"Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed."

Saturday, August 1, 2015

July in Review

Besides these July Firsts, here are a few other things that happened this July.

1 -- Sophie and Zach home from the mountains; both sick; saw my friend Sharon in downtown Graham; Zach and I continued a bit of schooling this month

tilt your head

3-- my little 5-year journal and new travel diary arrived from Amazon; cards to Joni and Teresa; Morgan Hope (Ruby's granddaughter) born on her great-grandmother's birthday

4-- Aunt Edith 90 years old; Andrew to Burlington Royals game since Mark M. was throwing the first pitch; walked in the neighborhood to see fireworks with Andrew; Will's drone flew away

5 -- USA women defeated Japan 5-2 for World Cup title; Grandma 89 years old (tried to call)

6 -- took Zach to swim at Blake's house; I got Zach's sickness; Bagel arrived in the mail from Nana

7 -- saw 7 deer around house/neighborhood; Samer showed me pictures of the Syrian-inspired burger they created (it has pistachios and hummus)

8 -- to Blake's pool with Zach, Steph, and Michael; saw Holt; to CFA for ice cream; Dr. N license suspended

10 -- weather stat: from June 10 to July 10: hottest month on record in the Triad

11 -- to trains and park with Zach and Andrew; they played in the sand finding dollar bills (well, the same one, but Zach thought they were collecting a lot of them!); 

It was really funny when Zach wanted to see all those bills in Andrew's pocket

Mike at Papa's for work; Mike and AT to Avengers movie in Graham; I saw Charlene (from Bodies in Progress) at Target

12 -- whim trip to Hanging Rock State Park - left around 1 and got home around 7:45 PM

a sign we saw there

14 -- Andrew saw Jim and Lora at Graham Sheetz: they traveled from Indiana to Raleigh for a funeral

15 -- walked briefly in Saxapahaw & drove through old neighborhood; Zach's great, great grandma, Mimi, died at age 93

16 -- to Purple Penguin and park for walk with Mike and Andrew; bought baptism gifts for Rachel H.

17 -- whim solo trip to Homeland Creamery for a gallon of chocolate milk - first in many months!

18 -- Andrew lunch with Jim, Chad, Tim and John at Zaxby's; later Andrew and Michael to see Ant Man with some guys from Mike's church (they liked the movie!)

Crape myrtles are one of my favorite things about July

19 -- midday storm brought 1.5 inches of rain; 

Flash loved it

Mimi's funeral at 2 PM

20 -- Cruzans and Justices in town; Zach at my house and with them

21 -- swimming at Blake's house

23 -- Samer to visit his family in Istanbul

29 -- Zach left his colorful hand print at the children's museum

another day he made snakes out of slime

31 -- Andrew tried out stand-behind demo mower on our yard;

 to Beth Schmidt Park with Zach; lower humidity day; Samer called from Nuremberg; Pease family here for supper after visiting friends in Winston-Salem earlier in the day

Friday, July 31, 2015

July Firsts

Another July has come and gone.  I wanted to post a few firsts that happened in July 2015.  One morning, I went over to my parents' house, and my mom met me at the door, "They are taking the Confederate flag down!"  (In Columbia, South Carolina, that is.)

10th -- I decided to document that my parents had turned on the TV for this occasion.

18th  -- A few days later, there was some talk in my county about the Confederate statue coming down. (no rebel flag flies here; just a soldier statue has stood near the courthouse for over one hundred years.)  This is an area I walk frequently. In fact I joke that I "walk my errands" because I often park at the library and return my books there, walk the few minutes to the post office to check my work place's mailbox, drop by the bank, and so forth.  We often go to free concerts around the square here, and the children's museum where I take Zach is right beside the library.  So when they talked about having a rally to support the Confederate statue staying (and since I was in town that weekend), I drove up there to check things out.  Who would come?  How would they act? Would I see a counter-protest?  Nothing much happens here so I want to see! (I live about 3 miles from these pictures.)  Man, was it ever h-o-t.  Of course this is July in North Carolina so that's not surprising. Still.  I felt I was crying sweat. 

The old Alamance County courthouse

The statue honoring the Confederate soldiers

Plenty of people brought these flags, but none flies here

I saw a few African-American men, and I made a point of lingering near a couple of them to ask their thoughts. I enjoyed hearing what they had to say.

