. While it’s been difficult at times, I actually wouldn’t trade this time. I feel like, as we move forward into this next stage in our life, we are on a more sure foundation. Maybe not financially, but in other, less concrete ways.

We have been blessed with the opportunity for me to accept a position with Operation Christmas Child (with Samaritan’s Purse). For those that don’t know, Operation Christmas Child is the organization that takes gift-filled shoe boxes, put together by people all over the US (and Canada, the UK, and Australia), and distributes them to children all over the world through partnerships with churches in local communities. I will be designing and writing all of the training materials for all of OCC volunteers within the US. It’s a big job, but I am so excited about taking on the challenge.

My acceptance of this job means that we will be moving from New Bern (eastern NC) to Boone, NC (high country, western NC). I’m going back to the mountains. We are sad to be leaving or wonderful friends in New Bern, but we are also SO excited about living at 3,400 feet above sea level! Nathaniel is thrilled about the increased chances of getting regular snowfall. Travis is excited about the MUCH cooler average summer temperatures. I’m just excited, about it all. After growing up in Asheville, NC there has always been a part of me that felt drawn back to the mountains. The peace and calm I feel when I’m in the mountains is so rejuvenating. I love watching the change of seasons in the mountains. I love being outdoors, in all those seasons. We are now in the process of looking for the right place to rent when we move there. I so hope we will be able to find something that will allow us to really connect with and enjoy the natural world that we will find ourselves within. I trust that we will end up in the place that is just right for us.

“The mountains are calling and I must go.”-John Muir

Published in: on September 27, 2011 at 3:25 pm  Leave a Comment  

The Little House and the Accumulation of Stuff

As long as I can remember I have been fascinated by small things. The more miniature the better. I have always loved doll houses, even though I never really had one. I can remember a friend having a HUGE doll house (kinda misses the point of a doll house I guess) that I thought was so cool. It had every type of room possible, all filled with tiny little furniture, little dishes, little books….everything you could imagine. It even had electricity and tiny lights and lanterns. Did I mention that I thought it was pretty cool?

As an adult I still am fascinated by little houses. I recently read a book titled Little House on a Small Planet. It’s all about people who have voluntarily chosen to live in very small homes. Some only a few hundred square feet. Even with children. Part of me has always had the “one room cabin in the middle of the woods” fantasy, but I don’t think I’m quite ready to actually do that. On the other hand, this book, along with the books Affluenza and Fresh Food From Small Places (among other things I have read-like some of the blogs listed in the blog roll) have really made me retink the whole concept of “living space”.

The largest home we have ever lived in was the home we owned while we lived in Miami. And it was not terribly large. Only about 2000 square feet. It sounds crazy to say “only” since 2000 square feet is about twice the size of the average family home in the 1950s and much, much larger than the average space many families around the world share. The place where we currently live is about 1700 square feet and we’re moving somewhere smaller.

Our new place will be about 1100 square feet. Still, definitely not tiny. But definitely smaller. Small enough that we are seriously having to think through what “stuff” we really want to move. We have many things that we have now moved 4 times and still haven’t used. Why? Why do we keep it? Because it’s pretty? (Sitting in its box in the cabinet) Because it represents something that we wish was true about our lives but isn’t? Because it fills up the space we have? Because there is a false sense of security in things? Just out of habit? I’m not sure I’ve figured out why yet. All I know is that a lot of it is going. Going to Goodwill. Going to consignment. Going other places. Just going. The other night, as we were packing up some things, my husband and I (somewhat) fondly remembered the college days when we could pack everything we owned into our cars. Of course, at college, our food and furniture was taken care of and we didn’t have to move it with us. Also, we didn’t have another person and their stuff to take into consideration either.

So we are scaling back our stuff as we scale back our living space too. We have had discussions about how we really spend our time. An honest look at this has helped us to scale back. We love to have people over to our house, but we are much more grill-burgers kind of entertainers than five-course-meal ones. So there were some fancier dishes we could do away with. I love arts and crafts, but, honestly, I spend most of that creative time drawing or knitting. So, a lot of my art supplies was donated to the art teacher at my son’s school and a got to a point where my art and craft supplies could fit into two small boxes.

