Saturday, December 31, 2016

Happy New Year's Eve from Noumea, New Caledonia!

Happy New Year's Eve from Noumea!

Noumea is the capital of New Caledonia.  It has the world's largest lagoon and the second longest barrier reef.  Besides snorkeling, scuba diving and windsurfing, one can travel to Mount Koghis to enjoy the rain forest and zip-lining.

Captain James Cook chose the name New Caledonia following the discovery of the region in 1774 because the mountains where he anchored reminded him of his travels through Scotland.

As the ship sailed into Noumea, one knew that this island was different due to the landscape of tall buildings and industry.

While visiting the city, it became apparent that it is described as the "Paris of the Coral Sea" by the culture and French population.

After exploring Lemon Bay and Anse Vata, we headed back to the ship to prepare for the New Year's Eve festivities.

The evening ended on the South Pacific Ocean and welcoming in a new year!  Happy 2017!

Friday, December 30, 2016

Isles of Pines, New Caledonia

The early morning walk around the deck was invigorating.  Looking out into the water you could see a flock of white birds flying parallel to the ship.  It was as if they were guiding us into the Isle of Pines.

Isle of Pines is a small island southeast of the New Caledonian mainland.  Captain Cook named the island in 1774 after the tall native pines that he had discovered.

The Dawn Princess anchored off the Isle of Pines and we were transported ashore via the ship's tenders.

As we approached the shore, we could hear the native Kunies singing and playing drums to greet the arriving passengers.

A bus with a French speaking guide awaited us to show us the island.

One of the stops was at a church which dated back to 1860, when the French Marists had convicted nearly the entire island to Christianity.  About a half of mile from the church is the Statue de St. Maurice, marking the site of their landing.

A few miles from the church are the remnants of the 19th century penal colony.  Most of the prisoners from the Paris Commune were sent here.  An amnesty in 1880 allowed them to return home, but many chose to stay and enjoy the paradise where they had been sent.

We ended the excursion at Kuto Bay, where the sand is very white and extremely fine and the water is the most beautiful blue color you have ever seen.

This is definitely a place we would like to return to with its' tropical weather and beautiful untouched beaches.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Mystery Island

Mystery Island will remain a mystery as we were not able to disembark the ship due to high seas and winds.

I had so wanted to go ashore, but I will have to come back to explore this island another time.

Mystery Island is a tiny, uninhabited islet in Vanuatu's Tafea Province.  Other than an airstrip, built by the United States Military to serve the nearby island of Aneityum during WWII, Mystery Island only has a few huts for overnights.

No one lives on the island as it is considered taboo to do so.  The locals come across from nearby Aneityum on the days when ships anchor.

The ship set sail for New Caledona.

We took to the deck to get in our steps for the day and visited with some of the passengers.

One of the passengers, Nola, had an interesting life.  One of the questions, we like to ask is "How many cruises have you been on?"  Without thinking, Nola said eighty-eight and thirty-six of them on the Princess Cruise Line.

She had to be honest, her grandfather, her father and her brother had all been sea captains.  She had lived on ships all of her life.

Nola stated, "If times had been different growing-up, she would have been a sea captain herself". Instead she became a librarian and was also a "stewardess" for an airline back in the 50s.  She has outlived two husbands and has three children and continues to cruise around the world.

Our evening ended with dinner in the Florentine, a walk on the deck and listening to a guitarist and violinist in the atrium.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Port Vila - The quiet gem of the South Pacific

I stood on the bow of the ship with the wind blowing my hair across my face.  I watched as the tugboat guided the ship to the pier at Port Vila.  We watched as the men tied the ship to the dock.

It was early morning and I could already feel the warmth of the sun among my body.  I knew today was going to be a good day for the Glass Bottom Boat and snorkeling.

As we disembarked, we walked through the market.  The townspeople were singing and excited about the passengers arrival.  Strolling through the market, each individual stalls had locally made items such as handicrafts, sarongs, woven hats, floral shirts and other items.

We then headed to the area where we could get on the boat and head out to the bay to see the various fish such as the clown fish(Nemo), angelfish, bat fish, parrot fish and butterfly fish, as well as the beautiful coral reefs and sapphire blue starfish(which I have never seen).

Our two guides, Donald(aka Donald Trump) and Jimmy(aka Jimi Hendrix) were very entertaining and informative.

As we arrived at the snorkel area and anchored near many of the coral reef, the fish were in abundance. The water was extremely salty, but very warm due to the seismic activity of this region. The guys gave us bread to feed the fish.  I enjoyed the fish nibbling on my fingers to get the bread.  

Everyone was having a great time and no one wanted to get out of the water to head back to shore.

