Category Archives: Vacations

5 Friday Faves – Seasonal Favorites, Classical Guitar, Scruffy Hospitality, Hilarious Commercial, and Father’s Day

Weeks never seem to drag anymore. Friday has come again with lightning speed, forcing a break in our routine. In Virginia, today marks the last school day of the year for public schools. Summer has officially begun.

It’s not my favorite season of the year (OK…I know I’m in a minority here but heat and bugs come with summer, not just the beach). Having the kids home for the summer was always a joy so I will take that part anytime.

We have a big gathering of family coming up soon which is being made possible through Airbnb. That part of summer which does include the beach and baby snuggles along with late nights of laughter and games and movies with the babies in bed is a delight.

So without further ado, here are this week’s Friday Faves:

1) Seasonal Favorites – I’ve sung the praises of fruit in season once before. Orchard-fresh fruit and vegetables right out of the garden are so good. You just slice up summer squash and zucchini, lightly olive-oil spray it and roast in a hot oven and you can almost forget the cheesy casserole you were going to make out of it. Such sweetness in summer vegetables.

Dave’s favorite Honeycrisp apples are hard to find in the US summer – when found they often taste like last year’s harvest or are prohibitively expensive.

When the apples fade, we have watermelon, cantaloupe, strawberries, blueberries…and peaches!!! Glory!

Finally, I want to celebrate the small family businesses just open for the summer (and sometimes closed on Sundays) that bring all kinds of sweetness our way. Less than an hour away, we find Sno-To-Go. The weighty decision of whether to cool down with a cup of ice cream or a sno-cone is over. Stuffed snoballs are the perfect combo.

What’s your favorite summer to-go place for treats like these?

2) Beyond the Guitar – Classical Guitar Video –
Here’s Nathan Mills‘ latest arrangement posted to YouTube. It is Japanese composer Yasunori Mitsuda‘s Frog’s Theme from the video game Chrono Trigger. For many of you gamers out there, this will be another musical delight. For us non-gamers, it is also an incredibly lovely melody, especially rendered on classical guitar. Enjoy the video below:

YouTube Video – Beyond the Guitar – Chrono Trigger – 600AD – Yearnings of the Wind – Classical Guitar Cover

Beyond the Guitar – Patreon

3) Scruffy Hospitality – [MEN – don’t pass this by – you are part of this.] What a gift to lavish hospitality on those you love or hope to know better. Too often we hesitate because the thought of getting the house ready, putting together just the right menu, and aiming for a “Pinterest-perfect” presentation exhausts us before we even make the invitation. Two articles I found this week gives freedom and empowerment to us all to extend hospitality – and scruffy is so much better than no hospitality. Robin Shreeves wrote a great piece on this, as a woman who threw off her need to have everything perfect.  Photo Credit: Jason Lander, Flickr

Shreeves’ role models in this were an Anglican priest, Jack King, and his wife, Dana. Father King also wrote a very special entitled Why Scruffy Hospitality Creates Space for Friendship.

Scruffy hospitality means you’re not waiting for everything in your house to be in order before you host and serve friends in your home. Scruffy hospitality means you hunger more for good conversation and serving a simple meal of what you have, not what you don’t have. Scruffy hospitality means you’re more interested in quality conversation than the impression your home or lawn makes. If we only share meals with friends when we’re excellent, we aren’t truly sharing life together.Jack King

I’m so glad he wrote about hospitality. Our hesitancy as both women and men can be conquered…especially if we help and encourage each other.

Scruffy Hospitality and an Open Seat at the Table – Sermon Notes – Father Jack King

4) Hilarious Commercial – Commercials are fascinating to me – when they are done well. So many are just silly. In fact, in the days when our kids were small, and we would fast-forward through the commercials on homemade videotapes, our little Daniel would say, “No! I care about that!” Me, too, Daniel.  A young businessman in Colorado Springs, Co., Joe McCloskey, Jr. , is an agent with Farmers Insurance.  I don’t know who advised him or he is this creative, but he has put up several homemade video commercials on YouTube. The one below is the most recent and the most professional. It is hilarious. Don’t just scroll through. You will send your endorphins out the roof. I don’t think you can watch with out laughing out loud. Oh, and notice “Call Me For A Quote – 719-237-9455”. So creative.

YouTube Video – Stinky Fish Challenge – Surstromming – Joe McCloskey, Jr.