Even my 8 year old son got in on the act. I was shocked as he very honestly went through his toys and pulled out those things he really doesn’t play with anymore. The one category he had difficulty with was his stuffed animals. To him, they all have their own little personalities and they are his “buddies”. He’s still in a stage where these little creatures seem real to him. He doesn’t have too many and he had given away so many other things, so we allowed him to keep them all.

Our new place, while still in the same city where we live, is in the local historic district. We’ll be within walking distance of the library, a couple of cool parks and playgrounds, the farmers market and lots of great galleries, museums, and other attractions. The house is older and has a charm all it’s own. Sure, it’s not perfect, but our “little house” fits our lives and, with an honest sorting of our material belongings, the things coming with us now fit us better too.

Published in: on February 18, 2011 at 10:57 am  Leave a Comment  

Life outside (or away from) the box

As I mentioned in my previous post, our family has decided to do away with satellite or cable TV. From 400 channels to none. Zero. Zilch. Nada.

So how’s it going? I wish we had done it years ago. And believe it or not, my husband and 8-year-old son feel the same way.

The other night we had an impromptu family conversation about the whole TV issue. We all agreed that we really don’t miss it. Seriously. I promise I’m not crossing my fingers behind my back.

Several years ago I had the privilege to teach in a Waldorf school. One of the things that Waldorf education encourages is very limited or no television exposure, especially for younger children. For some reason, we could not let go of the TV at that time. Even though, day after day, I was surrounded by other people who had let go of their TV and who strongly encouraged me to do so. I think, at that time, the TV, for all of us, represented an escape. From stressful jobs, long commutes, crowded city life, and many other things that were stressing our family out at the time. We totally used the TV as a way to escape reality.

I’m not going to lie. We got rid of the TV now partially for financial reasons. We have been looking for any place we can cut back on our expenses. (We’re exploring and making many other changes too, but more about those in future posts.) But we have discovered that, by getting ready of the TV, we have gained far more than we’ve lost.

We have rediscovered our local library which, even in a smaller town like ours, has so many books, audio books, movies, and musical CDs to choose from. We go each week as a family, each picking out our own books, and choosing a movie or two as a family, along with some CDs. What amazing little jewels we have found among the stacks!

We rediscovered have family time. We are a pretty close family anyway, but we’ve all commented on how much we’re enjoying this new-found time together. We have done puzzles, played games, danced around our living rooms like crazy people, gone swimming at the gym, and just spent more time talking to one another.

We have also rediscovered silence. I never realized how often we had the TV on just for background noise. Now, we find it quite nice to sit around, each engrossed in our own book, and not need other sounds filling our head. It’s quite comforting and peaceful.

We have gotten a TV antennae that will allow us to get local channels, but it’s been sitting in the box for quite a while, as we seem in no rush to install it. Recently, we’ve had two winter storms come through, unusual events for this part of NC, and I think we missed being able to watch the weather coverage, but I think that’s probably all we’ll use that TV access for. We’ve never been much into the typical network shows so we really don’t miss those.

I don’t pretend to say that getting rid of your TV will solve all your family problems. It certainly hasn’t for us. But what I have noticed is, we talk more. We sleep better. My son is not as anxious. We don’t seem as driven to purchase things or eat out. We are more productive with our time. All in all, I think it’s been a good trade.

Published in: on January 17, 2011 at 8:40 pm  Leave a Comment  

A Long Absence

Sometimes it is amazing how life works. For better or worse, everything we go through propels us on our journey forward. It’s only when we look back that we often realize the impact that life’s events have had on us.

Two years ago, January 2009, I started this blog. And by February 2009 I stopped posting. Like many other things in my life, I started but didn’t continue this project. I think it’s very appropriate that I pick this back up now, 2 years later.

