Family Photo 2015



Blessings and Breakthroughs

Christmas 2015

This year has been full of blessings and breakthroughs. We have learned through patience and faith that all things are truly possible and love conquers all. Among the lovely moments were the wedding of our daughter Bethany to Lewis Single, Saturdays at Ohio and Canadian wineries with Greg and Sue Harper, any week we are together with Stu in Charleston, South Carolina; several celebrations in Tampa, Florida with our children and Brian, Laura, and Elizabeth Cordell; a trip through the Bavarian region of Germany with ALL our children including overnights at the home of Brian and Hannah Hill, the wedding of our Nephew Chris Harper to the lovely Jena Tanner, a weekend with Brad and Karen Cordell in Annapolis to see a Navy football game, and hosting Thanksgiving with four days of televised football game viewing.

What I love about football games are the unexpected plays, the predictions, the cheering and the chow. I do not like the pain, penalties, and losses that are tough and so much like life. We just couldn’t manage it without gathering together and praying through each play by play.

Big break through this year for Matt James was finishing his MBA and was promoted to Director of Animal Science at Zoo Miami, so Elise moved to Miami and moved up to a wine importer position with Esprit Du Vin. They sold their Tampa home and found new construction in Kendall.

Bethany had a breakthrough with moving up to a permanent position at Hillsborough College as the instructional designer. Lewis is keeping the reptiles the Lowry Park Zoo smiling ( have you noticed that expression on gators, snakes and turtles?).

Hannah had a breakthrough decision to return to Syracuse, NY to take a Photo Journalism class in January while Captain Brian Hill protects the European arena during these frightening and questionable times. They expect a new location next July.

Stu has breakthroughs that come in small victories after years of patience and planning. The Historic Harbor has now been recognized Statewide for exceptional restaurants and renovations that lend to a charming destination. He is the senior partner at Warren & Young, and has been named to the board of governors of the Ohio Bar Association.

My breakthrough was starting the clown therapy program at Cleveland Clinic Children’s hospital. The world renowned Cleveland Clinic has welcomed the Bumper T Caring Clowns that I have trained and I do my best to bring humor and laughter to an environment that can be stressful. I continue to be involved in women’s ministry at church and I write a daily meditation and weekly blog on Facebook. I sold all my stock of “What I Learned From Children” after a lecture on self publishing and have a second manuscript ready. Hannah, I need your help again.

Blessings flow as we give thanks in all circumstances. I find joy in the opportunities to serve and help others. Most of all, the family gatherings to share love and laughter are the great reward of a life well lived. We wish for all our family and friends to know the hope and peace they seek in this season of wonder.

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year,
Love always,

With Visa We Get Priceless

Yesterday, I had a long talk with a kindly representative at Visa. Oddly, a week ago my card was refused at a Publix grocery store most likely because it was in Miami far from where we live. At the same time in Riverside, California someone was using my number with no questions asked. Alert husband spotted the charges and had me call Visa to investigate. Of course my card number was cancelled and I won’t receive a new one for a week- after my biggest shopping week of the year! While eight charges are under scrutiny twenty-eight more appeared two days later. How can that be? Hubby, none too happy, had me on the phone again to itemize each purchase under dispute. Phishing, skimming, and hacking are the top methods used to defraud people in the credit business. There is no way I will find out who has my number, how they got it, or when my card information was secretly stolen. People do this for a living at ten dollars a number. Visa assured me it was not my fault. I rarely shop on-line except Amazon, and I rarely give my card to people where it leaves my sight. Apparently, the recent hack of Target boutique is starting to have reproductions. With 361 million frauds a year, the detectives are busy. The point is that anyone can become a victim and we need to be vigilant. My new card will have a “chip” in it. In this season of benevolence, I have adopted people I will never meet and wish to help others to have a meaningful Christmas. It is unnerving that someone wants me to pay the price for their holiday spending spree without asking. And yet, Jesus payed the price for me before I ever asked. So how can I let daily frustration get to me- no way possible! My life is so easy you say, but in the last week I have somehow been the source of family discomfort for those who have mysteriously not received their annual Christmas card from me, and packages we sent are missing that were sent to my daughter’s home- stolen perhaps. This the season to be jolly even though it is a high stress time to create a perfect party and please everyone with presents. Does anyone ever measure up to their own expectations? To solve a few problems our Christmas letter “blessings and breakthroughs” can be read on my weekly WordPress document “Sparkling Water With a Twist”. The Totally Fit page posts these blogs each week for inspiration, so it continues to encourage me to share my thoughts while on my faith journey. God is so much bigger than any of our problems. Remember to acknowledge him daily through prayer and thanksgiving. Peace, hope, and joy can be yours in the New Year and it is my sincerest wish for everyone.

