Winter 2019

Chance of snow today in Florida (and just about every day) is 0%. This is the funniest thing I heard my mother say when I first came to Florida several years ago as we walked the Florida beaches.

Another Winter is here and for many it is not a 0% chance of snow today. The only thing that indicates winter here is that it is dark early. Everywhere else I have family and loved ones who are bundled up, drinking hot cocoa, shoveling daily, and getting through yet another winter. I don’t know about you, but I hope everyone is making it through again.

It may be warm here, but I remember my days in Ohio. I traveled everywhere with my shovel. I was mocked by a parking attendant who asked about it one time. I told him I never leave home without it. I told him how I had to shovel into and out of my driveway – just the part close to the road – not the entire 500 feet. I then walked down that 500 foot-long driveway to my apartment in the barn. One day, while walking to my truck, my foot landed in a hole, and down I went. I laughed and wondered if my  one close neighbor saw me and had a good laugh herself.

I have so many memories of the over 50 years spent in a Northern climate. I loved ice skating, sledding, and horseback riding through drifts of snow. On still, quiet nights after a light snow when the moon was full, my dogs and I walked around my 1/2 mile horse jogging track. The moonlight lit up the path and we enjoyed the still cold air and were thankful for all our blessings.

The days just keep coming and going. Another season that will soon turn again to Spring! Life seems to stay the same in some ways and constantly changing in other ways. I am trying harder this year to enjoy every day and every moment as I live it and leave the worry over the impending loss to the days ahead. That’s where the worry belongs anyway. I need to cherish the moments I have with aging loved ones and ones I see only on occasion.

I am enjoying my warmer Winter climate. In fact, Mom said she is going to get me a t-shirt she saw that says, “I Wear FlipFlops All Year Long” because I do! Happy Winter 2019 everyone. It will be Spring soon.

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A Picture’s Worth More Than a Thousand Words

How many times have we heard, “A picture’s worth a thousand words?” I agree. Recently I was asked to write an article titled, ‘How to Photograph an Unattractive Person.’ I found this assignment odd, but rose to the challenge. I am including excerpts from my article. I hope it will inspire all you photographers out there.

“I am an amateur photographer and I never leave home without my camera. Honestly, I consider me and some in my family to be unattractive people and, despite the fact our photos may never market millions of dollars of Ralph Lauren clothing or designer perfumes, the hundreds  of pictures I have of the ones I love are priceless.

How does one photograph an unattractive person? The way to photograph an unattractive person is for the creative genius behind the lens to utilize all the available skills of their craft to capture the uniqueness of every face on film so the person or their loved ones can have the lasting memory of that person or event shared forever.

Attitude – photographers influence the interaction between themselves and who they photograph. The truth is every person is unique and valuable and can be photographed. Remembering this and being confident in one’s ability to capture treasured images is paramount to success in photographing anyone. While it is true, the world places value on certain physical characteristics considered beautiful, most people are average in appearance. Even models and actors can be plain without makeup. People want real and meaningful experiences and they place value in the ones they love. Their hearts and minds do not see every imperfection or consider the photos substandard or shoddy. As artists, photographers can enhance the best attributes of the person being photographed. It should be the goal of every photographer to look for ways to make every photograph excellent.

Expression – this is the most important factor to consider for success photographing people. No matter how often I try to snapshot a ‘good’ picture of an eagle, this majestic, wonderful bird has a ‘mean’ or ‘stern’ look that I find unattractive even though I greatly admire the bird. People can have that same look, however, different than the eagle, they can laugh, cry, love, and show all their emotions to the camera. Life and other magazines have spent many years capturing various emotions. I find it easy to take film of young animals because their eyes and faces are filled with innocence and playfulness. Hint – have the person being photographed share something happy about their life. Perhaps it was a happy time when they were engaged or had a baby or how much they love someone in their lives, won a race or were surprised by a gift or party for a special occasion. Maybe a holiday makes them happy. When they share happy events, and they laugh and smile, these are moments that can capture the inner beauty that shines on their faces because this is what the camera sees as well. True happiness  is real and makes everyone more attractive. No matter how many wrinkles they have or if their teeth are not perfectly straight or their hair is disheveled, their photograph will be priceless to them or the ones that love them – the reason we ‘take pictures.’