Port Vila is known as "the quiet gem of the South Pacific".  It is a nation of 83 islands in rough "Y" shape with Port Vila as its capital.  The population is about 40,000 with 200,000 for the entire island nation.

Vila is a little community with smoldering volcanoes towering mountains and cliffs that are surrounded by clouds and rainforests.  There are more than 150 different orchid species and another 250 of fern.

There are 115 different languages and dialects spoken in Vanuatu, making it the most diverse in the world.

One of the most interesting aspects is the underwater post office.  It is off Hideaway Island near Vila. It's the world's only underwater post office, which is about 10 feet below the surface and accessible by snorkel.  A scuba diver postal worker will stamp your special waterproof postcard with waterproof ink and mailed anywhere in the world.

We arrived back onto the ship and enjoyed dinner with our friends, attended a show and ended the evening walking around the Promenade deck.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Champagne Bay

Yesterday, I wasn't feeling so "chipper" so we decided to stay on board.  I do believe the desserts, wine and rich food have finally gotten to me.

The Dawn Princess was anchored in Champagne Bay and passengers were taken ashore using the ship's tender service.

From the ship, I was able to see the white sand and blue/green water.  Champagne Bay edges the east coast of Santo.  A freshwater spring flows into the lagoon and at low tide you can experience a bubbling sensation, hence the name Champagne Bay.

This is the area where James Michener, who was an American Lieutenant during WWII, was inspired to write "Tales of South Pacific".  From this book, the musical "South Pacific" was developed.

With all the beautiful places, we have seen, we continue enjoy conversing with all the many people on board.

Our dinner companions, Ian & Marge have a wonderful story.  They have been married 55 years and have three children and six grandchildren.  They live north of Sydney and since retiring have traveled all over the world.

Another couple at the table is from New Zealand.  They have been married two years.  They met on line and then realized they only lived a block away from each other.  This is the husband's first crew and his wife's second.

We departed Luganville as the water splashed on the deck and we ended the evening with our nightly walk.

Monday, December 26, 2016

Discovering Vanuatu!

Like there is a story for every person, there is also a story for every island!

We docked at the Port of Luganville located on the island of Santo which is within the island chain of Vanuatu.  Vanuatu means "our land".  The island chain was formally known as the New Hebrides which was ruled by both England and France.

Luganville is a small island with a population around 15,000 with temperatures ranging from 68 to 86 degrees.  It is the provincial capital of Vanuatu, as well as the second largest town.  It is one of over 300 islands scattered throughout Melanesia.

It is a paradise for scuba divers and snorkelers, as the SS President Coolidge 30,000 ton ocean liner wreck site is renowned as one of the wold's premier dive destinations.

During WWII, this island was one of the largest naval bases outside of Pearl Harbor.

As Kenny and I disembarked, the locals were here to greet the passengers with singing and dancing.

We toured the island to see the various spots where WWII history took place.

One of the places was where the American Coolidge troop ship(with approximately 5,550 on board) hit two American mines in the Segon channel in October of 1942.  The captain was able to beach the ship so that the troops could unload.  Army Captain Elwood J. Euart went back through the ship to make sure that everyone was off of the ship.  He rescued everyone from the ship, yet he was not able to save himself.

The island was a beautiful island with the palm trees, white beaches, beautiful flowers as well as the turquoise ocean that surrounded it.

After our tour, we headed back to the ship and the Dawn Princess set sail at 5:30 pm.

We are off to another island!

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Merry Christmas from the South Pacific!

On Christmas Eve, we celebrated my birthday at dinner with the lovely couples that we have met on board.  They made my birthday special by singing "happy birthday" and giving me a cake.

The remainder of the evening was enjoying the festivities on board.  Everyone was in the Christmas spirit and the children were anxiously awaiting Santa's arrival on Christmas Day.

Upon arriving at our room, we found that our steward had decorated the room for my birthday and our 30th anniversary.  It was decorated with chocolate candy, cards, balloons and the handmade swan figurines.

We awoke to Christmas on the other side of the world!

It's astounding to contemplate that over 2,000 years ago, the angels were telling the shepherds, "Fear not, we bring you good news.  A child is born, who is Christ the Lord!".  Such profound words!

These words are what gives me the peace and the hope that I need on a daily basis.  The good news is that these words are not just for me, but for all people, from all walks of life.

Merry Christmas!  May your year be filled with peace, prosperity and joy!

Friday, December 23, 2016

Happy Birthday to Me!

I woke up after enjoying another peaceful night of sleep.

It is a glorious day!  It is Christmas Eve and my birthday!  A new day at sea!