21st -- Totally unrelated to those first two, and honestly I'm not sure my liberal Mormon friends would like being on the same blog post as Confederate flags, but this all happened in July so ...

I was invited to their newly-turned-8-year-old daughter's baptism, and I drove to Durham for the event.  I met Nancy through her blog, and I found her blog through Bridget's blog. I've never met Bridget despite reading her blog for many years (she lives far, far away), but Samer - my Syrian friend - found it for me years ago when he was looking for an article about Ramadan in Syria to show me what that holy month was like in his country.  So, anyway, I have now met the entire* Heiss family, and they are really sweet!

Me and the three oldest children

Andrew holding Zoƫ, Nancy holding Benjamin, Rachel & Miriam (posing)

Andrew's mom and dad (not pictured) were in town from Utah for the event

Benjamin, their only son, chose me as a playmate and, at one point, I was twirling him around at the reception. I later apologized to Nancy because I can honestly say I don't ever recall twirling children at church functions in the past, and this here was a place full of mostly strangers.  Nancy assured me it was fine...and, hey, it was pretty fun for me to play with the kids that evening. I loved meeting Reid and Karen, Andrew's parents, from Utah.  I have seen their comments on Nancy's blog or on Facebook so it was neat seeing them in real life!

* who am I kidding? Just the entire Andrew and Nancy Heiss family, shall we say?

25 & 26th  -- Andrew and I going to the mountains is certainly nothing new, but we had never been to Grayson Highlands State Park in Virginia before.

After walking and climbing rocks, this water felt so good. And it was so clear!

There are a few pictures from other places we went near Grayson Highlands that we have been before. But I'll still include the photos since we are talking about our trip to the mountains on this post.

Creeper Trail

Whitetop Mountain

River in Damascus, Virginia, where I text and checked Facebook

29th -- Lastly, I took Zach to southern Guilford County to see the calves and get some ice cream at Homeland Creamery. He wasn't impressed with the farm smell at first, but he liked that the calves came out to greet him, and he enjoyed his strawberry ice cream.

Did you do any new things this July?  Or any old favorites? Do tell!

July Books

Keeping Corner by Kashmira Sheth -- blogger Crys recommended this YA book awhile back so I found it at a local library; good story of a young Indian girl whose life changes drastically when her husband (whom she doesn't live with quite yet) dies from a snake bite.  Instead of going to live with him and his family (who seemed to really like her), she has to learn how to deal with life as a widow - all at the ripe age of 13 or thereabouts.

The Language of Hoofbeats by Catherine Ryan Hyde -- I'm generally not a huge fan of stories or movies with animals as a main character, but this book captivated me pretty quickly, and I enjoyed it better than I anticipated.  This was on a new books shelf in the Mebane library, and I decided to give it a try. I'm glad I did.

A Not-So-Simple Life: Diary of a Teenage Girl by Melody Carlson -- this was another YA book I picked up the other day. It's a story about Maya, a fifteen year old dealing with a mostly-absent father (who does at least send support checks) and a drug addicted mother. Something about her story appealed to me - at least enough to check out the book and read it. I may look for more in this series to see what happens to Maya.

I'll Watch the Moon by Ann Tatlock -- this book is told from the perspective of a lady who grew up in a boarding house run by her mom and distant relative.  In it we learn the struggles of a family in 1948 and stories surrounding some of the boarders including Josef who came to the United States from Poland, and the girl's own brother as he deals with polio.

Doesn't She Look Normal by Angela Hunt -- imagine being newly-divorced, looking for a job to support yourself and your two boys, and suddenly inheriting a funeral home in Florida!  Well, that's what happens to Jennifer in this book. I like the reminder about praying and patience and God's grip on us: His never letting us go.  I struggle with some of those things.

The Rose Hotel: A Memoir of Secrets, Loss, and Love From Iran to America by Rahimeh Andalibian -- I didn't expect to have much in common with this author, but some parts of her story hit close to home.  This book challenged me to consider children and what they endure when family members argue and have conflict.  I felt sorry for the the children many times.