The value of smiling – everyone’s face ‘lights up’ when they smile. I once met a Holocaust survivor who was a patient in a nursing home. Most would not have considered her an attractive person. She left Germany and lived in Russia and then came to America. She did not speak English, but when interviewing her to assess her medical needs, she looked up at me and smiled. It was an endearing moment I wish I had a photograph of because my heart was warmed as I thought, “Yes, your smile says you did survive something terrible.” No matter how many wrinkles someone has, or how many blemishes or imperfections, when they smile, beauty comes into their expression. We can capture desperation on film and we can also capture happiness, excitement, joy, and love. Let the person on the other side of the lens make a genuine  connection with you.

Choose a natural position – pictures of people doing normal, everyday things are easier to make more attractive because sometimes ‘posing’ makes the person twist their face oddly. Most agree that animated people are more attractive because as they come to life, their energy is caught on film. Make the photograph as natural as you can as you make them think they are not having a photograph taken at all and the result will be a higher quality photograph.

Pick an angle – it is a well known fact that faces are not the same (or symmetrical) on both sides. There is a more attractive and a less attractive side to every face. Angling toward the ‘more attractive’ side helps enhance the overall photograph as well as avoiding directing the camera to an obvious blemish. Also, if a person has ‘several extra chins,’ have their chin slightly elevated to avoid the exaggeration of these hanging skin folds. Sometimes a playful position of the head or a playful expression enhances a photograph.

Many photos and take your time – sometimes one photograph is not as flattering as another. To be as fair as possible, take many photographs. With today’s digital imaging, this does not waste film or time because one may take 100 photos and only like 2 or 3. This is a method utilized by many professional model photographers as well. There is a split second in time when the facial expression and all parameters are ‘just right.’

Remember what the photographs mean – My brother loved to have pictures taken. I believe it gave him a sense his being here would live on forever in the photo. He wanted us to have something of him to remember him by – and I have many. Some photos are lovely and his face is shining with a happy expression. Others are less attractive because I can see pain and worry over his poor health issues. I have pictures of family I have never met, but been told stories about. Keeping them helps preserve memories.

Beauty in the eye of the beholder  – my best example are bulldogs. I think they are the ugliest breed of dog I have ever seen, however, my family loves them and would have nothing else. I, on the other hand, love manatees. and think there are no more beautiful creatures on this planet, but my girlfriend thinks they are the ugliest things in the world. My family are immigrants from Europe. Some are overweight, some with less than flattering hair styles, larger noses, and some aged. Every inch of their faces are precious to me. The imprint in my brain is enhanced by the photos I have to hold in my heart in that special way photographs do.

To photoshop or not to photoshop – photoshop is great tool, however, there are two ways consider this. Yes, many want to be thinner, bustier, less blemished, etc, but at what cost? Does the person in the photograph want to look like themselves or someone they wished they were? Also, while photoshoping out a temporary blemish that happened at a bad moment may be appreciated, making someone look like a completely different person may give the impression of just how badly they were thought to look to begin with. This may be crushing.

In conclusion – everyone can be photographed. Everyone wants to capture the moments or people in their lives that are special to them – no matter how young or old or injured or weak. I have many treasured pictures and am touched over and over with the cherished memories of those I love and spent time with.”

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Hypocrite

Sometimes I catch myself saying, “Who am I?” On a good day, I would describe myself as being a pretty good person who is honest and kind and tries to help others as much as I can. I want to ‘walk’ my ‘talk’ of Christianity more than anything in this world. Then, sometimes, it seems there is another person living inside me. This other person is impatient, harsh, critical, and more. She comes out at the most surprising moments! Eeeee, how awful. And then, I feel like a hypocrite – one who professes to be something and then, the truth is, is not. Then comes the overwhelming feeling ‘I may have to go into hiding.”  