Yesterday, our first full sea day, the morning started out with the Captain announcing that a passenger had become extremely ill during the night.  A helicopter would be dropping off a medic crew to examine the sick passenger.  The chopper would then go back to shore to refuel and be back to pick up the medic crew and passenger.  This process took almost three hours and certain areas of the ship would be blocked off.

The rest of the day went extremely well.  A day of relaxation and getting familiar with the ship.

The evening dinner was formal attire.  Kenny and I "tidied-up" well.  Our dinner table included two other couples from Australia.

One of the couples, Mary & Mike, are delightful.  They had immigrated from England to Australia back in 1971.  They left England with their two children, ages 7 & 4, and sailed for twenty-eight days to reach Adelaide.  A friend of Mary's sponsored them so that could have a new beginning and a better life for their family.

We ended the evening attending a comedy show with Marge and Ian, another delightful Aussie couple.

Today will be another day of laughing, singing and dancing!  And who knows, maybe tonight is karaoke night!

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Getting Ready to Sail!

Thursday morning we woke up in our hotel room knowing that today was the start of the 12 day cruise.  Looking out the window, we knew it was going to be an overcast day.

We began our day with breakfast at the Glass Brassierre.  Our lovely waitress, Sherana, a 20 year old lady from Holland, is doing her internship in Hilton's hospitality program.  Her goal is to one day open up her own hotel in Holland.

Later in the morning, we headed over to the Queen Victoria Shopping Center to visit our new friends, Kim & Imogen.  Kim is the owner/designer for Joe Bananas, a well-known men's clothing boutique shop in Sydney.

In 1980, Kim's, Uncle Joe, who was a geologist, began to design men's clothing using the colors and patterns of the Australian's native trees and rocks formation as inspiration for his patterns for his clothing line.

When Kim's uncle started the business, he wondered how he would pay his weekly rent of $3,000.

One day in the early 80's, Elton John came into his shop.  He loved the designs.  Elton tried on the various shirts and jackets, etc.   He looked at Joe and told him to ship to his home in England the clothes that he laid out in the fitting room.  He had written out his address on the wall and here was his credit card number.

Since then, other well known celebrities have purchased Joe's design's.

After meeting with Kim, we packed up and headed to the port to board the Princess Cruise.

Our taxi driver, who reminded us of our taxi drivers in New York, got us safely to the terminal.

We filled out various documents and boarded the ship.  This cruise line holds 1,500 passengers and approximately 800 crew members.

About 4 p.m., the tug boat nudged the Dawn Princess into Sydney Harbour.  Sailing out, we went under the Sydney Harbour Bridge and sailed pass the Sydney Opera House. These were grand sights to see.

We made our way out into the vast Pacific Ocean.

We ended our day drinking rum, meeting new Aussie friends and singing songs of the sea.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Discovering Sydney!

The past two days have been very eventful!

The things that I enjoy about traveling are seeing the sights, learning the history and meeting new people and finding out about their personal stories.

Within the past 48 hours, I have done it all.  It is amazing the information that you learn about someone by just asking the right questions.  On Sunday evening, as Kenny and I sat in the United Club, we met a lady.  She is originally from London, her husband is from Ireland and she is currently living in Singapore with her husband and 2 sons.  She flies to the US every 3 months or so for her job in gas/oil.

As I got on the plane, I introduced myself to the lady who was going to be sitting next to me for the next 15 hours.  Her name was Luna and she was Arabic, grew up in Bethlehem and has been living in Melbourne, Australia for the past 26 hours.  She retired from teaching 2nd grade a few years ago. She had been in San Francisco for the past three weeks to visit her daughter who recently moved there about 4 months ago.

After watching 2 movies and sleeping some, we landed in Sydney about 8:30 a.m.  It was great to be on land and to be able to stretch my long legs.

After we located our luggage and went through customs, we walked out of the airport into the warm weather.  The humidity, the sun and the wind felt great.

We got to the Hilton and the young lady who checked us in was from Colorado and had graduated from University of Colorado in Boulder.  She had been living in Australia for about a year.  Small world!

Another delightful young lady that Kenny and I met was working at the Cafe at the Hilton.  She is from Saigon.  Her two sisters live in Missouri and her parents and brother still live in Saigon.  She has never been to the United States and she wants to come visit her sisters, as well as come visit us in Colorado.

With all the interesting people we have met, we have also enjoyed the sights.

Sydney is a beautiful city and it reminds us so much of Honolulu and New York City(two of my favorite cities).  Sydney is the state capital of New South Wales and is one of the most populous city(5,000,000) in Australia.  The metropolis surrounds the world's largest natural harbor.  Sydney is one of the most expensive cities in the world, but it is also ranks 10th in the world for quality of living.