Barefoot Summer by Denise Hunter -- an OK book about a girl, Madison, who takes sailing lessons from a guy, Beckett, so that she can win this race in her dead twin's memory; it was a pretty easy read, and wasn't terrible

Seven Events that Shaped the New Testament World by Warren Carter  -- each month I've been trying to read at least one book that I have on my book shelf. This month, this was the chosen book. I think the title is pretty self-explanatory.  One of my favorite chapters dealt with the Jews in covenant with God and how they weren't trying to earn God's grace or favor, they already had it. But keeping the Law was just their way of staying in covenant with him. Also the Law provided a means of forgiveness.  I knew that, I suppose, but hadn't thought of it much.

Things We Once Held Dear by Ann Tatlock -- after his wife's death, Neil leaves New York City to visit the place where he grew up in Ohio. He sees several friends and relatives from the past, and an old murder mystery is solved.

When Audrey Met Alice by Rebecca Behrens -- the story of a First Daughter of the United States (Fido) and her quest to have some fun in a world where her every move is monitored.  She happens to find the journal of a former Fido - Alice Roosevelt - and enjoys reading Alice's accounts.  This book made me look up Alice Roosevelt: quite an interesting character!

A Spoonful of Sugar: a Nanny's Story by Brenda Ashford -- a book written by a 92 year old Nanny from England telling of her childhood, training and work as a nanny for over sixty years.  At times I felt this book was a tad too scolding, but I figure when you are 92, it's OK.  Overall I enjoyed reading about her experiences, and I appreciated the example her parents were to her in giving her and her siblings a happy, loving home.

Little Blog on the Prairie by Cathleen Davitt Bell -- can you imagine your mom signing your family up for a summer vacation where you go to some remote place in the US and live as if you were a family in the 1800s? Well, this YA book covers one girl's experience at doing just that. 

The Elevator by Angela Hunt  -- three women stuck on an elevator as a hurricane is approaching Florida; little did they know (at first) that they all have ties to the same man!

The Awakening by Angela Hunt -- the story of a 35 year old lady who was the caretaker for her mom for ten years, her struggle with agoraphobia, and how she met a father she had been told abandoned her when her mom found out she was pregnant; I actually liked this story more than I thought I would. I typically don't like stories that have a lot of dreams in them, but this one interested me more. Maybe it's because of the helpful neighbor.

One Light Still Shines by Marie Monville-- this book made me reconsider how I think of the family members of killers.  Do you remember back in October 2006 when a man went into an Amish school house and ended up murdering some Amish girls before taking his own life?  This was before I was on the computer as much, and I think I purposefully limited myself to keeping up with the details.  They were too much. I do remember the Amazing Grace of the Amish. That was so unAmerican in many ways... to offer such grace.  I didn't really care to know about the murderer's family. I figured they were some low-class drug addicts or something and didn't think much of them. Well, this book is by the shooter's wife, and, man, she is so different from how I would have thought her to be.  I remember seeing this book highly recommended on Bridget's blog. Even then I wondered why I would care to read the shooter's wife's account of things, but since my library had it I put it on my list of books to get. Only it was checked out much of the time until recently. 
I knew it might cause me to cry, but I took my chances that it wouldn't get to me and read parts of this while at the children's museum with Zach. Not the best idea as two days in a row I had to suck down the tears and probably had a couple people wondering why my eyes were a bit ... watery.
I love how she purposefully praised God during her hard times because I really struggle with that. Instead of moving further away because she was disappointed, or hurt, or scared, or life was falling apart, she drew near to God.
In the last couple of pages in the book,  Marie writes:

"No matter how tragic your circumstances, your life is not a tragedy. It is a love story. And in your love story, when you think all the lights have gone out, one light still shines.