 

I am reminded of a precious scripture in Proverbs 24:16 – ‘for a righteous man falls seven times and rises…’ I ask myself, ‘why would a righteous man fall? And why so many times? I feel God responding, ‘because he/she is human.’ Yes, I am afflicted with the human condition. Is this an excuse? No, not really, but an honest truth. As long as I don human flesh, I will stumble and fall. I will be made to feel as though I have nothing to say because I am imperfect. 

The truth is that God knows I am imperfect. It is me that needs to know and realize more clearly each moment of life that grace is God’s undeserved favor and if I deserved mercy – it would not be mercy. My failure is not bigger than God’s love. My true sadness over my mistakes makes me realize the Love I have in my life that is Real and True. 

Love – how amazing is it? Well, the Word of God tells us – ‘ It is because of the Lord’s mercy and loving-kindness that we are not consumed, because His [tender] compassions fail not. They are new every morning; great and abundant is Your stability and faithfulness.’ (Lamentations 3.22-23)My failures bother me, but they do not hinder or lessen the love of God. 

Romans 8.38-39 lovingly reminds me ‘… I am persuaded beyond doubt (am sure) that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities, nor things impending and threatening, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.’ Not even my moments of hypocrisy. 

2 Timothy 2.13 assures me, ‘If we are faithless [do not believe and are untrue to Him], He remains true (faithful to His Word and His righteous character), for He cannot deny Himself.’ It is because Love is patient and kind, keeps no records of wrongs, bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things, Love never fails and (1 Corinthians 13) God is Love. (1 John 4.8)

I realize I have a huge responsibility to be true to the words God gives me and the life He has entrusted me with, but I am not alone in my shortcomings. Apostle Paul tells us – “For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death?” I am not alone in my struggle to not be a hypocrite. 

I not only need to accept God’s love and acceptance of me, but I need to forgive myself – even seventy times seven each day. (Matthew 18.22) If I fall, I need to get up, ask for forgiveness, dust myself off, and continue walking with the God I love. Because underneath me are the Everlasting Arms. (Deuteronomy 33.27) FOREVER. The story is about Him. God is the perfect One. Amen. 

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Expectations

The late and wonderful Louis Armstrong sang  an old African American spiritual song, “Nobody  knows the trouble I’ve seen, Nobody knows my sorrow…. Sometimes I’m up, sometimes I’m down.. sometimes I almost to the ground…” I, like many, have great days and ‘not so great’ days. God never changes and is forever faithful in the great days. He may never change, but my days sure do. What are my expectations?

Some friends consider the troubles I encounter as something strange that has happened to me. Are they? As far as I can tell, we are not only promised blessings, we are promised the sufferings and I am not surprised nor do I  consider it ‘strange.’ (1 Peter 4.12)

Romans 8.18 tells me “…I consider that the sufferings of this present time (this present life) are not worth being compared with the glory that is about to be revealed to us and in us and for us and conferred on us!” Any suffering brings with it God’s attention and ultimate good from it.

Seems to me that I have struggles come now and again and I do not know what is around the next bend. Jesus comforts me in John 16.33 – “I have told you these things, so that in Me you may have perfect peace and confidence. In the world you have tribulation and trials and distress and frustration; but be of good cheer [take courage; be confident, certain, undaunted]! For I have overcome the world. [I have deprived it of power to harm you and have conquered it for you.]

God is able to help with every struggle and each struggle is an opportunity to grow, know Him better, and prove His faithfulness. A great man of God,  George Mueller, said, ‘great faith is birthed from great trials.’

