Thursday, November 27, 2008

New Camera...

The following are my first photos with the new camera.
A smaller version of a larger chocolate cake that we made at Sandal House for one of the girl's Thanksgiving meals. The larger cake was for the Thanksgiving meal, and this smaller version I created to give to my family. The misshapen chocolate object you see at the top of the cake, is a cluster of chocolate roses (you can't appreciate them from this angle).

The beautiful red roses Emily Kate gave me for my birthday. Well, actually the guy on the gift bag gave them to me, but that's a great story Emily and I will keep between the two of us :)

Also, I took a picture of the beautiful flowers my five year old cousin Maddie picked out for me with the help of my sister Lora. Thank you Maddie and Lora, they're really LOVELY!!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Passing Away

I'm sitting here at my computer waiting for news on the funeral arrangements. My Grandma Vance passed away this morning at 8:25 a.m. It's a blessing to know she's with our Lord, and free of pain and her broken earthly body.

Before I become to morose in my writting I thought I'd take some time to share some wonderful stories of my Grandma with all of you.

You see, I grew up living about an hour drive over the mountains from my Grandparent Vance's (my mom's parents). I remember as a child making the trip out to see them atleast once every other month. I loved being out at their farm, nestled as it was at the base of this beautiful mountain. A spring lay nearby and a river wasn't too far from the house.

We use to go climb the mountain, and swim the river. Also, each summer we would go spend one week with our Grandparents (me and my siblings). This was a week for my parents to relax without us kids. I believe my grandparent's home was affectionately knicknamed "Camp Vance".

Grandma and Granddad spoiled us kids so. Grandma use to let us eat whatever we wanted, and when we wanted it, while we stayed with them. This of course led to an occassional upset tummy. I remember one time wanting to eat candy all day and then for dinner I decided to have some cream of mushroom soup. You can imagine what my Grandma did when later that night all that candy and mushrooms came back up, she called my Mom to pick me up :)

I remember as a child my Mom asking my Grandma to please not let us eat so much candy and to make sure we brushed our teeth. But to be honest Grandma didn't have the heart to tell her Grandchildren no.

Don't worry we didn't end up spoiled brats, atleast I hope not :) Grandma was so loving you wanted to be good for her.

When I first started spending the week with her I was uneasy when night time came. It was really the first time I had ever spent the night away from my parents. Grandma was great though, she had the children's activity books (a set that was like children's encyclopedias) and she would read me stories from the books and show me different craft projects we could do the following day. As she read to me, she would climb into bed and cuddle with me. I'll always remember how nice it was to cuddle with my Grandma before going to sleep.

Several years ago my Grandma gave me that set of children's encyclopedias. I look forward to reading those books at bedtime with children and maybe even my children someday.

Grandma loved to cook!! On those Sunday afternoons when we would drive out to visit Grandma and Granddad my Mom would make sure Grandma understood we were coming having eaten lunch already. If Mom tell her that, Grandma was sure to have the largest meal set before us that we had seen since the last time she set a meal before us. A typical meal for Grandma to prepare would be a couple of main dishes followed by half a dozen or more different sides, and then your choice of desserts. Less was not more with Grandma. MORE WAS MORE!! No one ever left her table hungry.

After dinner we would thank her for the meal, and her famous response was, "I don't know why you're thanking me, you barely ate a thing." This is of course after we had eaten one rather large plateful, followed by the second helping she made sure everyone took.

She also never forgot anyone's favorite food dish. She would make a special effort to have that dish on the table each time you were there for a meal. She knew I loved seafood, and especially crab, so she would make me this wonderful Crab Casserole. The following is one of her Crab Casserole recipes:

1 pound crab meat
12 saltine crackers - crushed
1 stick butter or margarine
1 teaspoon parsley flakes
1 teaspoon mustard
1 tablespoon worchestershire sauce
1 egg - beaten

Melt butter in dish - Add above - Sprinkle paprika - Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes.