In some ways, life is very different from it was 2 years ago A lot has happened, some of it better than others. Two new jobs. Completing three 6′ tall bears for a public art project here in New Bern. A diagnosis of type 2 diabetes. Losing about 65 lbs. Finally having some long-overdo conversations with some people in my life. The loss of my husband’s father. Some stressful situations with our son at school….that’s just the major things I can think of right now. That doesn’t even get to the normal, day-to-day living stuff.

But the sentiment of this blog is the same. I want to chronicle the moments in life that bring joy, challenge and introspection. The moments that truly help shape my life and the life of my family. As the past two years have taught me, sometimes “life’s best moments” don’t seem so good at the moment but, in the long run, they help mold us. It’s our strivings, through both the good and the bad times, that make us each the amazing, special, unique individuals we are.

My two theme words for 2011 are intentionality and simplicity. I want each choice, each decision I make to be intentional. I also want to really focus on the things that are truly important to our family. In all areas.

Toward these ends, we/I have a couple of decisions for the first part of this year. First, we have decided to do away with our satellite television. We have been without satellite (or any other kind of TV service) for about 3 weeks now. We’re still toying with the idea of Netflix or Hulu, but right now we’re enjoying our new-found time. I’ll let you know how that goes, and how we fill that time!

I have also decided that, for the next 6 months, I am not going to do any shopping except grocery shopping. If there are other items that need to be bought (clothing for example) we will go together and make the purchases as a family. That way, they are family decisions and a family agreement on the money to be spent. I even hope that most of the grocery shopping with be “a family affair”. I come from a family where overspending and hoarding are big issues and I want to “check myself” and make sure I’m not falling into those destructive patterns. Also, we have quite a bit of debt to pay off and I want to make sure we are putting as much toward that as possible.

As the months go on, I’ll keep you posted on the progress of these two projects. It should be interesting.

Until then, happy new year! I wish you many blessings and much peace in 2011.

Published in: on January 1, 2011 at 5:20 pm  Leave a Comment  

This one’s for the birds.

Growing up, my grandmother always had bird feeders of all kinds at her house and greatly enjoyed spending time watching the birds. I enjoyed watching the birds with her but was always running off to do something more “interesting” before learning to much about them or really appreciating them. As an adult, living in my own place(s), I have tried several times attract birds to a feeder in my yard, usually without a great deal of success. Recently, just after Christmas, I purchased a sturdier bird feeder, complete with hanging pole, and placed it in the yard, just outside our big bay window. Our neighbors always had birds at their feeder and I thought that I might have a chance to of attracting a few. Little did I know how much joy I would receive from this activity.

I’m happy to report that we are now running a very successful bird feeding operation. On a daily basis we can see doves, cardinals, finches, chickadees, tufted titmice, eastern blue birds, American robins and various kinds of sparrows around our feeder. We also have a persistent red-headed woodpecker and several red-winged black birds who can be pests around the feeder, but I enjoy watching them too so they are still welcome. Because we are blessed to live on the water with a lot of woods around our rather open yard, we also get to see a variety of water and shore birds. These don’t usually come in the yard but I admire them from afar as they fly peacefully over the water, suddenly dropping straight down to catch a fish. Recently, we have been graced with the presence of a pair of red-shouldered hawks that have made ouryard home as well as a few sightings of a majestic bald eagle that flies through on occasion. What a moving experience it is to see this amazing bird, this symbol of our great country, soar gracefully through the sky. It’s not something that I ever thought I’d see in my own backyard.

As you watch birds in your own yard on a regular basis, you come to recognize and appreciate the “personalities” of the different species and of the bird community as a whole. Now, I work outside the home 5-days a week, so I’m not sitting around all day watching “my birds” but it is amazing what I can observe in just the 30 minutes or so a day that I do watch them (usually while sitting at our dining room table working on the computer.) For example, the birds tend to come to the feeder on a kind of schedule. Most days, between 4:45pm and 5:00pm, the action at the feeder begins to pick up and you can usually be guaranteed to observe many different species around the feeder at once. You learn which birds are kind of “bullies” and tend to shoo other birds away from the feeders. You learn that goldfinches don’t mind packing together on a feeder and that sometimes there are so many of them that it’s hard to actually see the feeder they perch on. You learn how the habits of the birds change with the weather and the seasons. I’m looking forward to seeing how the bird community in my yard changes as we approach spring and how the birds will react to some of my gardening plans for the year. I’m sure many of these observations have been made by ornithologists way before now, but it’s kind of exciting to make your own discoveries about your everyday world rather than just reading about the observations of someone else.