I love when David boldly shares in 1 Samuel 17.34-37 –  And David said to Saul, your servant kept his father’s sheep. And when there came a lion or again a bear and took a lamb out of the flock, I went out after it and smote it and delivered the lamb out of its mouth; and when it arose against me, I caught it by its beard and smote it and killed it. Your servant killed both the lion and the bear; and this uncircumcised Philistine shall be like one of them, for he has defied the armies of the living God! David said, The Lord Who delivered me out of the paw of the lion and out of the paw of the bear, He will deliver me out of the hand of this Philistine. And Saul said to David, Go, and the Lord be with you!” I want that kind of faith. I want the faith that says no matter what happens to me today, God is my Defender, Protector, Counselor, Help, and my Everything. I am going to be still and know He is God. (Psalm 46.10)

I also want to proclaim the truth and say – “God, Your Word says, ‘when the enemy comes in like a flood, the Spirit of the Lord will lift up a standard against him and put him to flight,’ (Isaiah 59.19) and [For it is He] Who rescued and saved us from such a perilous death, and He will still rescue and save us; in and on Him we have set our hope (our joyful and confident expectation) that He will again deliver us[from danger and destruction and draw us to Himself] (2 Corinthians 1.10). No matter how many times I need Him, He will be faithful to care for me and what concerns me and the ones I love.

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What If?

What if we really believed? If we really believed everything in God’s Word – that He loves us more than anything in this world, that He created us and knows everything about us and truly wants only the best for us? That He is always with us, working for us, and protecting us? Always making ways we could never have imagined? What if He really knows when we are good and when we are not so good and still loves us the same? What if the truth of His Word were not imagination but reality and so much a part of us, nothing could shake it? Would we be different people? I know I would.

Recently I read a short devotional from Joni and friends about Isaiah 49:16 – ‘Behold, I have indelibly imprinted (tattooed a picture of) you (engraved you) on the palm of each of My hands..’ Joni goes on to write:

“When you were in elementary school, did you ever take a pen and write the name of someone on the palm of your hand? Maybe it was a boy or girl you liked — or someone you especially admired. The truth is, God has done this as well, only He has taken it a giant step further. In today’s Scripture, He says, “See, I have engraved you on the palms of My hands…” In other words, He doesn’t just engrave your name on His palms, but He engraves you. It’s all there — everything about you — your hopes and dreams, faults and failures, fears and anxieties, everything that makes up who you are. He’s not just holding you; He closes His hands and feels the impression, the precious one-of-a-kind engraving. You are a part of Him, and He will never, ever overlook you and your needs.”

This is an amazing truth to me and touches my heart deeply and yet I walk around thinking I am on my own at times – I am sorry to say ‘many’ times really. I fret and worry and don’t know how to pray and all along God is always working on my behalf and always talking. I know in my head that if I really believed all He has said in His Word and to me, I would sleep like a baby every night and smile at everyone every day. I would not be worried about a deal going through for me or if my business will succeed. I would realize God has won the victory for me and rest and enjoy the moments of life He has blessed me with. If only, I say to myself.

In my flawed vision of God, I see Him as asking me to measure up and be something I try to be, but do not seem to be able to be. I do not rest in the Love He has for me. I am asking the Living God to really dwell in me – in every fiber of my being. I want to know that I know that I know He is my God and my Abba Father and that nothing is too trivial for Him and no mistake I make changes His love for me and my family. I want to really experience the empowering Words of the Living God for every part of my life. This is my New Year’s resolution after knowing Him for over forty years.

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Happy New Year Friends 2019

Every New Year’s Eve around the world, people sing the Scottish song Auld Lang Syne. Most do not know the words, they just muddle along (like me), some know the Scottish version, and a few know the English translation. I included the two versions below.

Traditional Song

Modern English Translation

Auld Lang Syne

Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
And never brought to mind?
Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
And days o’ lang syne!

Chorus:
For auld lang syne, my dear
For auld lang syne,
We’ll tak a cup o’ kindness yet
For auld lang syne!

We twa hae run about the braes,
And pu’d the gowans fine,
But we’ve wander’d mony a weary foot
Sin’ auld lang syne.

We twa hae paidl’t in the burn
Frae morning sun till dine,
But seas between us braid hae roar’d
Sin’ auld lang syne.