The architect of the Sydney Opera House is spectacular.  It is such a beautiful site with the Sydney Harbour in the background.  The construction was started in March 1959 and opened in October of 1973.  The building consists of multiple performance venues.

Another impressive sight was the Sydney Harbour Bridge.  This bridge is a steel bridge which crosses the harbour and connects the central business district and the North Shore.  The construction on the bridge was started back in July of 1923 and was completed in March 1932.  This bridge is the sixth longest spanning arch bridge in the world and the tallest steel arch bridge, measuring 134m(440 feet) from top to waterlevel.

The architect throughout the city is beautiful.  There is so much to see and just not enough time.

We will be boarding on our 12 day cruise to the islands of New Caledonia and Vanuatu within the next day.

Hard to believe that Christmas Day is in 3 days!  I am missing my family and friends, but I am also enjoying meeting new friends!

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Life is a journey!

This morning I was suppose to have woken up in Sydney, Australia.  Instead, I woke up in Denver, Colorado in a warm hotel in a comfortable bed.

Yesterday, my husband & I headed to the Denver airport from our home which is about 70 miles from the airport.  We had about 5 to 6 inches of snow from the night before.  We just didn't realize how the rest of the country had been affected by the snow storm.

When we got into the Denver/United terminal, we observed the chaos. People sleeping on the floor; all seats were filled and the restaurants were packed.

As we walked around, we noticed the customer service line was at least a half mile long.  Agents were handing out snacks & water.  At all gates, the signs were showing all these flights were two to three hours delayed.

We got to our gate and everything was reading that our flight to San Francisco was on time.  As we sat, the delay signs began to appear.  Also, I was getting updates from United about the delays.  My husband and I knew we had a three hours time span from the time we landed until we left on our Sydney flight.  We weren't panicking, yet.  There was a young man sitting next to us, who had been at the airport for 29 hours trying to get to Sydney.  He was suppose to have flown out of Denver the night before.

We finally boarded.  About 30 minutes later, the attendant came on & said that the pilots had timed out & they could no longer fly.  We were now waiting for new pilots.  The clock was ticking and our window between flights was becoming shorter & shorter.

I got on the phone with the United Priority Desk and the agent acknowledged that we were not going to make our flight to Sydney. The customer service rep got us on a flight for today(Sunday) at 3:55 pm and rebooked our flight to Sydney for the 10:35 pm flight.  We were glad about that, but since the flight was rebooked we would not be sitting together on our flight to Sydney & we would both be in middle seats for the 15 hour flight.

We were still sitting on the original flight, when they cancelled the flight.  The flight attendant stated that all gold & platinum members were booked for a flight that would leave for San Francisco in an hour.  That was great, but my husband was not booked on the flight(since he did not have status with United).

At this time, it is 9:30 pm and we decided we needed to find a hotel near the airport and come back tomorrow(Sunday).  Fortunately, Kenny has status with Hilton(a Diamond member).  He called the Hilton help desk and found out that anything close to the airport was booked due to all the delays that took place in Denver, Chicago & New York.  The young man did find us a hotel about fifteen minutes  away.  We took the room.

With our luggage still within the airport system and our jackets were in our suitcases, we proceeded outside where it was -11 degrees.  With no coats and our backpacks, we proceeded to the taxi line.

With snow & ice everywhere, our driver drive very carefully.  We begin to realize that Denver had received a lot more snow than we had in Loveland.

We pulled up to the hotel around 11 pm.  People everywhere.  So many people had been stranded.

After a good night's rest, hot shower and a hearty breakfast, we headed back to the airport for our 3:55 pm flight.  By noon, we had gone through security and were in the United terminal.  As we walked, we began to notice more delay flights and long lines at customer service.

I saw a 1:40 pm flight to San Francisco.  I went up the gate to check with the agent to see if we could get on that flight.  I kept thinking, if only we could get to San Francisco.  The agent said I could get on, but my husband would be on stand-by.  I explained to her that we had missed our flight to Sydney the day before & we were celebrating thirty years of marriage.  She did her magic and got us on the flight.  We wouldn't be sitting together, but we were on the flight.  We were happy.  As we were standing in line, the agent called me up to the counter and said she got us seats together.  I hugged her and wished her a Merry Christmas!  We got on the plane and the flight got took off.  We were getting closer to Sydney.

We landed in San Francisco and walked around and had lunch.  After lunch, we proceeded to the
customer service line to see if we could get seats together on the Sydney flight.  Praise God, two seats came available.

We are now waiting for our Sydney flight.  It is 24 hours later, but we persevered and took one situation at a time.

I will keep you posted on our journey as we sight see in Sydney and cruise on the South Pacific.

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Pay It Forward!

This week I got to experience the phrase "Pay It Forward!"  I was the recipient.

