Friday, December 30, 2011

Being Remembered

As a year comes to a close, news sources remind us of people who have died during the past twelve months, the people just about everybody is aware of, the ones who have reached the public eye. They didn't get such acclaim when they were born. Who knew what they could or would become? But during their lifetimes they did something to get our collective attention. Maybe they entertained us regular folks or committed nefarious acts; maybe they led the masses or designed products we all use. We will miss many of them, at least for a short while, then their names will be relegated to at best a history book, then forgotten with the passing of a generation or two. In my line of work, we see people who are not famous. Matter of fact many are the least among us. Some have lived marginally all their days and can hardly bear life on earth any longer. Today I remember a couple of those who have died this year by their own will. They won’t make any big world list, but there was someone who loved them, someone who will not just remember but grieve for a very long time.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011


At just two days past, we are still well in the Christmas season. Some of the people I have come in contact with are still celebrating or exchanging gifts, and others are talking about what they did on the big day. It is interesting to hear how different people experience it and what their traditions are. One tradition I have kept through the years is the reading of the Christmas story from Luke, preferably by the youngest reader, before the opening of presents. Unfortunately this tradition slipped my mind this year. I thought of it several times during the day, planned to get out the big old Bible, and wondered who the reader would ultimately be. But when the time came…poof…the first time in forty plus years, amid all the fun, I forgot, and we did not read the Christmas story at any time during the evening. Maybe I needed Trip here to remind me. I apologize to my children and grandchildren for missing this tradition. It has been as important to me as placing Mama, the angel, atop the tree.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Reason for the Season

"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God."

"And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth."

John 1:1 and 12.

"Behold an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, for that which has been conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. And she will bear a Son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for it is He who will save His people from their sins."

Matthew 1:20-21

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Christmas Treats

Sally and Caroline made some adorable goodies: these little mice made of Hershey kisses and maraschino cherries and this covered pretzel made to look like a snowman.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Orange Slices for the Tree

I saw these on line and thought they would be about the easiest-to-make homemade ornaments ever. You just cut slices of oranges, place on a baking sheet, bake for 4-5 hours at about 175 degrees. Turn occasionally. Mine weren't dried at the end of that time but I took them out and put string through them anyway. They will finish drying out while hanging. They actually give a pretty little translucent glow.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

And at Christmas, too.

In today's mail was what looked like a Christmas card, but when I opened it, the big blue letters on the front of the card showed that it was from the plumbing company that did some work for us this week. Inside were the signatures of employees and a greeting that said, "We hope we put a smile on your face." A look of shock and disgust would be more like it. Have you called a plumber lately? A downstairs toilet had a leak, possibly, and we wanted to have it checked. The other had a handle that had to be held down for an extra second or two for a good flush. When the plumber said he would go to the truck and come back with a written estimate, I knew we were in trouble. We did agree to some work but not all that the friendly young guy hoped. Good grief. "No," I want to say. "There was no smile." Those sinister people...

Monday, December 19, 2011

The Christmas Flower

The pretty poinsettia. It is named for Joel Poinsett who, I believe, had a summer home here in Greenville. In fact, many places around here bear the name Poinsett.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

A Joyful Noise

In a note in the church bulletin, the choir director said he could use a few more voices for the Christmas program. Happy memories of Christmases past popped in my head and I went to practice that October afternoon. I used to love being in choir. I loved all of it, especially all that went into big seasonal events – learning the music, the anticipation, the dress rehearsals, being one voice among many, and finally the exciting actual performance as we all aimed for perfection. Since I had not done choir in many years, I knew I would have to practice, practice. I knew I would have to dig deep inside to catch a decent note and sustain it. I knew I would have to learn some new music. Could I do it? Though I didn’t get as good as I would have liked, tonight I will be there, one little voice among many. Hopefully I won’t mess up too bad.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Fine Wine

When we got home yesterday, we saw a box left by USPS on our front porch. The return address told us that a colleague of the hubby's must have sent him something for Christmas. He opened it and found these two bottles of wine, solidly wrapped. Neither of us is a wine connoisseur, far from it, but I knew I had heard of one of them. A quick search showed that the Lafite is worth a pretty penny. He called to thank his friend, who probably bought them at a wine auction, and eventually discussed its value. "Do what you want with it," the hubby was told. It looks like a good investment. The other bottle is pricey, too, but perhaps not too much for a couple of non-oenophiles to enjoy.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

A Tree Story

Today the Christmas tree is going up. Its branches haven't come to a restful position yet as it has been tied up tightly for who knows how long, but with help it will soon be ready for lights and ornaments. Christmas is a time of remembering, and each year when the new tree is still bare, I remember an event from when I was about nine or ten. Mother, Daddy and I had brought our tree home from the Christmas tree lot and were placing it in its stand in the living room when Mother spotted a folded piece of paper hanging from one of the middle branches. She opened it and read the crudely printed words, "Will you please send me a shirt." That simple plea tugged at our hearts, and we wanted right away to send something warm and flannel to the cold young boy or man we imagined had written them. We wondered where he lived and what the circumstances were of his life, and we wished we could help. Every year since, I have scanned my tree for such a note, though I never found another, and thought of that guy who was outside in the hard winter cutting trees that would bring Christmas joy into people's home. I hope he warmed up and had a good life.