5) Father’s Day – We all have fathers – whether very present or long-time absent. Some of you may be fathers. Some of you may have wanted to be fathers but are not able to be…for whatever reasons. This day of commemoration usually means a good meal and some sort of gifting or pampering for you fathers. For all of you, with or without children, you can be influencers…and we need you. My biological father was absent long before my parents divorced. Thankfully I have had a rich heritage of good fathers through the rest of my life – my step-dad, brothers, uncles, husband, father-in-law, son/son-in-law, and good and strong male friends – most of whom were spiritual fathers only…but fathers nonetheless.

YouTube Video – TD Ameritrade – Cat’s in the Cradle – Great Father’s Day video

The Father I Never Knew on Father’s Day – Deb Mills Writer

Fathering – Celebrating Men Who Did It Well; Forgiving Men Who Didn’t – Deb Mills Writer

Traveling Man – Somewhere Between Here, There, & Home – Deb Mills Writer

The weekend is here. Celebrate summer and each other. Comment below what this week brought your way to share. Be safe out there and gentle on yourself and each other.

Bonuses:

YouTube Video – The Holderness Family – The Beach: Pre-Kids vs Post-Kids

The Best Exercise for Aging Muscles – Gretchen Reynolds

Musician Alexa Wilding Refused to Be Peer Pressured Into Post-Pregnancy Plastic Surgery – Devon Abelman

Amazon Prime – Nuff said. 🙂

Summer Sunsets (this one in California)

5 Friday Faves – Stuff I Like to Do – Had to Think About It

Happy Friday!

A friend asked me yesterday about what I like to do around Richmond….this small city big on events, restaurants, and natural beauty. I had trouble coming up with things. Not because I never get out…but just don’t think in terms of stuff I like to do. It made me realize that my life these days is more reactive/responsive than intentional and proactive. Really got me thinking…

Here are 5 favorite things I like to do…not bound to location…

1) Team/Family Activities – As much of my life is spent in solitary endeavors, creating, serving, and playing as a team energizes me. I love to learn from others and the momentum and synergy of a group work inspire me to push through. This isn’t just doing sometime collectively as a group of people…not really invested in each other. This is working together as a team! It’s serving a great purpose…together, not just alongside other people.  Love that process. Also in play, game nights are special fun for the chatter and laughter around the table as much as for the adventure of the gaming itself.

2) Being Able to Support and/or Encourage Our Adult Children – There’s a strange tension in this. We are glad for our children to launch as adults and they are glad to be on their own and pursuing their own careers and interests. Still, after so many years of being under the same roof and intimately in each others’ lives, I’m glad for touch-points. Praying for them always (my privilege and special responsibility). Babysitting for a grandchild. Listening to their hopes and dreams. Offering counsel on a struggle (when asked…and sometimes not even). Supporting financially within healthy and honoring bounds. You hear a lot about Nathan in here. I long to be able to support him in his musical career…but didn’t really know how. Just this week, he made that easier by affiliating with Patreon. Now we’re a part of his small but growing community of patrons.

3) Travel and the People We Travel To and With – I’m not an experience or destination collector, so travel to tick off a bucket list isn’t a motivation. However, it’s possible that’s because we have had the great fortune of travel as a normal part of our lives over the years. We have lived in Egypt, Tunisia, and Morocco. Dave and I spent our 25th wedding anniversary in Paris, France. As a family, we’ve shared incredible destinations…from the Red Sea to the Sahara Desert, from trips in Europe and to Africa. My international travel has been curbed a bit, but there is still tremendous joy in trips to Laurel, Delaware and Hoschton, Georgia (to see family) and to such places as Midland, Texas and Nashville, Tennessee to see friends. Etc., etc., etc. It’s less the destination…as what the travel brings in times together.

4) Food Events – It’s my birthday today, and there will definitely be food events. Food itself is a delight, of course. The sweet side-benefit of food events is that person sitting across from me. Or the children and adults gathered close around the long family table. Or the folks cozied on couches around the room. Or even (gasp) the long-legged obstacle course of men filling the floor space in front of a televised football game. What food does to draw out conversation or bond people together is a marvelous thing. I have favorite restaurants, like you…but it’s the event itself that blesses the heart (less the work of it, more the people of it).