February is National Bird Feeding month. (They have a month for everything don’t they?!?!?) It is also the month for the annual Great Backyard Bird Count sponsored by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and the National Audubon Society. Now in its 12th year, this four-day event asks people to spend at least 15 minutes on at least one of the four days to count the birds you see. You can count in your own yard, in a park, basically anywhere there are birds. The information is then used by scientists to look at bird migration patterns, species distribution and the effect of climate and habitat change and disease on bird populations. We participated in the Great Back Yard Bird Count this year, and, apparently I’m not the only crazy one who likes to spend their time watching birds. This year, over 84000 observations were submitted. During these observations over 600 different species of birds were recorded and almost 10.5 million individual birds were counted.

So why do we care? Why are so many people interested in birds, especially wild birds? I mean, how would I, or you, or most of us be directly affected if the birds we’re used to seeing every day simply disappeared? Of course, you can point to the role that birds (and all living things for that matter) play in the cycle of life-the food chain as it were, but if we just look at birds, in isolation of the other ecological connections they play a part in, how would your life change if there were no wild birds? Less bird poop to clean off your car? More extra money lying around that you might have been spending on bird seed? Very few wild birds are hunted for food, so I doubt there would be any impact to human food supplies. So why do those of us who enjoy spending time, energy and money feeding and watching birds willingly drag ourselves outside in the cold and snow to make sure there is enough food for our feathered friends? Why do we shush everyone in the room when a particularly beautiful species is at the feeder? Why do spend time looking up information on ways to attract even more birds to our feeder so they can eat even more of the bird seed we spend our hard-earned money on?

We do it because wild birds represent more than just some feathers and a beak to us. They are more than the sum of their parts. First there is their beauty. Have you ever seen a bright red cardinal, perched in a deep green pine tree, in a yard covered in a blanket of white snow? Or the brilliant blue on the wings of an Eastern Bluebird? Have you ever stopped to really listen to some of their beautiful songs? There is such variety in the beauty of these creatures that I think our world would be much more dull without them.

Wild birds also represent a connection to the natural world that many of us lack and crave in our everyday lives. Most of us do not work in professions that expose us to nature on a regular basis. We sit in meetings or behind computers for hours at a time in an environment that is climate controlled and sometimes doesn’t even have a window to let us see what’s really going on outside. Having a bird feeder outside of your window is like having your own little nature center at your finger tips. Watching bird behavior makes you more aware of the changes in seasons and the “natural order” of life that, until fairly recently, human behavior was very much guided by as well.

Last, and at least for me probably most beneficial, watching wild birds offers a way to slow down for a while in a very hectic life. Have you ever tried to watch birds, even through a window, while walking around doing a bunch of other things? It doesn’t work very well! Birds can be very skittish and sometimes any quick movement or sudden noise can see them flying for cover. In order to really see birds, you have to sit still and quietly, something that’s often hard to do in today’s world. Forcing yourself to sit still for even 15 minutes a day and to not do anything other than appreciate the view from your window (even if that view is less than ideal) can do wonders to reduce your stress level and calm your mind.

So I encourage you, wherever you live, to find a way to feed a few wild birds. Unless you go completely crazy over the hobby and spend tons of money on feeders and bird seed, I can guarantee that you will get more out of this activity than you’ll give. There are many quotes about birds, but one of my favorites is a Chinese Proverb that says “A bird does not sing because it has an answer. It sings because it has a song.” We can learn a lot from birds.