You've seen how God, in his bounteous grace, pierced my darkest moments with his light. Over and over again he broke through my pain, revealed his presence, and restored my hope. ...
God didn't grant my every hope. Instead, he calls me to love the moment, confident that he is creating me with the future in mind.  He didn't fix the tragedy. He redeemed it.  ...
He didn't prevent the loss ... But, oh, how he sustains me through it.
On this side of heaven, for all of us, God doesn't always spare us the loneliness, remove the pain, or still the storm. So I ask you:  How often do we miss his light because we fail to look for it?  How many times do we turn away from the tiny flicker that reveals his presence because we shut our eyes tight, insisting that he remove the darkness?
What is your story? Mistreatment, injustice, torment, suffering, grief, or even the worst of what humanity can do to one another?
Or is it a love story of the Creator God sustaining, intervening, redeeming, and restoring?
Live the love story!  Fall into the embrace of forgiveness. Hide in the shelter of his wings. Step inside the wall of grace. Live in the expectancy of seeing him at work. Leap into his mysterious will. Receive the gift of love. Be released to respond to his call.
Tell the world your love story.
And when the lights go out, you too will see that one light still shines."  (pg. 312, 313)

Dancing With Fireflies by Denise Hunter -- this is in the same series as another book I read this month only this book deals with Madison's sister Jade and her return to Chapel Springs from a year in Chicago; I actually liked this book better than the first although I'm sure many people would find it boring

AWOL on the Appalachian Trail by David Miller  -- I am not sure why I like books about people hiking a 2,000+ mile trail, but I do enjoy these accounts even when they include many references to foot problems like infected blisters.  It's especially fun when authors talk about areas of the AT that we've been on especially Roan Mountain and Damascus, Virginia and even the Watauga Lake and Dam area of Tennessee. 

It's What I Do: A Photographer's Life of Love and War by Lynsey Addario -- I saw this first mentioned on Bridget's blog, and it was finally available at my local library. What an interesting tale of a lady who travels the world into some of the toughest places. I really enjoyed much about this book!

When Grace Sings by Kim Vogel Sawyer -- I got this off the new books shelf and later realized it was the second book in a trilogy...and I didn't read book number one. I could tell some things were revealed in book one, but I enjoyed it pretty well anyway.  It takes place in an Old Order Mennonite community in Kansas. I've read several books about Amish so this was slightly different since it dealt with Mennonites.  I did like it well enough to find the other books.

She Always Wore Red by Angela Hunt -- this is the second book in the series about the lady who inherited a funeral home in Florida; the author touches upon some difficult topics in a rather humorous way. In this book Jennifer is introduced to a 24-year-old half sister who showed up in Mt. Dora.

Thursday, July 2, 2015


I noticed yesterday afternoon that I had these pictures on my computer, and wanted to post them on my blog so I'd have them in case my computer hard drive crashes.  July is significant for both of them anyway.  Mary Elizabeth Kay Truax aka Mema died last July 13th at the age of 91.

This is her as a baby.

and as a teen in Greenville, South Carolina.

This is my dad's mother, Virginia Helen Wilson, born July 5, 1926.  She will be 89 this month.

One of my cousins posted this picture of Grandma on Facebook back in March.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

June Trips & Stats

When time and weather permit, we enjoy taking a one-or-two-night trip to somewhere in the beach or mountain areas.  Sometimes I long to live in either one of those areas, but then I figure living about in the middle of the state, we are roughly half-way to the beach and mountains which is pretty good. 

If I remember correctly, the first official 90° day of 2015 hit my area when we were in the North Carolina mountains. Specifically we went to Roan Mountain along the NC/Tennessee border...and we had our sweatshirts on first thing in the morning.  (Click to enlarge photos.)

It was cool enough for a sweatshirt when we started

Part of the Appalachian Trail (AT) runs through Roan Mountain so we walked a bit of it.  Instead of it mostly being a trail within woods (it was a little; see above picture), this part of the AT opened up to some grassy areas or balds. We enjoyed the pretty views.  Also, it was peak time for the rhododendrons - and flame azaleas, apparently - so we picked a great weekend to visit.

First the rhododendrons. I didn't realize they were so tall!

That's me in the middle of them!

The bee is enjoying it, too!
And now some flame azaleas.

Beautiful, right?  Here is the trail we walked on. You can see patches of flame azaleas along the left side.

The AT heading south towards Georgia

We also visited Todd where Andrew likes to ride his bicycle along the road where the train used to run.  Todd is not far from Boone. We pass a community called Meat Camp and a store called Goober Peas when we go there.

The road along the South Fork of the New River

Andrew rode his bike on the Blue Ridge Parkway here, but I took this picture before he arrived. 