5) Divine Appointments – Okay…these are not within our control, really…so they can’t be scheduled into one’s happy life. Or, maybe they can. We can definitely grease the tracks to experience them. How? I know my whole day can be altered – both in awareness and experience – if studying Scripture and praying is part of my early morning routine. “Bible before breakfast” was a routine, growing up, of a friend of mine. Not in any kind of legalistic or ritualistic sense… as much as spiritual habit that can change a person’s thinking, choices, and engagement with God and others. That early morning time with God sets the tone for my day. His activity in my life and that of others around me becomes more obvious. God is a good and active agent in His creation and among his people. All we have to do is tune our minds to see Him…and He is there. Even when my early morning quiet time is on the lean side…or neglected altogether, it’s still possible to reset our sights on Him through the day and experience wonders. I just hate to miss Him from early on…because I’ve chosen other lesser activities…like even sitting down and writing…

There are my five favorites… They didn’t include writing…which is sort of a given (as in this blog). They didn’t include photography – also a given (in my desire to document everything). They didn’t include movie and popcorn nights which I actually LOVE as well….that will definitely happen on my birthday. Thanks, Friend, for stirring my thinking yesterday. Being more proactive in pursuing these five is now on my list! Do you have a list of favorite things you fill your life with? Please comment below. If you live in Richmond, maybe you could also share your favorites about this city. It’s possible I need to get out more.

Happy a safe and restful weekend!

5 Friday Faves – Hurricane Matthew, Engaging Older Adults, Life After Downton, Leading Change, and a Fall Evening

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It’s Friday, and tomorrow Hurricane Matthew is supposed to move into Virginia. Wind and rain. Hopefully we won’t lose power, but over a million folks in Florida did, so we wait and see.

Here are my favorite finds of this week. Two are actually blogs by the same writer, Carey Nieuwhof. He is a wise leader and gives excellent counsel to those of us who also want to lead well.

  1. Hurricane Matthew – The Caribbean and Florida have been hit hard by this week’s hurricane. A Category 4 storm through the Caribbean and now Category 3, passing through Florida and into Georgia tonight. Hundreds of deaths and the storm devastation is massive. I am so thankful for disaster response agencies who take definitive action quickly in times like this. Baptist Global Response (BGR) is that kind of organization, working with local partners to help in the life-saving areas of clean water, food security, shelter and supplies and general health of the peoples most hard-hit. Because of the work of other NGO’s already in Haiti, BGR is targeting its disaster relief efforts on Cuba.blog-hurricane-matthew-commondreamsblog-hurricane-matthew-wtvrPhoto Credit: Common Dreams; WTVR

2) Engaging Older Adults – Carey Nieuwhof posted a helpful 5 points list on engaging older adults. Shut Down the Bus Tours: What Older Church Members Should Really Be Doing. This post could just as easily been written any group of older adults who could be a tremendous resource if engaged…otherwise they are going to just keep getting on those buses.blog-senior-citizens-bus-tours-angeltourPhoto Credit: AngelTour

Not that older adults don’t deserve vacations after so many years in the work force and serving in their churches and families. Still, Nieuwhof makes a serious case for mobilizing seniors back into service where they are needed to mentor, model, guide, and cast vision for the next generations. The Fall Leaf bus tours are upon us, but we also need these valuable men and women among us as well.

3) Life After Downton – What to Watch Now – I do miss Downton Abbey, but fortunately we do have other viewing options. Amazon Screening Room lists out lovely period pieces that can scratch our itch for Downton. Two I’ve already watched are Doctor Thorne and Grantchester. Would love to hear some of your recommendations!blog-dr-thorneblog-after-downtonPhoto Credit: Screening Room

4) Leading Change – Canadian pastor, Carey Nieuwhof, is also a writer and speaker on leadership. carey-nieuwhof-blogPhoto Credit: Carey Nieuwhof

He wrote Leading Change Without Losing It: 5 Strategies That Can Revolutionize How You Lead Change When Facing Opposition. In a blog this week, he takes from his book, focusing on how to lead through change in the face of opposition. A few of his observations are:

  • People aren’t opposed to change nearly as much as they are opposed to change they didn’t think of.
  • Usually no more than 10% of the people you lead are opposed to change.
  • Fear of opposition derails more leaders than actual opposition.
  • Buy-in happens most fully when people understand why, rather than what or how.

5) Firepit on a Fall Evening with S’Mores – This week marks the true arrival of Fall here with temperatures dropping and leaves just beginning to turn colors. We had our first marshmallow roast on an outdoor fire. Making S’mores – that camping treat of graham crackers, Hershey’s chocolate bars, and melted marshmallows. Thus marking the start of my favorite season. Lots of pics to follow of brilliant Fall leaves and fun times outside without the heat of summer.blog-smores-and-a-firepit

Be safe out there. Hope you East Coasters in the States are not too troubled by Hurricane Matthew. Have a restful weekend. Leave us your favorite finds of the week in the Comments below. Thanks.