I don't believe my Grandma ever knew a stranger. She was the most welcoming woman I've ever known. She had a real gift for hospitality, and I learned alot about how you treat someone in your home from her. She always gave of herself to spend time with others. She showed you hospitality through her food and her time. She would stop cleaning or any other task to sit and talk with you. She also made you feel welcome in her kitchen as she went about her work there. No matter what you knew she was listening and she cared.

I'm thankful that God saw fit to give me almost 28 years with her. She was my special Grandma!

Monday, November 24, 2008

Back in Time

Today, I went back to my old blog (the one I started when I moved to Utah). I was searching for my Africa journals that I copied onto the blog back in 2005. That's when I got thinking how long ago 2005 was. Even longer ago was when I went to Africa (May of 2004).

With another birthday coming up, and having to face my new age (yet another year older). It's really got me to thinking about the past. Thinking about all the great times I had in my early twenties and now I'm hitting my late twenties and I just don't like it. There is something almost terrifying about getting closer to thirty.

I know rationally I shouldn't be fearful of thirty, but it does seem that was an age that always appeared so far off when I was in my early twenties, and now I'm almost running smack into it. How could time slip away so fast? Where did all my twenties go?

Well, I know I spent almost three years of my twenties off in Salt Lake City, Utah. If you want to read more about that time go on back to my old blog.

I believe the early years of my twenties were squandered away. Not in the sense I did anything awful with those years, I just never fully appreciated how wonderful that time was until it was gone.

So, now my mission for last two years of my twenties is to enjoy them to the uptmost, and never forget how precious is the gift of this time. Who knows someday I might be saying the same thing about my thirties? :)

Friday, November 21, 2008

Almost forgot...

Yesterday when I wrote my blog I intended to post a picture of the camera that will be taking my pictures from here on out.

I'm remedying that with this photo:

Thursday, November 20, 2008

The new camera is on its way... 3 to 8 shipping days I should have my new camera. You know what to expect then...lots of pictures on my blog.

Previously, if you'll remember I didn't have time to post pictures, and then when I wanted to my camera went on the fritz. For the last several weeks I've been researching cameras trying to decide which one would fit me best (and my budget).

I came up with the Nikon Coolpix P80. It's on its way to me as I write this. Hopefully I'll receive it before the Holidays and I'll be able to take a lot of great family pictures.

Monday, November 17, 2008

A Discussion on Marriage

The other night on Facebook, I came across a note one of my friends had written (not written to me specifically, but to the general public). This old friend, Richard, entitled his note, "A Mormon's Defense of Marriage between a Man and a Woman." The note was a well written, well thought out view of his and his church's (Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) position on Proposition 8. He also addressed the attacks that have been made against LDS' buildings and member's property.

Since Richard posted his note, several of his friends have engaged the topic by leaving a variety of comments. I find myself going back to that post each morning to read where the conversation is going and the different view points. Reading the comments from both sides of the argument has piqued my interest to do some research on the subject.

I want to share with you all (atleast those of you interested enough to read this post) the research I've done, comments from Richard's post and subsequent comments from his friends regarding that post. Though, before I trudge through this heavy and murky topic I'd like to air out my own opinion, for I definitely want to leave no doubts regarding my own beliefs.

Without doubt, I believe the institution of marriage should be reserved for the uniting of one man and one woman. This is a moral belief that I hold, and not a bias based on ignorance or hatred. I choose to show love and respect to others, even if we're not in agreement on this issue, and my prayer is that you find this evident in my writing.

As I've been thinking this issue through, I've come to the conclusion that it has gone beyond just moral beliefs to the basic question, "Is marriage an institution of the church or the state?" In helping to examine that question let me digress just briefly.

I would say that a "marriage" today has a threefold obligation (again this is my viewpoint - you might disagree). First obligation is to the spouse in the vows made to one another as part of a marriage ceremony. Secondly (though as important as the first if not more), is our obligation to God in keeping our vows to our spouse. If we see our spouse as a gift from God that she/he is, we will honor His word in how we are to love and respect the gift He's given us. Lastly is our obligation to the state in form of marriage certificates, etc. I believe this last obligation holds the least consequence in regards to a marriage. It's more of a formality, such as birth certificates for babies are a formality to having a family.