On Tuesday, I met some friends for drinks, appetizers and to exchange gifts.  It was one of those cold evenings and we were fortunate to be sitting right next to the fireplace.  The restaurant was all decked out with the green garland and red poinsettias.

Sitting next to our table was a sweet couple.  The husband was celebrating his "74th birthday".  They were so talkative and cheerful.  As the waitress brought out his chocolate cake with ice cream and a flaming candle on top, my friends and I started singing "happy birthday" to him.  He smiled from ear to ear.

As they were leaving, they stopped by our table and thanked us for joining in on his birthday celebration.  His wife had been ill and this was their first venture out in a while.  They were such a delightful couple.

As my friends and I got ready to leave, we asked for our check and our waiter told us that the couple had picked up our tab.  We were so surprised because we didn't even know this couple.

Once again this showed me how everyone wants to be treated kindly, with respect and just to be acknowledged as a person.

As I think about this evening, I also think about how God has "payed it forward" by sending His son, Jesus to die for us and to save us and to give us eternal life.

Remember that Jesus is the "reason for the season"!

Merry Christmas!  This week take the time to "pay it forward" with a smile, treating people kindly or maybe even paying for the coffee for the person behind as you stand in line at Starbuck or at another cafe.

Friday, December 16, 2016

It is Winter!

Here I sit in my warm home and watching the snow.  It is dark outside and the temperature is dropping.  Within minutes the temperature dropped from 30 degrees to 15 degrees.  The low tonight is -4.

I ventured out about an hour ago to check the mailbox and the blowing snow covered my eyelids.  I was thankful that I did not have to spend the night in this freezing weather.  By the time I got back to the house, my footsteps were already covered by the snow.

I keep telling myself it is winter in the northern hemisphere and it is suppose to be cold.  It continues to snow and we have received about 3 inches within the past 2 hours.

I am in the process of packing for my trip to Australia, where it is summer.  How does one pack for summer, when it is freezing outside?

As I reflect on my day, I am thankful for so much during this Christmas season.

May we all enjoy each moment in life and know that our lives are in His hands!

Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 12, 2016

God Works in Mysterious Ways

Today as I thought about yesterday's sermon, I realize how mysterious God is.

The pastor stated these words:  "Following God doesn't always make a lot of sense.  Sometimes God asks us to believe things we don't understand and sometimes he promises to do things that are seemingly impossible.  So, what do we do in these moments?  Do we trust what makes sense or do we believe what God has revealed?  Sometimes it takes embracing the mysterious to experience the miraculous."

Isaiah 55:8-9 says "My thoughts", says the Lord, "are not like yours, and my ways are different from yours.  As high as the heavens are above the earth, so high are my ways and thoughts above yours."

There are so many situations in our own lives that we don't understand.  This is when we stop and remember that God is in control.  By realizing this, we can begin to let go and let God do the job that He was designed for.

Christmas is mysterious when we stop and think about how Jesus came into this world.  It is hard to comprehend the virgin birth of Jesus and to understand how Joseph was at peace in his relationship with God and with Mary.

My prayer is that I will have the faith and trust like Joseph and to know that God is doing what He needs to do.  He is stronger than I know; He is closer than I think and He is more gracious than I will ever know.

This Christmas season, may I take the time to allow God to reveal himself to me.

May I be still and listen as He whispers during this Christmas season!  He has lots for me to do in 2017 and I need to be ready!

Sunday, December 11, 2016

"A Christmas Story"

One of the enjoyable things about Christmas is watching "A Christmas Story".  Today, I had the pleasure of seeing it on stage in Colorado.  The locals who performed did an exceptional job in portraying the cast from the original movie which was released back in 1983.

The movie was not a musical, but in 2009, it became a musical and opened at the theater in Seattle, Washington.  It is now a seasonal production that is seen throughout the United States.

The movie takes place at Christmas in the 1940s in Cleveland, Ohio. The nine year old, Ralphie, wants only one thing:  a Red Ryder Range 200 Shot BB gun.  He mentions this to his mom and she lets him know that he'll put his eye out with this BB gun.  The whole movie is about his fantasy of getting this gun and all the oppositions he runs into with his parents, his teacher and even Santa himself.

If you have never seen this movie, you need to take an afternoon or evening and relax in front of the television and enjoy the story of Ralphie and his family.  

Who knows this movie may become a traditional among your own family?

Merry Christmas!

Saturday, December 10, 2016

It is All About the Bears!

Hard to believe that Christmas is two weeks away.  We look so forward to it and then we blink and it is all over.

The last several years I have learned how to pace myself and to enjoy each moment of the Christmas holidays.

