"Be bold. If you're going to make an error, make a doozey, and don't be afraid to hit the ball."
-Billie Jean King
Merry Christmas Everyone!!!
Wow, can you believe that it's Christmas yet again? It seems like the year just flew by for us - - I guess being in a different place just about every week will make the time seem to fly. We hope you guys are all able to be with family this holiday season and take the time to let them know how much they mean to you.
This week was very slow for us. We did get a chance to visit Galveston, which we loved so much that we changed our plans and will be spending a week there beginning December 28. What an adorable town! The architecture is really quite cool with a good number of the city's original buildings still in place and restored back to their finest. We drove around the island, did some geocaching, and visited the Railroad Museum. Again, we are planning to return to Galveston next week so we will have more to write about then.
Steve and I also went Christmas caroling this past week. We are staying at one of the parks that is part of the Escapees RV Club in which we are members. What we really like about this club is that it is more of a family than just a bunch of people who share the love of RV'ing. At this park, there is an organization called C.A.R.E. - - Continuing Assistance for Retired Escapees. Its mission is to provide a safe haven with professional assistance at affordable prices for members whose travels are permanently ended because of age or temporarily interrupted because of health problems. CARE is a place where retired RV'ers will receive professional help for the things that they may no longer be able to do for themselves. It is not a nursing home. Its goal is to delay or eliminate the need for a nursing home.
There are CARE patients who live in their RVs right on the premises and are cared for by the full-time medical staff at the facility. CARE patients receive 3 meals per day, have a dedicated activity center where they engage in exercise and other fun things, and provides transportation to/from various appointments for its members. Most of all, CARE provides these people with companionship. The members are visited and cared for by the other RV'ers in the park. So, you can see what I mean by "family".
Some of the patients of CARE are shut-ins due to their health. For that reason, Steve and I got together with a bunch of other campers here at the park and visited them and did some Christmas caroling. What a blast! We had a parade of golf carts and a beautifully decorated trolley car that traveled throughout the park complex. We stopped at about a dozen homes along the way and the residents were thrilled to have a visit. Steve had never been caroling before so this was a new experience for him! He loved it and both of us got into the Christmas spirit with this little adventure. Most of all, though, it brought some Christmas cheer to people who are really suffering and some who are very much alone. We were both so delighted that we could bring a little ray of sunshine into their lives this holiday season.
Lastly, we visited Lake Livingston and did some geocaching. That was fun and probably our most productive day in terms of finding caches. Our goal is to have 100 by the end of the year, so we still have a little bit of work to do.
Okay, that's it for the week. Now, for our Christmas card to you - - - - - - - - - - -
Christmas Contest Winner
Congrats go out to our niece Stephanie for correctly guessing the quote as the dinner prayer Will Farrell said in Talladega Nights. She will be enjoying her lovely prize just in time for Christmas!!
I just learned the following:
The Newtown Post Office has been taking calls all day from people wanting to send letters, care packages and drawings from children. But where do they send them? On Monday the postal service dedicated a PO Box to the town. If you’d like to send your own condolences, the address is PO Box 3700, Newtown, Connecticut 06470.
“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’ To this day, especially in times of ‘disaster,’ I remember my mother's words and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers -- so many caring people in this world.”
-- Fred Rogers
I wish this could be our typical, upbeat post but after the unthinkable tragedy in Connecticut, that can't be the case. Like all of you, Steve and I were horrified to hear about shootings and find it hard to understand such evil. Our thoughts and prayers are with the families of the victims, including the family of the man that carried out this horrific act.
I could spend a great deal of time waxing philosophical, or even theological, about the evil present in the world and what God does, or should do, in light of what could be called "demonic" behavior. Such an incredible tragedy. Trying to describe that horrific event is something that words cannot quite do justice to. We struggle to understand, to be sure, but there is more to the story.
I have something that I want to do right now. I do not want to make light of the pain of the victims' families, because my heart breaks just like yours, when I try to imagine what those people are dealing with at this time. But what I want to do instead of focusing on the sadness is to redirect our attention for just a bit and somehow see some good in such a bad situation.