Travel Bug

Yesterday, I had my third Uber ride all in the same week. I was among the nay-sayers who thought it sounded like a bad idea to ride with people who are not under the control of an organization that guarantees safe and experienced drivers. Now I am a true believer. Marcella, a mother of four beautiful children, picked me up from South Beach Miami and drove me forty minutes safely and comfortably home. I heard the story of her life in Columbia, her trials finding the right schools for her children, and the success she and her husband are having with making money driving for Uber as a full time job. Her English was perfect, but Marcella let me practice my Spanish a bit as I told about my life in South America and my time as a teacher for Hispanic children. She shared pictures of her family and I shared my Mentos. No problemos! It was a pleasant visit and ride and no money changes hands as it is all negotiated over the Internet. Brilliant I say! The best part of travel is meeting people and hearing a good story. What bugs me about long distance travel is the lost luggage, the delays, waiting in lines, the cramped quarters on planes, and the cost of amenities while captive in terminals. The travel bug can be a terminal illness if the stress outweighs the joy of arriving at the destination. Those mishaps rarely happened when I was younger and eager to travel. There seems to be more annoyances now that I am a seasoned traveler. Planes are overbooked, having mechanical problems, lack of space for luggage, meals or blankets are no longer offered except in first class. So, Imagine my excitement when our daughter Elise found a $35 dollar direct flight on Jet Blue for me to visit her (I thought at that price I would be strapped to a wing). It was a short trip and all went well- until I deplaned ready for a bear hug and a pleasant drive to Miami. “Don’t panic mom”, was the text. My first Uber ride ever was to the Jeep dealer to join Elise who was to procure a loaner car to get home. Her transmission failed on the highway and thank you Lord she made it off to a safe place to be picked up by a tow truck. Simple enough normally- but not that day. The service desk was closed, no loaners were available, the rental shops were closed, so back in an Uber to the airport to rent a car. It was no easy process there either because they required a boarding pass, which my daughter did not have and they were not sure they could accept mine? Ultimately we arrived at the lovely new home of Matt and Elise three hours later than expected. The next day Elise again required an Uber ride from the rental car dealer to the Jeep dealer where she finally got a loaner car. In two days she has been tested for mental stability, integrity, finesse and stamina since I arrived, and truly amazed me with her ability to handle a situation. She has been problem solving and making phone calls on a number of issues with polite explanations and sometimes even with lighthearted laughter. She is holding it together when I would think the world was against me. Yes, I was praying every moment and wondering what was the purpose of so many road blocks in her week. Basically, we kept an eye on the destination, kept moving forward, and counted numerous blessings. One bad day can break a spirit, but when looking at the whole picture, life is full of joyful moments to be celebrated. In my understanding of the German word, we are “uber” excited for every day together.

Jumpstarting My Joy

Yesterday, my joy was given a jumpstart which I sorely needed after dealing with some non holiday stress. Unexpected expenses like a new furnace heat pump condenser can put a pinch on the budget for generosity. And missing a favorite annual Christmas party while waiting for the furnace fix it man to arrive, my the lower lip started to get a little pouty. Nonetheless, I got to the annual Christmas Carol sing a long at the Sandpiper Retirement Center in the St Nick of time. Four of us regaled the residents with old tunes that everyone knows. I remember well how my mother would go with a small church group to offer communion and sing a few hymns. She would flirt with the gentlemen and laugh with the ladies to draw them closer. In the same spirit, I danced around to each person to hold hands while we sang together. Eyes lit up, toothless smiles got wider, and we swayed with the piano music that Carol cheerfully played in a key we could all reach with our resounding voices. Carol organizes monthly sing-a-longs at several retirement homes. I know she would love to have more people join us so that every resident will get a little more attention. We are not looking for operatic voices- but they are welcome too. Tuesday and Wednesdays at 3:00 are the typical times we gather. I truly believe that nothing lifts the spirit like singing. I feel certain that it even heals the aching parts of our lymphatic and sympathetic systems. An hour of singing can be transformative. You may even find yourself, like me, singing along with the music in the grocery store or at the mall and others joining in. My neighbors started singing “Joy to the World” with me on the sidewalk last week as I carried a “Joy” sign down the street. They had so much fun that they knocked on doors to sing to other neighbors! Then today while doing Caring Clown rounds at MUSC, the children sang so loud with me that even the custodial staff in the hall started to sing and dance with their mops in hand. What JOY! So, join us in the musical ministry that wins hearts and heals the weary soul, or gather for some caroling in your own neighborhood. The reason I love Christmas Eve service so much, is that I image a world singing together with one voice. Songs of promise and Word fulfilled feels like we are joining the heavenlies to announce the Savior’s birth. Right behind your jugulars are the jumper cables that will get your happy song started. 🎶Hark the Herald Angels Sing..🎶

Stocking Stuffers

Yesterday, I got a run in my pantyhose! “What are you talking about?”, says the millennial generation. It’s akin to telling them the needle on my record player keeps skipping on my favorite LP. Well, I tried the old fashioned solution of stopping the run with nail polish, but because the stockings were over stuffed with my incredibly muscular calves, the run continued right past the polish that was stuck to my skin. Wrecking a pair of nylons used to be such a travesty because it usually was the only pair I had. Then came Leggs, the affordable pantyhose in a plastic egg which could later be decorated for Easter. We- I mean Santa-used to put several pair in our daughter’s Christmas Stockings each year to make sure they always had an ample supply. Then they quit wearing them. I did not think I could ever get used to bare legs or flip flops in the winter, but as you know, mothers pick their battles. (White gloves, hats, stockings, girdles, and slips have nearly disappeared, while bras and high heeled shoes have taken on a new dimension.) I threw away my shredded panty hose and switched to leggings. Our mothers would be shocked because they saved them and used them as lint catchers on the washing machine, or soap sliver collectors to do what, I don’t know. One of the best belly laughs ever was when my brothers took an old pair and pulled them over their heads to make squashed unrecognizable faces. I imagedislike throwing away anything with a creative future use, but I have vowed not to be a pack rat like my mom. In our throw away society, we may one day be living on top of our discard pile so I have some basic guidelines to being environmentally responsible: recycle, repurpose and regift things that are not biodegradable, reduce the use of paper products. As for the poor pantyhose; they may one day be a curiosity to the archeologists along with all the water bottles in the landfills. I will remember to save the next pair of nylon stockings for my brothers to entertain their grandchildren. The lesson is of course not to over stuff our own stockings in this season of generosity.