My Christmas cards are signed, sealed and in the mail.  This morning I got up early to tackle the post office to make sure that the my gifts make it to Texas before Christmas Day.  Priority mail should have them in the right home by the end of this week.

As I come and go from my house, I love looking at the Christmas wreath and my two lovely wooden bears, Custer and Dakota.  The bears with their cute red and white Christmas hats make me smile from ear to ear each time that I see them.  Sometimes it is the little things that bring joy to our lives. These bears bring me joy.

As you are rushing around trying to finish up cards, baking, wrapping gifts, etc., make sure that you take time to enjoy this Christmas season.

Just like the bears that are at my front door and they bring a smile to my face, find something that will also fill you with joy and help you to enjoy this time of year with everything going on!

Friday, December 9, 2016

A Winter Sunset

Another wintery day.  The low this morning was 10 degrees.  By 2 p.m., the sun had brought a warmer temperature of 32.  One could feel the 22 degrees difference.

There is only so much that you can do inside of your warm home.  There is the comfort of baking cookies and feeling the warmth from the oven; reading by the fire, relaxing on the sofa and listening to Christmas music in the background.

Needing some fresh air, I bundled up and headed outside.  The warm sun had melted the snow on the sidewalk.  Since it was later in the afternoon, the sun was beginning to go behind the mountains.

As I walked along, I observed the doves and hawks in the trees trying to stay warm and that there was a quietness among the birds.

To the west, I was in awe of the sunset.  With the barren trees and the whimsical clouds and pastel colors of blue and pink and gray clouds, one wondered when would spring come.  I know that spring is in three months.  For the time being, I need to treasure this season of my life.  I need to allow my body to relax and rest during this winter season.  There is a reason for all the seasons.  I shall take time and enjoy!


Thursday, December 8, 2016

A Wintery Day

I know that the first day of winter is not until December 21st, but for me the last two days have officially begun the winter season.

Yesterday, I woke up to an overcast, snowy day.  During the night, it had snowed about five inches. As I looked outside in the early morning hours, I noticed that no one had driven down the street.  The solid white snow, with no blemish of tire marks, looked like a winter wonderland.  With no one stirring, there was a calmness in the air.

It snowed off and on during the morning hours.  As I looked out of my office window, I was so thankful that I had a warm, comfortable home and that I did not have to drive to an office.

Later in the afternoon, the sun did come out and I bundled up and headed outside for a walk.  With my cap on, knitted gloves and the three layers of clothes that I had on, I was able to handle a thirty minute walk through the neighborhood.  There were others out for a walk as well.   It felt good as the warm sun hit my face.

One could feel the change in temperature as the sun began to set in the west, so I began to walk faster. I made it back to my warm home before the sun set.

This morning I woke up to a -11 temperature and a beautiful sunrise, which was a yellowish, pinkish color.  All I could think of was how majestic God is!  "I will praise you, Lord, with all my heart; I will tell of all the wonderful things you have done."  Psalms 9:1

With the sun out, it did seem warmer, even though the temperature only reached 20.

Winter is officially here!  With snow on the ground and the colder temperatures, it does feel like Christmas.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Remembering Pearl Harbor

Seventy-five years ago, more than 2,400 Americans were killed on a U.S. Naval base in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.

Japanese fighters attacked in the early hours of December 7, 1941.  The USS Arizona, a massive battleship, was destroyed by a bomb, which sunk the ship and killed the 1,177 people on board.  The Navy decided to leave the ship and the men who had perished on board.  They would be considered buried at sea because it would be too difficult to remove them in a respectful manner.  The ship still leaks 2 to 9 quarts of oil each day.

The United States entered World War II the next day and President Franklin D. Roosevelt delivered this speech, "Yesterday, December 7, 1941-- a date which will live in infamy-- the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan..." The United States was at war with Japan.

There are very few survivors left.  As Americans, we need to remember this date, as this was a turning point in our American history.  Tom Brokaw's book "The Greatest Generation" talked about these men and women who survived the Great Depression and then went and fought in World War II and survived.  He stated that these men and women fought not for fame and recognition, but because it was the "right thing to do".

May we continue to share this history with the next generations so that they will know what previous generations have done to give us the freedom that we have!

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Christmas Tree in NYC

This will be my first year in five years not  to be in New York City for the Christmas season.

One of the photos that popped-up on Facebook today was the photo of the Christmas Tree in Rockefeller Center.  There is something about the tree that just mesmerizes you.  The beauty, the lights and the thousands of people that surround you.

This year's Norway spruce is 94 feet, 57 feet wide, weighs 36,000 lbs. and has over 30,000 lights(about 5 miles of strands) on the tree.  After the tree comes down after the 1st week of January, it will be donated to Habitat for Humanity and made into lumber that will then be used to build homes.