The Linn Cove Viaduct

Since it was still so hot, we decided to head to Myrtle Beach the following weekend.  Wilmington, Oak Island, and Southport are great, but they don't offer the number of hotels on the beach - which was important to us since it was nearly 100°, and we wanted to be near the ocean!  We found a place at Dunes Village in North Myrtle Beach, and we only left it once after we checked in.  (And that was to buy some food.)

This was the view from our room.  Andrew rode his boogie board in the ocean while I just enjoyed how refreshing it felt as the waves hit me, and as I walked in the water.  We walked along the beach, swam in the pool, sat on those blue-and-white striped chairs (I read some there), enjoyed the swing, played a round of mini-golf...that sort of thing.  There was a nice sea breeze so it never felt hot like it would just a few miles inland. 

We left Monday morning, and on a whim decided to ride into Southport just to see what things were like there. It was hot so we stayed a bit under two hours. But we did walk around and saw this pretty flower.

Someone told me it was a flame lily

And it felt nice out on the pier because of the breeze blowing off the Cape Fear River. 

June Stats: 
From the local meteorologists, Tim and Grant:

"It was a really warm June. 6th warmest on record in the Triad.
Our heat wave in the middle of the month was the longest 90° stretch in June on record."


"The avg. high temp in the Triad for June was 88.7° (+3.9)."

I counted 15 days with high temps over 90!

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

June Books

A Chinaman's Chance: One Family's Journey and the Chinese American Dream by Eric Liu -- this was a pretty good book about a Chinese American. Some parts were much more interesting to me than others, but that's normal for most books, I suppose. I liked reading about his family, and how several of his father's siblings went back to China after being educated and living several years in the United States.  The chapter on "Father Tongue" was good as were other parts.  This was in the new books section at the library.

The Witch Doctor's Wife by Tamar Myers --  The author was born in the Belgian Congo, so when I saw this book at a local library, I thought it would be full of tidbits about her life there. And, I suppose, in a sense it was. But...I thought some of it was confusing, and the author's bitterness towards her parents for sending her to boarding school shone through. Maybe I was reading too much into it since I have a family member who has had issues with this fact in his own life.  I like the tidbits written at the beginning of each chapter. They were facts about tribes and animals in that region of the world. I'm sure I could find most of that information on Wikipedia, but I was more likely to read it in a book this way.

The Headhunter's Daughter by Tamar Myers  -- A sequel to the book above. I checked out these books at the same time; otherwise, I'm not sure I would have bothered finding this one. Of the two, the first was better.  I did like the author interview at the end of this one to learn a bit more about the author's growing up years.

A Year Down Under by Richard Peck -- a junior fiction book I found while looking for another book on the Newberry Shelf at the library.  A fifteen-year-old girl from Chicago goes to a "hick town" to live with her grandmother for a year during a depression.  She recounts stories from school and from living with this interesting relative.

The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Speare -- I saw this book mentioned by someone on Facebook and then a week later I read a blogger's book review and noticed she mentioned it as well. So I decided to read it for myself despite it being for junior readers.  It was pretty cute reading about Kit's life in the Puritan Northeast after having been born and raised in Barbados.  Quite an adjustment.

Head Over Heels in France: Falling In Love in the Lot by Samantha Brick  -- I am not familiar with this lady, but apparently she was/is in British TV.  I just saw this book in the biographies and I'm a sucker for reading about life in France (I guess!).  For her, it was meeting a guy in the Lot, and agreeing to move in with him and later marry him.  It wasn't the most interesting book I've ever read (by far), but it did make me want to visit the Lot!  And it was pretty interesting reading her English impression of those in that part of France!

The Wilder Life by Wendy McClure -- "My adventure in the lost world of Little House on the Prairie" -- the author is an avid Laura Ingalls Wilder fan - of the books, really - and decides to try a few of the old-timey chores (like churning butter) and visits most all the places mentioned in the books where Laura and her family lived.