Monday Morning Moment – Relational Wisdom at Work and at Home

Blog - Monday Morning email

[Adapted from the Archives]

Monday morning emails can be treacherous… This morning when I woke,  my husband told me he’d just heard from a valued colleague that he had secured another job. Dave was expecting this because of previous communications they’ve had with each other. Through an organizational re-structuring, there are many whose jobs are changing. This email was good news because this person will be a tremendous addition to any team – good news and sad news. We will miss this man on our team but we celebrate a great job match.

Then another email came in. It was from the person who will be his new supervisor. It was full of respect and regard – a courtesy email that is not necessarily company culture these days but an email that shows understanding and empathy. When change comes, even good change, there is still that adjustment, that grieving of the good that was. Those two emails speak volume about emotional intelligence or relational wisdom…and that’s something we always need in the workplace…and at home.

The holidays and summer vacations have a particular call for wisdom to soften difficult expectations, disarm family conflicts, and personalize interactions to fit the needs of those nearest to us.

Blog - Monday Morning Moment - MarriagePhoto Credit: rw360.org

One very simple way we can tune into seasonal celebrations is to deal with our own stuff. Keeping our minds on the goodness of the these occasions helps.

Related to both our work and home relationships, Ken Sande, founder of Relational Wisdom 360, has given us a great gift. He has written 33 Ways to Enjoy Highly Relational Holidays. A fast-read blog a day on relational wisdom, written for Advent but which also fits nicely into a block of summer days.

I attended Dr. Sande’s Peacemaker course years ago during a challenging work season, and what I learned then continues to be a tremendous help to me today. If your work or family situation is somewhat intimidating, don’t despair. There are those in our lives (Ken Sande is one) who will come alongside and help/mentor us, if we’re willing to take care of our own hearts and minds.Monday Morning Moment - Post traumatic growthPhoto Credit: coldspringcenter.org

As summer hums along and return to school looms ahead, I hope you are savoring happily memorable times together with family. As far as work goes, just like with the emails above, we can do our part to make our workplace a kind and honoring experience – our part (not someone else’s) in making it the way it could be…the way it should be…Blog - Monday Morning Good Work BraceletPhoto Credit: GoodWorksBracelet.com

What helps you thrive in stressful situations at work? What has made a difference in bringing peace and joy to your summer vacations and holiday celebrations? Please comment and share with those searching for that wisdom.

Maymont – a 100-Acre Park with a Touch of Downton Abbey

Blog - Maymont Mansion

I visited a Gilded Age mansion this summer. Here, in Richmond, Virginia. Maymont is a 100-acre estate owned by James and Sallie Dooley. When they died, in the 1920’s, they bequeathed it to Richmond as a park and museum. Within six months, it was opened to the public to is easily enjoyed by all of us.Blog - Maymont with the Dooleys

Until this summer, it was an unexplored treasure. My only visits to Maymont were for picnics on the grassy knoll in front of the mansion. That in itself is a relaxing, restoring experience, just basking in the lovely green sun and shade of the grounds.Blog - Maymont - Relaxing on the Knoll

This summer, I got to know Maymont as it should be known…through the happy association with a family, new to Richmond. Through a staycation, , and deliberate fascination, they have explored the area to really know their new city. I got to come along for some of those outings and this is my favorite so far.Blog - Maymont - Staycation

The grounds were designed by Mrs. Dooley. There are several specialty gardens. Two in particular stand out: The Italian garden with its columned and stony walkways, roses, and waterfalls make it a familiar photo spot for engagement pictures.Blog - Maymont - Italian GardenBLog - Maymont - Italian Garden 2Blog - Maymont - Lovers' Bench

Then down the stone steps of the Italian garden, and beside its waterfall, you will find the tucked-away Japanese Garden. Truly serene in its design and simplicity.Blog - Maymont - Japanese GardenBlog - Maymont - Japanese Garden 2Blog - Maymont - Friends

In previous visits to Maymont, just staying on the edge of the park, on that grassy knoll with friends and family, was sweet in itself. It is a lesson for me, though, how much we miss if we don’t dive deeper into the treasure of such a place.Blog - Maymont 2

 Then we toured the Victorian country estate home of Mr. and Mrs. Dooley. Although much smaller in scale than the post-Edwardian home seen in the PBS series Downton Abbey, it reminded me of that era. To enter the Dooley mansion, you enter through the servants’ quarters below. The contrast of post-Civil War servants’ life and that of Mr. and Mrs. Dooley and their guests was remarkable. Yet in both, you see touches of beauty and utility, with glimpses into the loves and habits of these who shared life together. The furnishings are all original, the house left intact to the City of Richmond.