The tradition of the Christmas tree began on Christmas Eve in 1931.  Workers at the Rockefeller Center construction site decided to pool their money together to buy a 20 foot balsam fir Christmas tree.  They decorated it with handmade garland from their families.  The men lined up at the tree to receive their paychecks.  It was two years later, that the Rockefeller Center decided to make the tree an annual tradition and held the first official lighting ceremony.

The collection of the white lit metal wire herald angels in the Channel Gardens sets the stage for viewing this spectacular tree.

Eighty-five years later, the Christmas tree draws people from all over the world.  The tree has been seen in so many movies throughout the years.  Some of the movies that I think of are the "Elf", "Miracle on 34th Street"; "Home Alone 2: Lost in New York"; "Scrooged" and so many more.

As you make your bucket list, make sure you put Christmas in New York City.

Enjoy the rest of the month and "Merry Christmas"!

Monday, December 5, 2016

The Twelve Days of Christmas"

Last week I had the opportunity to enjoy "The Twelve Days of Christmas" at the Arboretum in Dallas, Texas.

The evening was just perfect.  There was a chill in the air and a light mist of rain(which didn't last long).  My sister and I wrapped up in our light-weight coats and gloves and cap strolled through the gardens.  Due to the weather, there were only about 300 people.  The volunteers said that normally, especially on the weekends, there are about 1,200 people each evening that attend this event.

The Twelve Days of Christmas are set-up throughout the 66 acres.  In each location, there is a gazebo set up with it's specific theme.  Little white lights are displayed throughout the acres.

I found out that the arboretum begins to set up for this event in September.  The local firemen come in and set up each of the 12 gazebos.  After the gazebos and the trees are set-up, the designers from the Performing Arts Center begin to set-up the actual displays.

The Twelve Days of Christmas is opened to the public from November 6 - January 8, 2017.

By the time, my sister and I walked to each of the gazebos and listened to the various singers throughout, we were singing the words for the "The Twelve Days of Christmas".

"On the first day of Christmas, my true love gave to me a partridge in a pear tree....
On the second day of Christmas, my true love gave to me two turtle doves.....
On the third day of Christmas, my true love gave to me three French hens....
On the fourth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me four calling birds....
On the fifth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me five golden rings.....
On the sixth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me six geese a laying....
On the seventh day of Christmas, my true love gave me seven swans a swimming....
On the eighth day of Christmas, my true love gave me eight maids a milking....
On the ninth day of Christmas, my true love gave me nine ladies dancing......
On the tenth day of Christmas, my true love gave me ten lords a leaping.....
On the eleventh day of Christmas, my true love gave me eleven pipers piping....
On the twelfth day of Christmas, my true love gave me twelve drummers drumming....

I could visualize each day.  It was a great way to learn this song!

Some pictures from the Arboretum:

"Partridge in a Pear Tree"

"Twelve drummers drumming"

Lights and the gazebo for "four calling birds".

Sunday, December 4, 2016

"What Child is This?"

This morning as we sang "What Child is This?" and other Christmas carols, I reflected on the season and the meaning behind it.

As the pastor approached the podium, he stated that Christmas was one of his favorite holidays.  He loves everything about it; the Christmas tree, caroling, driving around at night looking at the lights, the social gatherings, etc.  But what he really loves about Christmas is telling the story.

His lesson for today was "The God of History" or "His-Story".  He read Matthew 1:1-17 and stated that these verses were the true meaning of Christmas.

These were his words, "Matthew begins his telling of the Christmas story not with the well-known event of an angel visiting Mary, but with a long, seemingly tedious genealogy instead.  Forty-two generations are covered in this genealogy and although each generation was unique, there were common questions they all wrestled with:  Is there a point to human history?  Do my failures disqualify me?  Can God be trusted?  Matthew begins his account of the Christmas story with Jesus' genealogy not to fill space, but to answer the fundamental questions we face.  And so in this genealogy Matthew reveals the God who rules history, the people who are part of God's story, and the reason we trust God with our story."

Wow!  I had never thought of it that way.  I can't tell you how many times I have by-passed those seventeen verses and went straight to verse 18.  I will now appreciate those seventeen verses.  Those forty-two generations before Jesus were people just like me with failures and sin in their lives.

Those forty-two generations made up 2,000 years.  When we begin to think, does God really care about my life, my 62 years of living?  The answer is "yes" He cares.  He cared about those 2,000 years of people's lives.  He cared about their failures.  He invites us as "broken" people to be apart of His story, which is all about "grace".  Bottom line, He cares about me.