Friday, December 9, 2011


When I was in Israel, one place we visited was the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, which is believed to be built at the exact place of Jesus's birth. Since we are nearing Christmas, here is a brief account of my experience there.

The bus stopped at a checkpoint when we entered Bethlehem, and from my window, I saw the armed guards motion us through. It felt rough there, a little hostile, but maybe that was just me. Our driver took us up the narrow winding roads to an angled slot in a parking garage filled with other tour buses, and we disembarked and headed up the road to the massive old church. The inside was beautiful, awesome. There were sightseers, pilgrims from all over the world, mostly in groups about the same size as ours. Each seemed to have a leader who occasionally presented a lesson in a language that I did not understand. Pressed together, we the crowd inched along making our way toward the front, and as we did, we became hushed and reverent as if everyone was sensing the holiness of the place. I did not even take a picture inside except for one of the ceiling lights shortly after I stepped in. I just experienced it. In the front, there was a small semicircle of stone steps going down. One by one, each of us, from the four corners of the globe on a single mission, walked down the steps and under a low arched opening called the Door of Humility to reach the site over the grotto where Jesus was born. A metal star on the floor with a round hole in it marked the spot. We could look down into darkness as if it were that night. The sun was setting when when we went back outside, but we saw Manger Square where, we were told, many people will be celebrating on December 25.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Topping off a good hour

I really enjoy the once a month meeting of Republican women and leave feeling inspired, but I also like the old elegance that I find missing in new America. The table is set properly and pretty, we are served impeccably, and everyone has good table manners. It feels so right! For dessert yesterday we had this delicious baked Alaska pie, a specialty of the house. Peppermint ice cream in a chocolate cookie crust, covered by a high meringue and topped with a rich chocolate sauce. I snapped a pic with my low tech phone. Yummy.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Arabic Coffee

Something else I experienced in Jerusalem was delicious coffee. When I was offered some, I asked, "Turkish?" because I knew of it, but the vendor, almost offended, answered, "No. Arabic." And I received a delicious, small, sweet, flavorful cup of coffee. I got this half pound bag of the aromatic, brown, powdery grind to bring home, but I have not been able to duplicate the taste of what I had there. From what I read, what makes it Arabic is the specific way it is brewed. In the market, young men were briskly walking the stone streets carrying mesh bags that held round metal trays of filled cups to sell to the public or workers in the stalls.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Old Songs Say So Much

My remote and I stumbled across a wonderful PBS show this afternoon. I had seen part of it before and was thrilled to see it again. As much as I try to at keep up with and accept the trends in music, it is the old music of my childhood that lingers in my heart. This fundraiser presented the best of the genre that preceded and then collided with a young rock and roll. It is because of my mother, a woman of many loves, that I am familiar with these wonderful old tunes. When I was little, it seems that she was always singing, whether it was her favorites from the forties or along with the pop music on the radio, and by a natural force, I was gathered in to do the same. Now I see what "bewitched" us. I hear honest passions, common yearnings, humor, and clarity of voice in songs such as You Belong to Me, Wayward Wind, and Remember When. I don't know of any song that doesn't come with a memory. (I guess our brains are just wired that way.) They cut across time and place and take us back. It was fun to reminisce this afternoon. Maybe my mother was hanging out somewhere near and singing with me.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Dead Sea Scrolls

In Israel, we went to or near the place where the Dead Sea Scrolls were found by Bedouins back in 1947 on the eve of the establishment of Israel. Yesterday, yahoo had an item about the Dead Sea Scrolls and the odd behaviored, very strict sect of Jews called the Essenes who wrote them close to 2000 years ago. Because of my trip, I could picture the caves, the Bedouins wandering the mountainous desert lands, the huge pottery jugs holding the time capsules, and even the Essenes since we got such a good education about them. Traveling is wonderful. Interesting to me was that they were written on parchment, on the skin of kosher animals, and in Hebrew, the same language as used today, unchanged. I thought about how much the English language has changed since its earliest time. This picture may not show an actual cave in Kumran (Qumran) where they were found, but it is nearby and one of many of the caves in the area.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Reflection and Remembrance

At many of the stops with Christian significance, Bob, the rector of the church and also a Jew, read to us from the Bible and offered inspired teachings.