First, let's take notice at the number of people who immediately descended upon this community to help. Whether it be to assist the police in obtaining evidence and motive, or the individuals who are helping the families cope and carry on with the process of grieving, or the people who came into the community to do nothing more than open their arms and give a hug, and be hugged, in abject grief. It is at times like this that I am proud of who we are as a people. Sadly, it is not until we are faced with such tragedy that we show our true colors - - we really do love each other in the United States. Just as with Hurricane Sandy, strangers come together to help those in need. Volunteering time, donating money and food, and just generally being there in prayer with, and for, those who are suffering.
Secondly, how about the father of one of the young victims who proclaimed his concern for the remaining family of the shooter? At a time when he is processing probably the most pain his heart will ever experience, some of his thoughts are for the pain that the father and brother of the killer are experiencing. How touching is that? Would you or I have been so gracious?
As Red Cross members and through my new ministry with the Billy Graham organization, Steve and I get a first-hand look at the other side of tragedy - - the love side. I don't know about you, but so much of my regular life I spend thinking about or praying about the evils we face every day. Today, instead, I want to rejoice in the love that is evident at times like these. Can we take a moment and thank God for what is obvious inherent in most of us - - a real and genuine love for our fellow man. Jesus serves as a model for us at times like this, doesn't he? When confronted with opposition, he loved. While being tortured and killed for the work He did in spreading the gospel message, his thoughts were about the forgiveness of those who were his killers.
I guess what I am saying is that in order to not get overwhelmed with the violence and tragedy that we read about daily in the news, let's talk about the generosity and loving acts of those who come to the aid of others. What a different place this world would be if the 6:00 evening news was one story after another about good things in this world, instead of who's bombing who, the drugs and child molestations occurring in our schools and neighborhoods, and the murders and violence that we hear about taking place within someone's broken family. I dream about a time when that is what we focus on - - goodness. Doesn't that sound nice?
Ok, that's it for my soapbox. Now on to the story of Baton Rouge.
Steve was a big fan of Justin Wilson - - The Cajun Cook - - a chef and a humorist. For those of you who are unfamiliar with him, let me give you some examples of his quirkiness. He is from Louisiana so, of course, he would name his dog Phideaux (aka Fido). He named his dishes with goofy names like "Chicken What The Hell". He's also known for his saying "I gar-on-tee". One of his more famous jokes goes something like this.. http://www.casttv.com/video/nar8jo/new-orleans-cajun-justin-wilson-christmas-video Anyway, Steve visited his gravesite and took some pictures. So beautiful!
Along with doing a little gambling at the Hollywood Casino, where we lost money once again, we visited the Old State Capitol Building. What an absolutely magnificent piece of gothic revival architecture! Pictures do not do it justice as one really has to see it to believe it. The woodwork, stained glass windows, and spiral staircase were spectacular. It even has a dome in the center that has blue, yellow and red stained glass that just takes your breath away. It was all decorated for Christmas and it was delightful to behold. This building has a ton of history. It was built in 1847, used as a barracks during the civil war, burned almost completely down, rebuilt, abandoned, and then finally restored through funding provided by the citizens of Louisiana. Now it serves as only a museum as Governor Huey Long built a new Capitol building during his administration. It is definitely worth a couple of hours of your time to tour this structure.
That's really all for Baton Rouge. We did some geocaching, but other than that, I studied and Steve read. We are currently in Livingston, Texas where we will be until January 4.
Hopefully the weather will improve over that which we experienced in Baton Rouge. I have no desire to see ice on the windshield ever again!!!
Ok folks... Here's an easy, Jeopardy style one for you to solve.
The picture is your answer...what is the question??
The first Comment submitted with the correct question will win a nice Christmas tree ornament we picked up at Bellingrath gardens.
Click on the image for a larger view.
"We either make ourselves miserable, or we make ourselves strong. The amount of work is the same."
– Carlos Castaneda
Let me begin with a note that will make some of you smile - - IT IS FREEZING DOWN HERE! We are currently in Baton Rouge, Louisiana and it got to a high of 55 yesterday. Steve and I had to wear coats. UGH!