You just need to see it.  I’ll share a few pictures, but the tour, with knowledgeable and accommodating guide, was fascinating.

Blog - Maymont - Mr. Dooley's StudyMr. Dooley’s Study

Blog - Maymont - Mrs. Dooley's Sitting RoomMrs. Dooley’s Sitting Room

 Blog - Maymont - Servants' Dining AreaBlog - Maymont - Dooley's Dining RoomThe Dining Areas of the Servants (l) and the Dooley’s (r)

Blog - Maymont

Blog - Maymont - Mrs. Dooley's bedroomMrs. Dooley’s BedroomBlog - Maymont - Servants' Work & BedroomOne of the Servants’ quarters and work area

So there you go…just a taste of Maymont. Hope you can include this in your waning summer plans. Or a weekend in the Fall.

What a gift, among so many others, Mr. and Mrs. Dooley, true benefactors and patrons, gave to all who came after them.

The Maymont Estate

The Gilded Age in US History

Downton Abbey – PBS Masterpiece Theater

Metamorphosis – a Sacred Moment in the Monarch Butterfly Nursery – Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens

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As part of a “staycation”, some new-to-Richmond friends and I spent a morning last week at Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden. With three daughters-in-tow, we lingered at the Butterflies LIVE! exhibit. It’s an incredible indoor “habitat” for tropical butterflies. 2015 July Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden with Christie and video 0492015 July Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden with Christie and video 011

 If you have the patience to be still and butterfly-friendly, the butterflies may come close to you as you come close to them.

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I’ve been several times and never tire of the marvel of these creatures. My daughter once said how curious it is with butterflies that as big as they are we are drawn to them where we would be repelled by insects of another kind, that large.

On this particular day, we saw something I had only read about in the past, and hadn’t really considered deeply until that moment. The metamorphosis of the butterfly.2015 July Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens, Blog, Christie, Kim 079

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One of the girls and I stood enrapt watching a caterpillar fix itself upside-down on the edge of the “Monarch nursery” (photo above, creature on right). It was a caterpillar moving and being all caterpillar-like…and then it wasn’t. I’m not really much of a naturalist. Yet, it was impossible to draw away from this seemingly sacred movement.

The caterpillar made these shuddering movements and its skin literally popped open slowly from the back of its head up its body until all that was left was the chrysalis. The skin fell off, and after a bit more shudders, the chrysalis went still. It would hang still like that for 10-14 days until the Monarch butterfly emerges.

As we stood there watching that process, literally transfixed, I couldn’t help being reminded of the Apostle Paul’s description of what happens when people become believers in Christ. He spoke from transforming experience of going from a murderous persecutor of the church to an all-out follower of Christ.

Believers may look the same on the outside – but a spiritual process occurs in the inside where we come alive, with new hearts because of Him. The wretched “old” is gone; all things have become new.

Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come. Now all these things are from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation.2 Corinthians 5:17-18

monarch-and-milkweed - lewisginter org (2)Photo Credit: This one from LewisGinter.org

This was that sacred moment that day for me…in front of the Monarch Nursery, standing beside my new young friend.

Post-script: We left the Butterflies LIVE! exhibit shortly after and entered into the Garden proper to enjoy the flowers. There on one of the flower displays was a butterfly! My first thought was that it had escaped the exhibit! Sigh….2015 July Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden with Christie and video 073

Butterflies LIVE! – Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden

YouTube Video – Monarch Butterfly Metamorphosis time-lapse FYV 1080 HD

YouTube Video – Butterflies Live! at Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden

Photo Credits: Mine except the one of the Monarch Butterfly

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A Walk in the Wild – Or a Walk in the Park Very Near the Main Road

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Ask the beasts, and they will teach you; the birds of the heavens, and they will tell you; or the bushes of the earth, and they will teach you; and the fish of the sea will declare to you.  Who among all these does not now that the hand of the Lord has done this? In His hand is the life of every living thing and the breath of all mankind.Job 12:7-10

Sometimes, we all just need to get away. To hear quiet again; to see green and rocks and wild creatures; to refresh our senses and regain perspective. My husband was, in years past, an avid outdoorsman – fishing, hunting, hiking, biking all reset his week as a younger man. I myself can do all that inside my house, with a book, a look outside, a cup of coffee, and maybe a phone call with a friend.