Charis: God's Scandalous Grace for Us by Preston Sprinkle  -- I think I heard about this on Facebook because somehow it ended up on my Amazon Wishlist and I got it for my birthday; I really liked the chapter called Tattoo referring to the Bible verse about our being engraved on God's hand 

Everything I Needed to Know About Being a Girl I Learned from Judy Blume edited by Jennifer O'Connell -- a collection of a couple dozen essays of women authors who learned life lessons from Judy Blume books; I saw this at my local library and decided to read the variety of topics

Catch the Jew! by Tuvia Tenenbom -- I wrote about this book here

The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E. Lockhart -- I still read a few blogs, and four of the ladies post book reviews from time-to-time. I have a small notebook near my computer where I jot down titles of certain ones that seem appealing. This book was in Liz's top 5 one year so I looked for it in the YA section of my local library the other day and finished it up at the beach.  Interesting book about a girl who goes to school with a bunch of rich kids. She wants to be included in the secret society that is for guys only - and she wants to stop being "bunny rabbit" to everyone.  I like her ingenuity.  I don't like her group of friends very much. They are only her friend, really, when she's with the right guy.  I prefer her geekier friends, I guess.  They seem more loyal. 

Motherless by Erin Healy -- This book was unsettling to me. I guess a story about a man on his deathbed narrating a story about how he lost his wife after her battle with a bipolar disorder was too much for me. But not enough that I didn't keep reading.  I read most of this at the beach and on the way home. And I finished it about 11:30 last night (June 22) because I couldn't sleep due to drinking tea after 3 PM. 

Until Tomorrow by Robin Jones Gunn -- I saw this while in the YA section the other day, and thought I'd give it a try.  Traveling through parts of Europe interested me, but otherwise the storyline was so silly and high schoolish for me.  I only finished it because I was hopeful of more interesting talk of the sights and experiences in Europe - that, and because it was a fairly fast read for me. And I am in need of more library books...

Home Town Tales by Philip Gulley -- a wonderful, easy read full of "recollections of kindness, peace, and joy"  ; he's a good storyteller, and I appreciated many of the lessons here.  Like choosing to focus on your blessings in life instead of all the things that are hard.  And looking for kindness in people - because often kind acts are there.

Under the Sky: From Starvation in North Korea to Salvation in America by Joseph Kim -- the story of a young man who grew up in North Korea. I've read a few books similar to this, and each time it floors me how many people who live under the same sky have such utterly miserable lives.  I know we all suffer in various ways, but watching your children cry from hunger has to be among the worst ways to suffer.  These types of books always challenge to me to look around and include the one eating lunch alone at school, and feed the beggar coming to my door. Or they make me want to do those things....if given another chance.

I posted earlier not thinking I'd finish another book before July came, but I had more reading time today, and finished another book just now (10:19 PM). So I had to add it to June books.

Take the Cannoli by Sarah Vowell -- a collection of stories about Sarah's life; she's a pretty interesting writer. I liked the chapter about her journey on the Trail of Tears. Other chapters were good, too.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

June: Kids' Stuff

Fewer than six months until Christmas!  I can't believe how fast 2015 is going.  June started off a little cool and damp. I remember one day when the high was in the mid-sixties.  Once we hit our first 90° day, however, it kept on and on and on.   We had 90+ temperatures for 14 days straight until today when the cloud cover and threat of rain has kept it cooler, but muggy.

(Oh, now it's raining - good. We need rain.  -- 4:58 PM EST)

Here are a few activities this month with Zach and Sophie.  I did see Michael some, but he's at that age (13) where you just don't take as many photos.  (Sorry, Mike! I took lots of pics when you were younger!)

During the cooler days of June (6/3), Zach and I enjoyed doing some chalk art.  He likes to wear his snow boots sometimes and has them on here. In fact, when he goes with my dad to check on the garden, he often wears them as his work boots.

One day we went to the mall in Greensboro where Zach enjoyed playing and eating ice cream.

 Several times we went to the Children's Museum. He wanted to wear the scrubs before checking the horse's eyes and ears.  I was surprised because usually he doesn't want to wear the dress-up clothes there.

We had the April and May family birthday party at our house (on June 6).  Everyone seemed to enjoy it - especially the kids.

Sophie thoroughly enjoyed her plate of banana circles.  (6/15)

Zach and I enjoyed the sprayground!  The first time we went was with my mom in late May. Later Stephanie and Michael went with us.  And the third time, it was just me and Zach. 

This was our first time going - May 29

This was our trip together on June 18.  We both got thoroughly wet that hot day!

Zach got Lego swim trunks since his first visit

I love how Sophie looks for her big brother.