And there’s a hand, my trusty fiere,
And gie’s a hand o’ thine,
And we’ll tak a right guid willie-waught
For auld lang syne!

And surely ye’ll be your pint’ stoup,
And surely I’ll be mine!
And we’ll tak a cup o’ kindness yet
For auld lang syne!

Times Gone By

Should old acquaintances be forgotten,
And never brought to mind?
Should old acquaintances be forgotten,
And days of long ago!

Chorus:
For times gone by, my dear
For times gone by,
We will take a cup of kindness yet
For times gone by.

We two have run about the hillsides
And pulled the daisies fine,
But we have wandered many a weary foot
For times gone by.

We two have paddled (waded) in the stream
From noon until dinner time,
But seas between us broad have roared
Since times gone by.

And there is a hand, my trusty friend,
And give us a hand of yours,
And we will take a goodwill drink (of ale)
For times gone by!

And surely you will pay for your pint,
And surely I will pay for mine!
And we will take a cup of kindness yet
For times gone by!

Auld lang syne – what does it mean? I never really knew until recently. It’s about friends and remembering things past and present. New Years is about the future too and making friends and having things to remember again.

We all walked through the past year together. Some are glad it is behind and looking forward to better ahead. I wish and pray for that for everyone too. Looking back, there are things I wish I had the opportunity to do over again, but we all know that is not possible. I do not want to live with regret, however, I pray to learn from mistakes I made, friends I hurt or disappointed, things I should have done differently, and my list is quite long sometimes. I wish I had spent more time in prayer and trusting God more. I wish I had helped friends more and been kinder. Wish I made better work decisions and more. I will make New Year’s resolutions to do these things and pray I can do better as I walk into this New Year.

I take a cup of kindness for memories of old, but “I press on toward the goal to win the [heavenly] prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 3.14. I cannot change the past, but I hope I can change the future.

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Christmas Found

The cruise ship was an exciting place for three rescue dogs from Minnesota! The dogs followed Norman everywhere. They listened to groups singing Christmas carols, watched guests place decorations on a large tree in the main activity room, and sat under the table for each meal. Occasionally, the dogs were treated to cookies as people drank eggnog and told stories about Christmases past.

Then, the ship stopped. Norman said they were in Israel. As they left the ship, they saw crowds of happy people in the streets and stores. This celebration was different. People lit large candles called menorahs that had not have just one candle, but nine. Norman said this celebration is “Hanukkuh.” He explained that the eight candles represented eight days of miracles and one was lit each day of celebration. The ninth candle lights the others.

Then, Norman said he had a surprise. “I’m going to take you three to a little nearby town,” he said. He and the dogs rode for miles along bumpy roads in a cramped truck with a local man who spoke in a language not familiar to the dogs. Norman understood. When they arrived in the little town, the dogs were awestruck. They saw angels in the sky, a little manger with a Baby set up in front of small church on the main street, and a man and woman hovered over the Baby. Camels rested near the scene as well as sheep. Men dressed as shepherds  walked through the crowds of people with their staff. Sometimes they came close to the Baby in the manger. Three men came with gifts and knelt before the Baby.

Norman told the dogs the Story. Each year, the town of Bethlehem reenacts the very first Christmas. Mary and Joseph traveled to Bethlehem. Mary was going to have a Baby, but there was no room in the inn, so they stayed in a manger with the animals. Mary gave birth to her Son and called Him Jesus. The angels announced the miracle and coming of the Savior to the Shepherds and they came to see Him. The three men with gifts are wise men from the East who saw His Star and are here to worship Him and give Him gifts. “This is a very special Baby,” Norman said. “He was born on Christmas day. He came to save the world so that everyone who believes in Him can go to heaven with Him some day.”