This week we took a couple of days and got out of town. Not deep into the mountains. No equipment needed. Just a couple of days out the door with our sneakers on. It’s been a week of sorting through life – and our minds were tired. We have had a lot of work stuff going on and just lost a dear friend to cancer this week…clearing our heads seemed a good idea…and it was.

We walked in the woods. Sometimes by a stream. Cool beneath the trees on a hot summer day. The sun’s light pushing through in places.

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There’s a sweet mystery in hiking…even with well-marked trails, you don’t know what you’ll find exactly, at the turn ahead, around the bend. In the quiet and the green, there’s room to think.2015 July - Blog, Garden, Flowers, Massanutten, Jeannie Elliff 389Of course, I didn’t just think about God and His amazing world He’s given us to steward. I thought of deer ticks, and bears, and snakes. Hard to keep an “indoorsy” gal’s mind from hopping over those possibilities. Especially when the trail marking also pointed to which direction went nearest the local hospital. We went that way…also because, in truth, it was marked “extreme difficulty” rather than “most difficult”.

No worries. We walked a long way without any of the crittery wildness of nature imposing itself on us. In fact, the biggest danger was my own propensity for falling down – which I’ve done in major cities around the world, and sometimes on hiking trails. This was a bitty bit of our walk in the wild that day – tripping on a rock and rolling into the bushes beside the path, uninjured, thankfully. I thought of the kids who would always say, “Mom, don’t run. Mom, be careful.” It made me smile as I picked myself up out of the briars, with Dave’s help. And on we went. Glad for a walking partner and no twisted ankles.

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It was a sweet day, and a much-needed time away…a healing time.

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 The next morning, we needed to get back early. There were budget meetings and other commitments. It was all we needed this one full day…and still the Lord, in His generosity gave us this sunrise to go.2015 July - Blog, Garden, Flowers, Massanutten, Jeannie Elliff 4252015 July - Blog, Garden, Flowers, Massanutten, Jeannie Elliff 4272015 July - Blog, Garden, Flowers, Massanutten, Jeannie Elliff 430

 When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, The moon and the stars, which You have ordained; What is man that You take thought of him, And the son of man that You care for him? – Psalm 8:3-4

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I hope you get a walk in the wild this summer…or even a walk in the park (or backyard) near the main road. God is there to meet us, as He is with our cup of coffee and book.  It seems we sometimes stop short of worshipping God in His creation. We soak in the gift without acknowledging the Giver. This time away, processing the great gift of our friend, and the great gift of nature, gave sweet clarity…to the other of life before us.

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…all to His glory and majesty.

YouTube Video – The Majesty and Glory, by MetroSingers, Hyattsville, MD – performed at close of the Memorial Service for Jeannie Elliff, by Sherwood Baptist Church Choir

Massanutten Resort, McGaheysville, Virginia – two-day get-away we won as a prize for helping in a school fund-raiser through Papa John’s – highly recommended

Tourist in My Own Town – First Visit to the State Capitol & the Church Beside – Richmond, Virginia

Blog - Virginia_State_Capitol_Building_2 - wikimedia org (2)Photo Credit: Wikimedia.org

I love history but am not a very serious student of it. Wanna be, but truth be told, not so much. Children’s picture books with real (not revisionist) history as text are about my speed. Seriously, I do appreciate context and seeing puzzle pieces of our stories fit together. What a gift to have someone else bring me along with their children on a history field trip, sort of. That was my yesterday.

A friend, new to Richmond, Virginia, invited me to join her for a trip to the State Capitol downtown. I agreed to drive since I knew my city so well. [Ha!] It was a hot humid day which made it perfect to be inside an air-conditioned government building.

We headed into Richmond via Monument Avenue.   A really gorgeous, tree-lined street with huge houses on each side. It’s called Monument Avenue because of all the monuments . Most are of Confederate generals atop their horses. I told my passengers that there’s some sort of code about the hewn statues – denoting, by the position of horse and rider, whether the generals survived the waror not. Well, it turns out that’s a myth.  Strike one for the city “insider”.

We missed our turn into the city on purpose to drive across the James River by way of the Belvidere (Robert E. Lee) Bridge. Richmond is a striking city with the James running through it. On the U-turn back toward the city, I pointed out the Virginia War Monument and then what I thought was the Capitol Building, right behind, on a grassy knoll that slopes right down to the River. Wrong! Strike two. [I still don’t know what that great white columned building  is. Anybody?]

Strike three for me was assuming there would be parking attached to the Capitol building. I circled and circled and circled. We finally called the Capitol information line and found that St. Paul’s Episcopal Church a couple of blocks away offers their parking lot for $5/hour. That’s a deal in downtown Richmond, if you can’t get a metered space.