We had a nice time in Summerdale, Alabama. There is just so much to do in that area with the Gulf of Mexico so close by. We spent a good amount of time close to the water because both Steve and I are fans of the surf. One day, we visited this huge fishing pier that juts out into the gulf about 500 feet. We watched people fishing as quite a few brown pelicans watched us. Someone hooked an 8 pound sail cat which looks like a cross between a catfish and a sail fish but they couldn't land it because they didn't have a net. Then we noticed a guy fighting a decent sized fish farther down the pier so we went over to see what he had on the line. It turned out to be a 35-pound red fish. Man that thing was huge and the guy was completely exhausted. I wish we had the right fishing equipment to do fishing off this pier but our poles are meant for smaller fish and not those that would be found in the ocean. Oh well.
We also did some geocaching in and around Gulf Shores and the Gulf State Park. What a nice park that is right on the water. We continued our geocaching over to Fort Morgan and ran into Josh, the bicyclist, on the way. He is riding his bike across country to do a fundraiser for returning vets. He started his trek in Jacksonville and will ride all the way to San Diego. Good Luck Josh! Anyway, while we were at Fort Morgan, Steve and I planted our first geocache. It's a pretty good hide in the wall of a battery by the name of Dearborn. We chose that spot because I grew up in Dearborn Heights, so it had some personal meaning. Out in the gulf around this fort were several natural gas drilling platforms. They were really cool to see, especially at night, as they looked like Christmas trees out in the water.
Since we were near Mobile, we ventured into town and visited the USS Alabama, a World War II Battleship. WOW, that was so cool. These ships are so huge and so intimidating. They have all manner of guns and cannons aboard them and I can only imagine what it would be like to see one of those coming at you full speed. The larger of the guns can shoot ammunition as far away as 22 miles. In its heydey, this ship had 2,500 sailors on board. It is hard to picture that because while the boat is huge, 2,500 people is a lot of people! It was interesting to see the working conditions of these sailors while in the heat of battle. In the big gun turrets, there would be 5 people working in a space about the size of one standard office cube. They would climb into the turret and the doors would be shut behind them and there they would remain with all the noise and smoke of the cannons, until the "all clear" was signaled. There were other guns on the ship and we saw a video about how one guy shot a hole in the side of his gun station because he did not lift the end of the barrel high enough before he shot it. We found the hole and took a picture of it so you could see how thick the metal is and how big the hole was. YIKES! That gets a big "oops". There were other cool displays at Battleship Park including a air museum and the submarine USS Drum. My intense claustrophobia did not allow me to visit the inside of that submarine so I cannot write about it, but Steve got some pics for you.
Since we were in the area, we revisited the Naval Air Museum in Pensacola. If you will recall, we toured this facility back in January and just loved it. We came back a second time because it was just that good of a museum, but also because they now have a virtual flight deck that you can experience. That was pretty cool and I recommend that if you have children with you. We also saw the IMAX movie called "Rescue" which was about 4 people, from different walks of life, who went to help with the earthquake in Haiti. While the premise of the movie was a sad one, we did enjoy seeing Haiti again and that experience brought memories of our trip and our heart for that country.
Lastly, since it is Christmas time and all, Steve and I visited the Bellingrath House and Garden in Theodore, Alabama. The advertisements stated that the house had Christmas displays made up of 3 million lights and man, they weren't kidding. I think they should rephrase that and say 3 million strands of lights because the place was amazing. We walked the grounds of this house for 90 minutes before we came to the end. What an awesome job they did with these lights - - I cannot think of the right words to describe the visual overload we experienced. The displays were so well done and it really put Steve and I in a festive mood. I only wish that we had visited the house during the day so that we could see these gardens in their full light, but nonetheless, it was spectacular and I thoroughly enjoyed the experience.
Lastly, Steve and I got to play Bingo this past week. We have developed quite the fondness for the game. Steve won twice - - well 1 and 1/2 times since he shared a victory with another person. I won the coverall and in total, the two of us raked in $34.50 that night. Awesome!
We are here in Baton Rouge for just a couple of days and then on to Livington, Texas where we will be until the end of the year. Christmas this year will be strange as we will not be venturing home to be with family. Thankfully, the campground that we are staying at is part of the RV club that we belong to so the people there will be like our surrogate family for the time of our stay.