Nature in Israel

The spreading trunk and fallen edible fruit of the jujube tree, also called Christ's thorn. It is believed the crown of thorns was made from its spiny, flexible limbs.Rushing waters of the Dan Stream.Pretty acorns from the Mt. Tabor Oak.A coney or hyrax as mentioned in Proverbs.
Proverbs 30:24-28 (NIV)
24. Four things on earth are small,
yet they are extremely wise:
25. Ants are creatures of little strength,
yet they store up their food in the summer;
26. hyraxes are creatures of little power,
yet they make their home in the crags;
27. locusts have no king,
yet they advance together in ranks;
28. a lizard can be caught with the hand,
yet it is found in kings’ palaces.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Around Mount Arbel

A high place near the Sea of Galilee. I chose to stay back a bit, not look at the vista over yet another precipice, and instead take a few pictures of what was on the land. I am sure I enjoyed that even more.It was a barren, rocky place, but really if you look, there was life all around.
These two pictures reminded me of the words of Jesus in Luke 19:42: "...if they keep quiet, even the stones will cry out."

The only tree up there.

Saturday, November 19, 2011


Part of a group at one of the bus stops dancing and singing about Yeshua. I actually joined in the dancing with them. My sons would not be surprised at that!
Looked like Jewish men attending a funeral. Thanks to Jacob, I learned that Conservative Jews place rocks on the burial places to show respect.
This woman was in the market.
These folks who may be Nigerian were getting in the gate to Capernaum.
Walking up the hill. Unfortunately I do not remember where.
A bride was at one of the summits having her picture taken.
This guy was preaching into a movie camera. I don't know his intended audience.
This is Hasheem, a shopkeeper in the market. Only 22 and speaks many languages.

Dead Sea

One stop we made was at the Dead Sea, the lowest spot on the planet. Some of us brought our bathing suits to experience floating in the salt water. This pic is of another group there. The guys have the slimy, black, sandy mud on them. It's supposed to be healthy.

Two Terrors

1. Descending to the ancient water tunnel at Megiddo: This is not a walk I would ever have desired to do, but I did it rather than seem lame. Afterward, I was lame! The muscles in my upper legs (quadriceps) were so contracted for two days, I had difficulty getting off the bus. I would have taken more pictures but both hands were busy gripping the tiny rail.2. Going through this tunnel in Jerusalem near one of the walls - an archaeological excavation. We thought it must be similar to what miners experience. I wish I could say what the purpose of it was, but I don't know. Perhaps where the Holy of Holies was at one time. I know I was glad to get out.

Date Palm

The country was rocky and dry but these tall prolific producers dotted the sandy landscape. The dates are also a source of honey, hence the land of milk and honey.

A Holy Place

Believed to be Golgotha.

People waiting to get in to see the tomb. Only about five could get in at a time.
Believed to be the tomb where Jesus lay.
In the garden, a reminder of God's love.

Friday, November 18, 2011

pomegranate juice

One vendor in the market offered fresh squeezed pomegranate juice. I love it and had to get some. This dirty fingered guy slashed the fruit in half and pressed each side with a heavy juicer rendering about 8 to 10 ounces. It was delicious!

more on the market

I am calling the area of the Old City with the long shop lined alley-like streets the market, but it is also called the Arab Market, bazaar, and I don't know what else. What I do know is that once we were there, Casey and I kept saying to each other things like, "This is just fabulous!" And it was. We were able to go twice. The first time was when slipped off by ourselves. It was pretty easy. We walked to a nearby corner to catch the train, then got off at the third stop, the one after Damascus Gate. After asking directions a few times, we reached the gorgeous, modern open air "mall" Mamilla. We enjoyed walking along and were able to resist the fantastic art and jewelry. When the mall ended, we found ourselves atop the roof that began the Old City and found a palpable sense of peace there. We made our way to some market streets and joined in the fun. I loved talking with the shopkeepers, all of whom were enormously kind, helpful, and took time to educate us. We had conversations with Bedouins, Moslems, and an Aramaic speaking Christian. There is a verse in one of the Gospels, which in describing the ministry of Jesus, says something like it would take many books to write all that Jesus had done. That was one thing I thought of there as it applied to my visit. We had too many wonderful experiences in such a short time that I cannot write them all down. The second visit was a couple of days later while it was still light, and we entered through a different gate. It was filled with masses of local people in what I will ignorantly describe as their native outfits. It was just as exciting.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Back home at last

We took the long way home, but the important thing is that we made it. I got some sleep last night between 0200 and 1100. The swelling is going down in my feet and ankles, and I think I am going to make it. Raymond cooked me a delicious American hamburger, and I am catching up on the news. Although I am so thankful to be able to have had this wonderful experience, I don't think I would choose a tour again. I had mental and physical overload! But tourism is a major business there, tour buses ubiquitous, and it may be the best way to see Israel. Casey was a great traveling buddy, and we laughed a lot and got along well. I hope she is getting some needed sleep and rest today.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Some pics from the market

In the old city of Jerusalem, a mix of Moslem, Jew, Armenian, Christian. The Moslem call to prayer is haunting in there. It is also where the Via Dolorosa is and busy as it probably was when Jesus walked toward the cross. Casey and I had such a great time there, talking with the shopkeepers, looking at the pretty stuff, feeling the ancient vibes. I will tell about it all later but for now a few pics.