The Virginia State Capitol was designed by Thomas Jefferson. It is magnificent. There are free guided tours or we could meander around on our own. The state legislators were not in session, but the halls themselves made us feel welcome.  As did the lovely lady at the information table in the rotunda.2015 - Phone Pics - Richmond, Family, Flowers, Virginia Capitol 284

I am not going to do a guided tour – you, like me, have your own level of interest in history. I have just captioned a few of the pictures I took. You should visit your state capitol. I came away with a much greater appreciation of the cost of liberty and the processes of state government.2015 - Phone Pics - Richmond, Family, Flowers, Virginia Capitol 250

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2015 - Phone Pics - Richmond, Family, Flowers, Virginia Capitol 247“Brothers” statue depicted the poignancy of reuniting after fighting on opposite sides of the Civil War.

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2015 - Phone Pics - Richmond, Family, Flowers, Virginia Capitol 279The stairwells and marble floors had the look of a grand hotel.

2015 - Phone Pics - Richmond, Family, Flowers, Virginia Capitol 260President George Washington – the only statue he posed for, they say; life-sized rendering. [Let me know if that’s a myth or not. The statue was definitely life-sized. That I could tell.]

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 After exiting the Capitol building, we made our way around the grounds to the Governor’s Mansion (which was open to the public).2015 - Phone Pics - Richmond, Family, Flowers, Virginia Capitol 307 2015 - Phone Pics - Richmond, Family, Flowers, Virginia Capitol 306

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The old meets the new in the Governor’s Mansion. Period antiques throughout the main floor and lacrosse sticks belonging to the Governor’s children at the front door.

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So many fascinating persons from our history displayed in portraits, statues, and busts. Many were of Confederate generals, US political figures, and foreign dignitaries. Then there were others of great and different import – civil rights champion Oliver W. Hill, Jr., and Pocahontas in pearls.

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We covered the Capitol Building, Governor’s Mansion, and grounds in 1 1/2 hours. That was fast. So if you’re visiting your state capitol, you might want to take more time. On our way back to the car, we stopped inside St. Paul’s Episcopal Church (on the advisement of our new friend in the Capitol rotunda.

St. Paul's Episcopal Church, Richmond, Va

Photo Credit: St. Paul’s Episcopal Church

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The sanctuary of the church was massive with stunning stained glass windows. The sun was pouring in and it was like a gallery of art pieces depicting the life of Christ. While we walked the perimeter of the church, the organist was at the keyboard of the pipe organ housed in the balcony of the church. Maybe he was practicing. For us it was like a private concert.2015 - Phone Pics - Richmond, Family, Flowers, Virginia Capitol 3152015 - Phone Pics - Richmond, Family, Flowers, Virginia Capitol 323

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Our young newcomers who had stayed tuned in to our self-guided tour were done…as were their Mom and I. 2015 - Phone Pics - Richmond, Family, Flowers, Virginia Capitol 329

 Leaving downtown, we scooted around Virginia Commonwealth University to my favorite pizza joint there – Piccola Italy on Main.2015 - Phone Pics - Richmond, Family, Flowers, Virginia Capitol 3312015 - Phone Pics - Richmond, Family, Flowers, Virginia Capitol 336

Now, you can take a morning to see Virginia’s State Capitol…or your own. I only visited the U.S. Capitol once, and never visited my home state’s Capitol in Atlanta, Georgia. Hopefully you can avoid getting lost and hit a homerun your first time out. It was a win for us, in the end, for sure.

Virginiacapitol.gov

Virginia Capitol Tourists’ Guide

A Self-Guided Tour of the Virginia State Capitol (pdf)

TripAdvisor – Virginia State Capitol Building

10 Buildings that Changed America

St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, Richmond, Virginia

Piccola Italy Pizza and Subs

Friday Foodies – EAT 33 #RVA – a Guys’ Food Place with a Feel of the Beach

Blog - Eat 33 - by Richmond Times-DispatchPhoto Credit: P. Kevin Morley, Richmond Times-Dispatch

Taking a break from today’s light responsibilities and heavy news, I want to tell you about a sweet little restaurant we visited this week. It is Eat33, named for Virginia’s Highway 33, (aka Staples Mill Rd). The Atlantic Ocean is just over 100 miles from Richmond, but we can just pop over as often as we’d like. Eat33 has the feel of one of local dives along the strip at Virginia Beach. 2015 June Blog, Dad, Georgia, Delaware, Flowers, Summer 407