So, is marriage an insituation of the church or the state? Being that our greater obligations are to God and our spouse, you understand why I would say that marriage is an institution of the Church. Now even taking a different approach and reviewing the history of marriage we still find the church as the main source of involvement in even it's earliest years. In fact, I would concur with Richard when he states biblically:

Marriage is an institution that was begun at the creation of the earth. When God created Adam and Eve, he basically married them together. “God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply.” (Gen 1:28) “And the Lord God said, It is not good that the man should be alone…[and] made he a woman…And Adam said, This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh…therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.” (Gen. 2:18, 22-24) Marriage was set up before and government or any rule of law was ever in place, before there was such a thing as taxation, or visitation right; marriage came along, hand in hand with religion

In fact in my research I did not find evidence that the state required certain expectations of marriage until 1563:

There appeared to be many marriages taking place without witness or ceremony in the 1500's. The Council of Trent was so disturbed by this, that they decreed in 1563 that marriages should be celebrated in the presence of a priest and at least two witnesses.

I'll even admit that the previous example is weak considering the Council of Trent was a religious institution, though in an era and place of church and state, so I'll let it pass as a state required expectation.

I can understand why an individual might want the priviledge to enter into a covenant marriage, especially with the rights the state does afford to married individuals. Those same individuals need to understand that "the church" is trying to protect what marriage has always meant to us from the earliest form.

As one of Richard's friends wrote:

We think that extending the meaning of the word to include other "nontraditional" relationships does affect us. When I say that my brother is getting married in December, that means something very specific. Had Prop 8 failed, I would perhaps need to qualify that statement and specify what kind of marriage he's entering into. So how does same sex marriage affect me? It changes the definition of the word--a word that has a special (sacred) meaning to me. Hence the phrase "Protecting marriage."

I don't have an eloquent, well thought out, answer to the issue. I can only take the time to write my thoughts, and in this reiterate the thoughts of others. I appreciate that we are able to have an honest and respectful dialogue on the issue. What does bother me is the hate and violent acts that sometimes characterize these issues. Richard drew attention to some of these acts against his own church.

As myself a Mennonite and Richard a Latter-day Saint we won't always agree, but I appreciate that we could both have a respectful dialogue and remain friends. I believe we move forward in friendship despite our differences, and the same thing could be said in the other case. It just takes a good foundation void of violence and hatred to be built upon.

Well, enough of me. What are your thoughts?

Thursday, November 13, 2008

As You Get Older...

I've been hanging around a good number of teenage girls these days (I'd say it comes with the territory of being a house mom to a teen mother home). One thing I've been noticing when it comes to me and these teens is the difference in our perspectives on shopping.

For starters, I don't enjoy shopping. I'm usually overwhelmed with all the options and end up buying the first thing I really like and getting out of the store. I'm certainly not one for browsing, but I do need to feel like I'm getting a bargain. So, when I say I end up buying the first thing I like, that like factor has as much to do about price as it does how it looks on me.

One of the teens I know keeps bringing home to me our differences in shopping. Everytime she has a new item she mentions the price of the item (okay that's not unlike me). With her the larger the price tag the more pride she takes in the item. HA! I'm aghast at that kind of pride, for me I find satisfaction in being able to tell my friends how little I paid for a particular item.

I'm sure one of these days I'll play the following game with the teens: I'll have them go around to the stores showing me all these items that they like, then I'll go around and show them where they can get the same or similiar item for considerably less money. Yeah, we'll be bargain shopping then.

Oh My...

...I broke a nail.

That's right I broke a nail, and instead getting all freaked out about it, I cut just cut down all my other nails.

A couple weeks ago I treated myself to a manicure and pedicure. This is a very rare thing for me. In fact I can probably count on one hand the times I've had either of those treatments done.