Published in: on February 21, 2009 at 3:13 pm  Leave a Comment  

Snow Special

I love snow.  I know that not everyone shares my enthusiasm on this subject but I think snow is so cool (pun intended)!  I guess my love of snow is something I inherited from my mom.  She really, REALLY loves snow.  Before I was born, my parents got a solid-black lab puppy.  They named her Snow.  Need I say more?

So I come by this fascination honestly.  When I was growing up, a good snowfall was a celebrated occasion.  Granted, I grew up somewhere that received just enough snow to be exciting and get us out of school, but usually didn’t last too long.  We weren’t usually forced to get out in it and continue our normal routine, so it wasn’t a bother or an inconvenience.  My mom was a teacher when I was little, so she hoped for snow days just as much as we did.  I can remember making extra sure that I had completed all my homework, and sometimes a little extra, on any night that we might get enough snow to cancel school the next day.  I think I truly believed that I might jinx the snow if I didn’t get everything done.  Like whether or not I finished all 20 math problems would really affect the weather.  What about all the kids who maybe didn’t finish all their homework?  Did they have any impact on our potential break from school?  Not as far as I was concerned.  It was all up to me.

But I digress.

Whatever the reason, I do genuinely like snow.  I think snow is one of the most beautiful things on Earth…from a single flake-so detailed and fragile looking-to a crystal blanket of white covering the ground.  I just think it’s gorgeous. 

snow_flakes

I love the way everything sounds so muted when it snows.  That quiet, peaceful silence.  It’s like God has put earmuffs on the whole world.  I love watching snow fall, big flakes, little flurries, it doesn’t matter.  I love the crunch that snow makes underfoot.  I love how snow seems to “soften” everything.  The way snow sparkles in the moonlight.  I just love everything about snow.  Always have, and I think always will.  

So, in 2001, I moved to Miami, FL.  Not exactly a hot bed (again, pun intended) of winter weather activity.  I think it did snow once in Miami.  In 1977.  And it didn’t even stick.  Bummer.  Not having 4 seasons was one of the hardest things for me to adjust to while living in south Florida.  I truly did miss the excitement with which I usually looked forward to the change of seasons.  And I missed snow.  Instead of sitting excitedly in front of the weather forecast on TV seeing if it was going to snow, I found myself sitting nervously in front of the weather forecast on TV seeing if we were going to get a hurricane.  Not exactly the same.

During the years we lived in Miami, it did snow in Asheville, NC once while we were home for a visit.  I have to admit, even though it didn’t amount to much in the way of inches of accumulation, it was a very special snowfall.  Our son was only 2 months old and we had gone to Asheville for his very first Christmas.  We woke up on Christmas morning to big puffy flakes falling from the sky.  It was so beautiful!  We bundled Nathaniel up and went outside for a couple of pictures.  I’m not sure how much Nathaniel enjoyed it-he looks a little frightened in the pictures-but the rest of us thought it was very special!  On one other occasion, when Nathaniel was about three, we drove a little further into the mountains from my parents home to show him some “real” snow.  Again, I think we all enjoyed the excursion a little more than he did.  Other than that, Nathaniel wouldn’t know a snowflake if it landed on his tongue and melted there. 

Until yesterday that is. 

Beginning last week, the local forecasts starting hinting that we might get a little precipitation on Tuesday (yesterday)…only a slight chance that kept disappearing and reappearing depending on which weather forecast source you visited.  Then, on Monday morning, as I sleepily turned on the early morning news I heard the words, “Winter Storm Watch” and “Possibility of 3-5 inches of accumulation” from our local weatherman.  I wasn’t sure I had heard correctly, so I rewound the TV (you have to love DVR!) and listened again.  Once I was sure I had heard what I thought I had heard, I jumped up and ran in and woke up Travis to tell him the exciting news.  I’m not sure how much he joined in my enthusiasm at that point, but he faked it well!  We kept listening to the weather and they kept predicting snow.  We all went to bed on Monday night pretty darn excited about it all.