We cannot judge God's character by our calendar.  God may take His time, but He always keeps His word.  He is always there for me.  And that my story is just as important as the story of Jesus, because without Jesus I wouldn't have a story.

Now as I read the Christmas story and sing the Christmas carols, I understand that those forty-two generations is what gave us "Christmas".

Merry Christmas!

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Christmas Cards

Another cold morning!  17 degrees to be exact.  Today, there was sunshine compared to yesterday with it being a dreary day.

I was able to get in my 10,000+ steps for today.  Yeah!

Also, today I began to address envelopes for our annual Christmas Card.  I have been doing Christmas cards for as long a I remember.  My list has grown throughout the years.  The past several years I have been sending out from 275 to 300 cards.

In the past, I did an annual Christmas letter, but currently I send out a card of about 5 to 7 photos on it.  These are photos of Kenny and I at the various places that we have been at during the year.  This is a great way to stay in touch with friends and family.

As I address each envelope, I say a prayer for that person and their family.  I also reflect on how we met and how they have touched my life throughout the years.

Once again I googled "history of Christmas cards".  "The custom of sending Christmas cards was started in the UK in 1843 by Sir Henry Cole.  He was a government worker who had helped set-up the post office and wondered how it could be used more by ordinary people.  Sir Henry Cole sent the first card."

"There are more than 3,000 greeting card publishers in America.  15% of Christmas cards are purchased by men.  Over 2 billion Christmas cards are sent in the US each year.  Around 500 million e-cards are sent each year."

People still enjoy getting mail in their mailbox.  It is so much better than receiving bills.

I hope people will take time this Christmas season and send out cards to family and friends and just let them know how much you love them and how much you appreciate them being apart of their lives.

Get in the Christmas spirit and send a card!  Merry Christmas!

Friday, December 2, 2016

Christmas Decorations

I am looking out the window in my office and watching the snowflakes.  The first snow of the season. It has been a cold, overcast, dreary day.  Definitely a great day to be in my warm home.

The day has been spent talking on the phone and planning for upcoming seminars in the new year.

Last night I began to pull out my Christmas decorations.  Every decoration has a story.  I enjoy reflecting on who gave me the item and what the it means to me.

A red, white and blue round ornament was given to me from a friend at work in 2001.  This Christmas ball was crafted by hand in memory of the victims of 9/11.

Other ornaments were given to my husband and I from my mother-in-law.  She gave us an ornament every Christmas with the year printed on it.

My nativity scene was hand painted by a friend in 1988.  Even though I have not seen this friend in over 20 years, I think of her each Christmas as I pull out Joseph, Mary and baby Jesus.

I will continue to go through the fifteen boxes of decorations so that I can display them throughout the house and think about the family members or friends who gave me the item.  The house will look so festive for the next four weeks.

I always enjoy knowing about the history.  As I googled "history of Christmas decorations", I came across this information.  "The most popular theory holds that the tradition was started by a monk who came to Germany in the 7th/8th century to preach.  It is said that this monk was Saint Boniface, the Apostle of the Germans.  According to history, the saint was the first one to bring the fir tree to the German people to decorate, for he claimed that the triangular shape represented the Holy Trinity - God, his son Jesus, and the Holy Spirit.  The tradition was lapped up by the devout Germans who started decorating the Christmas tree in a liturgical way with simple, white candles.  Ornaments began to be incorporated into the Christmas decorations in Germany.  In  Latvia, 1510, a fir tree was decorated with roses which was associated with the Virgin Mary.  This event is often hailed as the pioneer of modern Christmas decorations."

Now that I know the history, I am going to fix myself a cup of pumpkin spice latte and dive into those other boxes to complete the decorating.

Let the holidays begin!

Thursday, December 1, 2016


I can't believe it is already December 1st!  Where did the year go?

December is a wonderful month.  It is the month of celebrating the birth of Christ; Christmas trees; festive decorations; attending holiday parties; exchanging gifts; receiving Christmas cards from people you haven't seen in years; spending time with family and friends; as well as celebrating my birthday.

December is the twelfth and last month of the year.  December got its name from the Latin word decem(meaning ten) because it was originally the tenth month of the year in the Roman calendar, which began in March.

December means winter, colder temperatures and possibly snow(depending on where you live).

As you begin this new month, take the time to enjoy it!  For a month that is suppose to be a time of joy and happiness, it is a month of sadness and stress for others.

My prayer for you as you start this new month is that you will know that December is a month of "hope".  The message of hope was fulfilled in the birth of Christ.  In the year of 700 B.C., the prophet of Isaiah spoke about a child being born and that he would be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father and Prince of Peace. Take time to ponder on this message.  God will change you and give you the peace that you need.

Share the joy of "Merry Christmas"!