I was really pleased with the results, and especially the pampered feeling I had afterwards. The place I went even had special massage chairs to relax in while you were getting your pedicure, it was like a little bit of heaven on earth.

In the end my nails looked transformed. They were no longer the short, poorly taken care of, and often ignored finger nails and cuticles. They were beautiful, with a lovely color, and healthy look.

But then two weeks later I broke a nail. So, now they're back to being short and somewhat ignored, except the color has remained :)

In a really unusual way God used this experience to give me gentle reminder. Often times I get so focused on how I can be of service to God and others, that I ignore how God wants to restore me. Like my short nails; I often feel functional and good for a purpose, but as my nails show the wear and tear, so do I. God wants me to take time out, to relax in His presence, and to come away healthier and more beautiful from the experience. So, my reminder to myself today and all of you is to take time to pamper yourself with the Lord, even if it means just adding some color to your short nails (meant figuratively, but hey go ahead and paint those nails it's a great reminder to spend some time with God).

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Weekend with Granddad

My Granddaddy Vance (my mom's dad) lives out in Highland County, Virginia, about an hour drive over the the mountains from me. So, recently I've been going out to spend time with him one weekend out of every month.

It's always fun being with Granddad. At 90 years old he's a riot and manages to say and do things that have me laughing to myself for days after our visits. I know that years from now I'll look back on this special time together with very fond memories.

One memory I'm sure to keep for awhile took place this past weekend during our visit. Sunday morning I woke up to make our breakfast. It had been decided the day before that I would make Chip Beef Gravy on toast with some special chip beef that my only Robin had left Granddad (it wasn't until after I ate the gravy that I was informed that chipped beef was actually chipped venison).

Well, I made our gravy in my grandparents rather large cast iron skillet. Took the skillet from the stove to the kitchen table and we served our breakfast from it. After putting away some leftover gravy in the refrigerator we were left with some pan scrapings of gravy that my Granddad was pretty particular about, he wanted to save them for my uncle's dog when they came to visit later in the morning.

The time in the morning stretched on and my uncle hadn't come for his visit. I was getting anxious to get some work done, like feed the cats, and clean the breakfast dishes. Both of those things my Granddad wanted me to wait to do until my uncle came (I think he was wanting my uncle to help me with these tasks). Finally I told my Granddad that I needed to go ahead and finish the work so I could get ready for church.

The first item on the agenda was to feed the cats. My Granddad keeps a large supply of dry dog food on hand for his cats :) Talk about cats, they have close to 20 of them roaming around their farm land. When you take out their food to the back porch they all come running in a swarm. You can't really hold them because they're all wild, and would probably scratch you to ribbons. On this particular morning I saw some kitties among the group. One kitten was this light gray color and I thought it might still be young enough for me to hold it without it getting all crazy on me.

I safely picked up this precious kitten and took it inside to show my Granddad. He liked that kitten so much he told me to go ahead and let it eat the gravy scraps he was saving for the dog. I told Granddad I would take the kitten back outside and then throw the gravy scraps in the food pan for all the cats. Granddad wasn't hearing of that, he told me to go ahead and sit the kitten on the kitchen table where the skillet still lied and let it eat from there.

For those of you who know me and my view on pets, you know I don't think they belong in our homes and especially at our kitchen table. But there I was setting this kitten down to its breakfast. It being such a large skillett the first thing this cat did was to climb on inside the skillet to get the gravy scraps piled up on the one side.

If ever there was a time I should have had a camera it was that moment. Here was this beautiful gray little kitten curled up in a cast iron skillet, eating gravy scraps to its heart's content. Don't you wish you could have seen it too?

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Tears Watering My Eyes...

In the middle of my busy, hectic day yesterday I met one little four year old boy who made me stop and think, and also shed some tears.

This precious little child was born of a mother who abused alcohol and drugs during her pregnancy, and the effects are now for her son to bear. At four years old this little boy cannot put together a coherent sentence. Sure, he'll have a bright and lively conversation with you, but the words often don't make sense or if it is a word that is appropriate for the sentence it's badly pronounced. Mostly he talks nonsense words that aren't even in the english language.