The dogs slowly approached the Baby, and, between the crowds of people, they knelt before the manger. They wished they could tell Him how far they traveled to find Him and how happy they were to have found Him. They wanted to tell Him that during all their travels, as they searched for Christmas, they found people caring and helping each other everywhere they went. Mark and Jenny adopted them, Emily found her Tiny dog and her neighbors shared their love with her, Tommy found a new family and did not have to stay at the orphanage any longer, Arrie was rescued from the mountains, and Norman became a friend and was less lonely this Christmas. Now, they were here and finally found Christmas.

The dogs wished they could tell the Baby how they realized all these things and how they realized that Christmas is all about Him. Baby Jesus brought us all Christmas and because of Him, they found Christmas everywhere they had been. What a wonderful time of the year! Now, they wished they could tell Jenny that Christmas was not lost at all. But how? They were a long way from home. And she and Mark were not here.

Then, a man in the crowd pointed and shouted, “These are the lost dogs from America!”

“What?” wondered the dogs. “Lost, us?” They did not understand.

“Yes, it’s them,” agreed another. “I saw their pictures on the computer.”

People gathered around to read the dogs’ tags. They called Mark and Jenny to tell them their dogs were found. Mark and Jenny came to Israel to rescue their dogs back again.

The dogs kissed Norman and the others good-bye and boarded a plane to America. They were guests this time – not stowaways. When they landed in America, they were greeted by crowds welcoming them as heroes. “Let’s get you guys home,” Mark said. Jenny agreed. They went home to celebrate Christmas together.

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In Search of Christmas Continues

After 3 delightful days with Emily, Leo, Tadd, and Oliver knew they needed to continue their search for Christmas. So, they wagged their tails, licked her face, and left Emily with Tiny.

While walking closely together through the crowed New York city streets, they saw a brightly colored green and red billboard with pictures of the tower called “Eiffel” and heard one of the passersby say, “Look, we should celebrate Christmas in Paris! I hear it’s wonderful!” Thinking they would find Christmas there, the dogs hid as stow aways on the first plane with the words “Air Paris.”

When the plane reached Paris, the stow aways were were discovered and ordered, “OUT! YOU DOGS! OUT!” As the man shouted over and over, the dogs scurried past the workers and passengers. Wow! New York was busy, but Paris was even more busy. As the dogs walked along, they passed window after window covered with lights and pine wreaths  and red bows. Snow fell lightly on the city as people walked and talked, carrying packages and greeting each other with smiles and holiday wishes.

The dogs seemed invisible, but they noticed a little boy standing between the doorways in the shopping area who was definitely not invisible. He wore a necklace that said, “Tommy.” He was shivering without a coat or mittens or shoes. On his little feet were little wet socks. Tadd snuggled up next to him as the boy wrapped his arms around Tadd’s neck and buried his face into the dog’s thick fur. Leo stayed close as Oliver went for help.

Oliver returned with a man in a blue suit carrying a whistle – a policeman with a name badge that read, “Ken.” Oliver wished he could tell the others how at first the man would not follow him, but he persisted. He barked and barked and ran in the direction of his friends and then back to the officer. Finally, Ken realized the dog was trying to tell him something. When they arrived, he spoke into a radio, “Three dogs found the little lost boy from the orphanage. He’s wearing a name tag that says, ‘Tommy.'”

The dogs from Minnesota never saw so many people arrive in cars with bright lights. They carried the little boy to a big building with stone floors and plastic chairs. They gave him warm dry socks and hot chocolate to drink and cookies to eat. Then, a pretty woman in a light blue dress came. She told Tommy her name – Louise. She was Ken’s wife. As she held Tommy and talked to him, she began to smile and hugged him. Tommy smiled back.

Ken and Louise were unable to have children of their own, so they adopted Tommy. They took him from the police station to their home. The dogs went with them, of course. At home, the new family decorated a Christmas tree, made cookies, and sat by a familiar fire. Now, Tommy had a mommy and daddy and Ken and Louise had a little boy. Everyone was happy. Many friends came to celebrate and welcome Tommy.

Several mornings later, another call, “We have some search and rescue dogs here,” the dogs heard Ken say. Then he turned and said, “We need you again, boys.” They climbed aboard a helicopter with Jack.