Monday, November 14, 2011


Me at Masada.Other pics. It is hard to know what to say about a place with such an amazing history.
We had to take a cable car to get up to it, and then there was still a lot of walking to get to the very top. Here is a pic of people who decided to hike it.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

the day

Men's side of the Wailing or Western Wall.
Great shopping area.
Lots of soldiers with AK47s. It was explained they are just there to learn.

Today we went to the Mount of Olives - I think - and spent a long time at the temple. I say I think because everything seems to run together. More archaeological stuff. It was walking, walking, walking, up and down slick steps of large stone mostly, but we also walked through a narrow tunnel under the Muslim part of the wall. And speaking of wall, we got to go to the Western Wall or Wailing Wall. There was a side for men and one for women. We got to put our prayers on a piece of paper and stick them in the crevices between stones. I will try to get a pic of it. A really fun thing was after we got back to the hotel this afternoon, Casey and I took a train (free) to Mamilla, which is a really cute shopping area an then walked over to the Old City markets. Now that was special and defies description in this small blog. When we arrived there I felt a strong vibe of peace. Mostly Moslems (I think that is what they call themselves) were owners of the stalls and I talked to many of them. Everyone was nice. I think my favorite thing here is all the people. The Jewish men look so cool in their various dress.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

You don't come for the food

I had to pay 20 NIS (shekels) for one hour of wifi, so I will try to write a little more. The dinner and breakfast at the hotel in Netanya were superb, but the food since has been just OK. We have breakfast and supper buffets, Mediterranean fare, which is not as delicious as I had thought it would be. This morning I took a small loaf of challah, left from Shabbat, that served as my lunch. Good thing. I chose it over the greasy spoon where we stopped. Lunch the first day was falafel quickly jammed in a pita pocket along with some veggies. One day of that was enough. The next day when we were at the Sea of Galilee, we ate fried fish, the whole fish. Tilapia. Once I got past the bones, it was pretty good. To go with it were fresh dates. In the buffet line tonight were blintzes, salmon, something like beef stew, and an array of salad fixings. So far there are always potatoes and tomatoes in some form, stuffed grape leaves, olives, parsley, carrots, an assortment of breads.

Busy day

This had been an incredible busy tour packed full of Israel. Our skilled and calm driver, an Arab Muslim named something that sounds like Mohi, has crisscrossed the country while the knowledgeable Israeli Jew guide pointed out the political, biblical, and historical sights. This is a harsh mountainous land with only a few verdant valleys. Sometimes all the sights run together, and I hope I am accurate in giving today's account. After we packed and left the hotel in Tiberius, our first stop was Gideon's spring. Then we went to an interesting tel, an archeological dig that exposed lovely remnants of a Roman settlement.
We stopped for lunch in a Bedouin area. Across from the "restaurant" there was a little shop with two camels hitched to a post beside it. I liked the contrast of the old and new ways of transportation.We had a really sweet stop by the Jordan River at the place it is believed that John the Baptist baptized Jesus. There are tourists like me all around, giving me a warm and loving feeling. They are from all over, speaking different languages, following different religious customs, singing songs of praise in different languages. It was all so lovely. In this picture you see baptizing going on. By the way, the Jordan River is really quite narrow, chilly and cold but not deep and wide.In the mid afternoon, we "went up" to Jerusalem. Driving in to the beautiful Holy City was pretty amazing. We will see more of it tomorrow, but for today, we drove through it and up to Bethlehem, which in 2011 does not seem very nice or friendly. Our guide, the Israeli, was not permitted in because of political reasons, something like he had not filled out the proper paperwork, so a Bethlehemite got on and after more driving, led us to and through the Church of the Nativity. Apparently the church was built over the site where Jesus was actually born. We spent a long time in line, again groups of people from all over the globe, and eventually got to see the sacred spot which was in a hole. In explanation, there are many layers of history, one on top of another.
When we arrived at home, for the next few nights the Leonardo Hotel in Jerusalem, I think all thirty-two of us headed as quickly as possible to the buffet. I am now sitting in the lobby listening to relaxing, piped in Porgy and Bess tunes.