On Tuesday we woke to some pretty good snow fall, that didn’t really stick and then it stopped.  Completely.  I thought “You have to be kidding me?  Is that all!?!?!”  Despite the fact that he was enjoying the day off from school, Nathaniel was truly disappointed that he might not actually get to see real snow.  

Then about 1:00pm, it started snowing.  Hard. 

snow-2

Within a short amount of time, the ground was covered.  We were all running around the house like little kids.  Jumping up and down, cheering.  Pretty soon we couldn’t stand it anymore.  We all bundled up and went outside.  I then had the privilege of experiencing one of the most special moments I have had as parent.  I watched as Nathaniel ran outside, gazed up into the sky and let the snow fall into his face. 

nathaniel-in-snow

He stood there for a moment, motionless, mesmerized by it, then took off, running around the yard like a wild man, laughing his head off.  He was having so much fun.  And so were Travis and I.  It was one of those rare moments when you get to share something with your child for the first time.  The first time ever.  You get to watch their horizon’s expand and the pure joy and amazement with which they embrace new experiences.  I quickly and silently said a little “thank you” prayer for the ability to share such a special moment with my family.  After all, it doesn’t snow that often in eastern North Carolina either.

When it was all said and done, we had around 4 inches of snow at our house.  Nathaniel got to experience the fun of sledding and snowball fights.  We tried to build a snowman, but that didn’t workout all that well.  It didn’t matter though.  In the end, it was one day that I have no doubt Nathaniel will remember for the rest of his life.  I know I sure will.

nathaniel-in-snow-2

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Published in: on January 21, 2009 at 9:45 pm  Leave a Comment  

A New Day Dawning

In light of recent events in this country, you may think that the title of this post is referring to something completely different.  A new day dawning for our country or world perhaps?  Actually, I’m literally referring to “a new day dawning”.  Sunrise, and the reminder it is to me each day. 

In February of 2008 my family made a move from Miami, Fl to New Bern, NC.  Quite a switch.  In every way.  A cultural switch.  A housing switch.  I career switch.  A weather switch.  In most ways, Miami and New Bern could not be more different.  For those who don’t know us very well, a little history.  (For those who do know us well, feel free to skip ahead!) Travis and I had moved to Miami in late 2001, after I finished graduate school and an extended internship.  I had been born and raised in North Carolina and had attended college and graduate school there as well.  Travis was born and raised in Miami, but had spent many summers in North Carolina with his aunt and cousin and had come up to attend college in Charlotte, NC.  We met and began dating during my freshman year of college at Queens University of Charlotte. (I’m sure some Queen’s memories will find their way into this blog sooner or later.  The four years I spent in college were definitely some of my “life’s best moments”!) Travis had already graduated from Queens but still lived in Charlotte.  Travis’s family still lived in Miami and many people assumed that, when we moved there in 2001, we were moving back to “Travis’s hometown” because it was “Travis’s hometown.”  The truth is that, when I started applying for jobs after completing graduate school, I looked at positions all over the east coast, from Boston to Miami, and, it just ended up that the job I eventually accepted was in Miami. 

We had a great 7.5 years in Miami.  Nathaniel was born there and we made some great friends.  It was nice to be close to Travis’s parents and other family and, for me especially, to get to know them better.  Travis’s parents were so helpful with Nathaniel and it was great to see the relationship between them.  Despite all this, it was never our intention to stay in Miami long-term.  We knew that, probably sooner rather than later, we wanted to head back north.  Most likely to North Carolina but not necessarily back to areas we had lived in previously.  So, for many reasons that are too complicated to go into here, when Travis saw a posting for a position at a church in New Bern, NC, he didn’t hesitate to apply.  In mid-December 2007 we came up for a visit and fell in love with the area and the people.  We returned back to Miami, Travis gave 60 days notice to our church there and we began packing up.  Which brings us back to February 2008.  Whew!  That was a quick tour of at least 13 years of family history!