From my short time with this little I could tell he was a sweet, beautiful child, who just loves to please others. He's very animated in his play, and has this amazing smile that just shines forth with joy.

I was so touched by this small child I wanted to share him with all of you through my blog. I also wanted to share with you an article I found online by the March of Dimes. Here it is, Enjoy!

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

If I Had a Bakery...

This past Sunday morning I arose early to make doughnut dough for a pre-church service breakfast. What I forgot this past Sunday morning when I set my alarm was that it was time for the "time change" and clocks would be falling back an hour.

So, when I arose and went out the kitchen on Sunday morning at what I thought was 4:30 a.m. I was greeted by the satellite clock (updates automatically) in our kitchen telling me it was 3:30 a.m. Being that I'm not an early morning person I was tempted to go back to bed for an hour. I also knew that it I went back to bed for one hour I might not get out again until it was light outside, and that wouldn't be productive to making doughnuts.

I settled myself on the couch in the living room instead and turned on a movie. While watching the movie I did reach a point of half sleep, and it was then that I dreamed about having my own bakery. I would love more than anything to have my own bakery someday and create truly amazing breads and pastries. I just don't see it happening any time soon (I'm way too poor to have my own bakery - and not nearly experienced enough).

In my dream though I had my own bakery and it's name was "Sweet Imagination". I've been haunted by that dream ever since Sunday morning and I can't get that name out of my head. It was last night though as I was laying my head down to sleep, and thinking of the name Sweet Imagination that it came to where I've heard it before. It just happens to be similiar to a short phrase from the movie, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. In the song they use the phrase, "pure imagination" so you can see how my mind just supplemented sweet for pure.

As a kid growing up that was one of my favorite movies. I guess even then I loved the creative side to food. Now if I could only have my own "chocolate factory" in the form of a bakery.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

A Year in the Fast Lane

October 31, 2008 marked a rather memorable anniversery for me. For it was on October 31, 2007 that I drove my car out of Salt Lake City, Utah and headed back east to Virginia. In 2007 that date fell on a Wednesday, in 2008 that date fell on a Friday (you can thank a leap year for the extra day). It just so happens that in 2007 after three full days of driving I arrived in Virginia on a Friday.

So, this year when Friday, October 31st came around it was both the anniversery of my departure from Utah and my arrival to Virginia. On that day I didn't know whether to be happy or sad, so I choose to reflect on the directions God's taken me in life.

That God led me out west to Utah to gave me the opportunity to be part of the community, I'm infinitely blessed by that experience. That God brought me back to Virginia to be part of my community of family members and friends, for that I am blessed.

I know without doubt that when I follow in the the Lord's leading I will experience His love and blessing. It might not always be easy, but He'll always be there.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Aviation Lingo and other things I don't understand...

Yesterday evening I was on my computer IM'ing with a friend of mine, Brendan. During the course of our conversation he mentioned that the company he works for Dynamic Aviation was missing a plane in Guyana (that's in South America if you're not too familiar with your geography).

Being that this was a typed conversation on what I refer to as Impersonal Messanger (IM) I missed out on the importance of what he was sharing with me. It hit me after our conversation that "missing plane" in aviation lingo means it most likely went down from the the air and they don't know where it is now. Not a good thing for those onboard the aircraft.

When I was having my conversation with Brendan being the eternal optomist that I am I thought what he meant was that a plane had gone missing from a hanger (more like stolen) and the company was out looking for it. Okay, so a stolen plane isn't the most optomistic thought, but it's a lot better than a crashed plane.

But back to the missing plane, there were two local guys onboard and one person likely from Canada. At this time I haven't read or heard anything to say that they've found them or the plane. Please be in prayer for them, their families and friends. We don't always understand why events like this take place, but we can know that God is always in control and loves us unconditionally.

If you're interested in the latest news at this time (at the time I'm writing the post) please follow the link below.