Of course, there’s no blue water or seagulls flying, but walking into Eat33, with its bright insignia t-shirts across the windows, was like being on vacation. Friendly waitresses, tables and booths full of folks relaxing in light conversation, mugs of coffee or tall glasses of sweet tea (with crushed ice), and big plates of best-of-diner food.2015 June Blog, Dad, Georgia, Delaware, Flowers, Summer 400

Eat33 is a house, done-over into a restaurant. It’s been on location for almost a year. I never saw it before, as Hwy. 33 is a busy street, and the loan and pawn shops surrounding the restaurant aren’t go-to places for me. [There is a great MetroPCS store close to Eat33, managed by our friend Thiago, if you need a cell phone…but that’s another story].

My daughter suggested Eat33 for lunch, so we tried it, and I recommend it unreservedly. 2015 June Blog, Dad, Georgia, Delaware, Flowers, Summer 399

The hours are 6:00am-2:00pm, so it’s breakfast “all day” with lunch mid-day. Some entrees are pricey, especially for lunch, but the portions are so big, you could easily split a meal. 2015 June Blog, Dad, Georgia, Delaware, Flowers, Summer 398

My daughter had a hand-formed hamburger, and I had breakfast. Service was great, and not so fast that we couldn’t enjoy people-watching or listening to the music (a mix of blues and classic rock). It really did feel like we were at the beach.2015 June Blog, Dad, Georgia, Delaware, Flowers, Summer 4022015 June Blog, Dad, Georgia, Delaware, Flowers, Summer 404

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This happy little eatery had that neighborhood favorite atmosphere. Mostly guys – many coming in with their work boots on, but some in shorts and flip flops. The yummy crabmeat items on the menu were another reminder of the ocean down the road from us. Just over a breakfast/lunch, we were transported away from the city to that sandy beach, with wind in our hair, and full tummies – ready to close our eyes in the sun, and sleep in our chairs…if we weren’t still in Richmond and didn’t have work to do.

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EAT 33 Facebook Fan Page

Customer Reviews via yelp.com

Lightnin’ Bugs – Here a Moment and Then Gone – as the Summer

BLog - Lightning BugsPhoto Credit: www.strangesounds.org

Catching lightnin’ bugs (as we called them in Georgia) was a grand part of our summers growing up. We never got tired of it. Sometimes, mom would say “Just enjoy them”, and we put the jars away.  My brothers and I would play outside in the hot sticky evenings. We played until it was too dark to see how to run. Often, we would just follow the lightning bugs as they flashed signals to each other. Male seeking female, mating on their minds.

As children, we were mesmerized by them because they seemed to not exist until those few hours every night. From dusk until deep dark, they flew, and we were enchanted with them. We didn’t notice mosquito bites then, nor the heat.

Called in from the yard at last, we would take turns washing up in our one bathroom in those days. I never understood how that line of dirt made its way around our necks. Or how filthy feet could get from chasing around the yard with no shoes. Summer nights, after long hours of play, were filled with deep sleep for us as brothers and sister, growing up with shared life. Dreaming of fireflies darting up from the grass, flitting through the night sky, to a mysterious mate.

Our children spent most of their growing up years in the  Africa bordering the Sahara. No lightning bugs there. Summer vacations back in the US were made all the more magical by these evening lightshows.

I just recently found out that lightning bugs were beetles. Beetles in Africa are big and shiny black and not for play in our family. They are right up there with the mammoth flying roaches, in terms of creepiness. Fortunately, lightning bugs, in the dazzling loveliness of their glow, make them an altogether different creature…almost on the order of fairies, rather than insects.

Summer, like the season of lightning bugs, never seems long enough. So we savor it. From indoors and out. I am thankful for a yard lit up at night by these little showmen. Every place we have ever lived had its own loveliness…for now, in Virginia, this is part of what we celebrate of God’s creation…in our back yard. You are welcome.

Blog - lightning bugs by robindance.mePhoto Credit: www.robindance.me

Firefly

Light in play

Silent signal

End of day

Rhythmical

Illumination

Simple

Childlike fascination

Demanding chase

They blink and dance

One more spark

And that’s your chance

Neon glow

Adorn the night

Summer’s glory

Our delight      by Robin Dance*

*Magic of the Night by Robin Dance

Fireflies! 12 Things You Didn’t Know About Lightning Bugs

How to Attract Fireflies to Your Backyard

Blog - Fireflies or Lightning BugsPhoto Credit: thaynesworld.com