We had driven from Miami to New Bern over 2 days, Travis and our dog in a moving van with our stuff and Nathaniel and I driving Travis’s car.  Finally, at about 8:30pm on the second day of our trip, we arrived in New Bern.  We pulled up to a house we had never seen in person and began unloading just a few things to get us through the night.  When we got into New Bern it was dark.  When I say dark, I mean dark.  Our house is a bit “out in the country” (especially compared to where we lived in Miami), and there were few street lights or lights from other houses.  I even think it was a moonless night!  And it was cold.  Very cold.  Definitely a big change from Miami!  We came into our house only to find that our heat was not working.  Did I mention that it was cold?  We got a few things put away and settled down to basically camp out in our living room.  Really.  We were on the floor, on air mattresses and in our sleeping bags, not wanting to lug furniture off the truck in the dark .  We stayed fully dressed and even wore jackets to bed.  It was not really the most comfortable night of our lives but we were so tired from traveling that we slept pretty well. 

The next morning, I woke up to glorious sunlight pouring in through our living room windows.  We had never seen the view of our back yard except in pictures.  I stood up from my spot on the air mattress on the floor, my back protesting the whole way, looked out the window and saw this:

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It had to be one of the most beautiful sunrises I had ever seen.  I tried to capture it with my camera (as I have tried so many times since then) but the camera lens has a hard time capturing the true beauty of the colors.  The sight took my breath way.  Even though I knew he was exhausted from moving, I had to share the moment with Travis.  I woke him up and we both stood there, speechless, while Nathaniel slept peacefully at our feet, taking in the wonder of this most beautiful sight.  At that moment I felt, and I think Travis did too, that it was definitely a “new day” for our family.  Seeing that sunrise was so reassuring.  It reminded us of the things in life that are important and consistent and awe-inspiring.

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Every morning since that day, I have enjoyed our sunrise view.  Some days we can see it better than others.  Some mornings the colors are so vivid and spectacular that your try to freeze them in your mind because you don’t think you’ll ever see anything so beautiful ever again.  Other mornings we don’t even really see the sun, just a lightening of the grey misty clouds.  Even when we can’t see it, we know the sun is there and there have been many mornings when Travis and I, and sometimes Nathaniel (although he’s not much of a morning person!) have stood and watched the sunrise and felt that sense of a new day and a new beginning.  It’s there every day, a testament to God’s steadfastness and the glory of His creation.  Sometimes, during the “nights” of our lives (both literally and figuratively) things seem dark, depressing, hopeless.  But if we just get through it, not saying it will always be fun or easy, there is a sunrise waiting for us on the other side.  A beautiful reminder that we are not alone and that each new dawn is a new beginning.

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Published in: on January 6, 2009 at 10:24 am  Comments (1)  

What is it all about?

Hi.  Happy New Year!  And welcome to my blog.  As the title says, it’s all about “Life’s Best Moments”.  You know, the little things that touch us each day.  The small moments that we look back on fondly and that make us smile.  It might be a special moment captured in a picture.  It might be a tender memory that comes to mind.  It might be the lyrics to a song or an especially meaningful quote.  It might be a short anecdote about something that happens during the day.  Life’s best moments are those things that make us laugh, or even sometimes make us cry.  They are the things that make life worth living.

Our lives are so busy.  We are constantly on the go.  We are bombarded with so much information.  Often we don’t take the time to breath, relax, laugh, cry, love…don’t get me wrong.  I’m all for being informed and appreciate a good debate on the issues of the day.  (For a great commentary on the politics of today, visit my husband’s blog:
http://prolibertate73.wordpress.com/) I just feel that we often miss the small blessings that we are given each day. It is my hope that this blog will serve as a reminder to anyone who reads it, as well as to myself, to appreciate those blessings and to celebrate them.  On this blog you will find stories, quotes, lyrics, pictures…just about anything you can imagine!  I would love to hear about your “best moments” too, so feel free to leave comments.  Thank you for reading and I hope that, together, we can enjoy the little things a little more together!

Published in: on January 3, 2009 at 11:47 pm  Leave a Comment