The weather will be warming up soon and be back in the mid-70's. Whew! I don't have a lot of winter wear so I need it to get warmer! If I could ask you to please pray for me this semester. I have 3 classes and a ton of work to do. I counted 18 books that I have to read this term and 2 huge projects, not to mention the 12, 5-6 page papers that I have to write. I am somewhat overwhelmed, so your prayers would be appreciated.
Take care everyone! Talk to you soon
From Bushnell to Summerdale
"In every person who comes near you look for what is good and strong; honor that; try to imitate it, and your faults will drop off like dead leaves when their time comes."
– John Ruskin
Good morning everyone! Happy Sunday! For Steve and I, this is the only day of the week that stands out because we go to church. Otherwise, every day is Saturday - - yeah, yeah, I know what you're thinking! No swearing, please. :(
We left our Florida home base of Bushnell and have begun our trek west to San Diego. Our first stop was to Carabelle, Florida which is on what is called "the forgotten coast." It really has no claim to fame like the Tampa area, the Pensacola/Destin/Panama Beach area (which is called "the emerald coast") or other parts of Florida. Driving highway 98 along the coast to get to Alabama is probably all that would make it interesting. We did, however, stay at a very nice campground that was right on the water, and by right on the water, I mean the back of Big Red was hanging over the rock wall and almost on to the beach. We were blessed with beautiful sunrises and sunsets and heard lapping waves all night long. This sounds like the makings of a vacation commercial but when you get to our age it just makes you have to go to the bathroom several times during the night. Those types of campsites are few and far between so when you can get one, you grab it.
We enjoyed our time in Carabelle very much. We did a little geocaching on St. George Island, which is a very nice little island out in the Gulf of Mexico, directly south of Carabelle. The white sands there are amazing and the dunes and vegetation make for a lovely landscape. The fishing along this part of the world is focused mainly on crabbing and oysters and we learned a little about that on our geocaching adventure. There are also a lot of hiking trails in the Apalachicola State Forest, so if you are looking for a quiet, non-touristy kind of beach environment to visit, I recommend the Carabelle/Apalachicola area of Florida.
After a few days there, we made our way to Summerdale, Alabama where we will be parked until December 10. This campground is near Gulf Shores and we are looking forward to doing a lot of great and fun things during this visit. When we stopped at the Visitor Center just across the Florida/Alabama border, the gentlemen there recommended that we visit Lambert's Cafe (http://www.throwedrolls.com/) and indulge in the "throwed rolls" experience. What a hoot. The restaurant is quite charming with tons of old signs on the walls and the occasional black cat watching over your dining adventure. Aside from the absolute TON of southern style food that they serve you, there is a gentlemen who wanders around offering hot rolls right out of the oven. If you want one, you simply raise your hand and he throws it to you - - sometimes from clear across the room. It's quite the hoot to watch and the food is excellent. In addition to the Jethro Bodine-sized dinner, there are people wandering around with side dishes that will find their way on to your plate - - fried potatoes with onion, black-eyed peas, cabbage, deep fried okra, etc. Clearly, you need to fast for about 3 days before you go to this restaurant to be able to truly enjoy all that it has to offer. We chowed like we'd just left a two-year stint in a prison camp and still had full take-home containers that we ate the next day. Lordy, my mouth is watering just thinking about the place. So if you are in the Gulf Shores area of Alabama, or in Missouri where there two other restaurants are located, I highly recommend a stop. You won't regret it.
This week we plan to visit the USS Alabama, the Bellingrath Mansion where they have quite the Christmas display, and other great Mobile and Gulf Shores adventures. We are hoping that while we are here we are able to get another great picture of us to use as a Christmas card again this year, but how many times are you lucky enough to run across a drunken Santa who will let you sit on his lap?
So that's it for our update this week. Steve and I are still thinking and talking about our trip to Haiti. We have sent the funds for the roof repair of our dear Wilguens' home and we hope it gets there before Christmas. I wish every one of you could experience a trip to a place like Haiti or any other third world country that experiences extreme poverty. You will never again complain about what you don't have or what you think you desperately need in life. God has been so good to this country. Don't you think we seem to be losing track of that lately, or is it me?
Gotta go. Take care y'all!