“We have a sky diver down in the mountains in Norway, boys. Another storm is coming in and we need to find him fast,” Jack said. After landing, the dogs were sent to search. They found Arrie in the mountains, his parachute trapped between large tree branches and his leg injured. As Leo went for help, Tadd and Oliver dragged Arrie from the mountain  and, as usual, began barking and barking – to let everyone know where they were.

They were ecstatic as help arrived. The men gently placed Arrie on a stretcher and flew him and the dogs in a helicopter to a nearby hospital. After a few days, Arrie was released and the town welcomed him back from danger. They called the dogs ‘heroes.’ The dogs were so proud and celebrated with everyone.

During the celebration, they met Norman. He told them about his plans to travel on a cruise ship. He asked the dogs to come along. Leo, Tadd, and Oliver wagged their tails – letting Norman know they would love to be guests on a cruise ship – whatever that was.

They drove in a bus for several days with Norman to a huge ship at the Sea called Mediterranean. As they traveled, Norman shared many stories. Sometimes he cried – especially when he shared how he and his wife always took a cruise at Christmas time. The dogs curled up close to him.

When they boarded the ship – not as stow aways, but as guests this time – they were greeted by friendly faces. The dogs did tricks and the crowd cheered them on and gave them many treats. Cruise ships were fun places for dogs from Minnesota.

Tune in again next week for the continued adventures of Leo, Tadd, and Oliver as they continue their Search for Christmas.

In Search of Christmas

My newest book is a little story about Leo, Tadd, and Oliver – three will be rescue dogs from Minnesota who were rescued themselves and adopted by Mark and Jenny.

After bringing them home, the dogs were naughty. They were frequently into garbage and damaged small furniture, pillows, and pet toys.  Even when Mark or Jenny stayed home to make certain they had a home to come home to, the dogs still refused to behave. There were many moments Mark and Jenny questioned their decision to adopt.

Everyone survived their first year together and became a family despite the daily challenges. One day, Mark and Jenny met Scott – who specialized in training search and rescue dogs. “Many dogs just need something else to think about than destructive behavior, ” he told Mark and Jenny.

“Can they be trained for something so important?” asked Jenny.

“Any dog can be trained,” Scott said with confidence.

So began training. Leo, Tadd, and Oliver eagerly joined Mark and Jenny, learning new things. They bonded with each other and Mark and Jenny in a touching and new way. Soon Mark and Jenny noticed welcome improvements in the dogs’ behavior. After training and rechanneling their energy, they all came home exhausted, ready to sit by the fire, watch television, and have snacks before bedtime.

Several months after training began, the police chief called Mark and Jenny about a lost little girl. He asked if the dogs were ready to help. “We can see how they do, ” Jenny heard Mark say on the phone.

“While ice skating at an outdoor rink with her family, five year old Katie wandered off into a nearby wooded area. Her parents are frantic and asking for help,” Mark explained to Jenny.

When Mark, Jenny, and the dogs arrived, the dogs were allowed to sniff several pieces of Katie’s clothing. Leo, Tadd, and Oliver immediately began searching. After a couple hours, the dogs brought the little girl out of the woods to her eagerly waiting parents! Great day for everyone.

At home, the proud dogs curled up by the fireplace as Mark and Jenny celebrated Thanksgiving. Mark and Jenny talked as they ate turkey, stuffing, sweet potatoes, and pumpkin pie. Jenny turned to Mark, and in a concerned tone, said, “Mark, I think we have lost Christmas.”

The dogs perked up, ‘Lost Christmas?’ What did Jenny mean? The dogs knew they could find it. They are search and rescue dogs! After all, they found Katie. Leo, Tadd, and Oliver slipped into the bedroom and packed their harnesses full of pet food. They also gathered blankets and supplies to go in search of Christmas for Jenny.

The dogs heard a man on television saying all were welcome to celebrate Christmas in New York City. He went on to talk about a ginormous tree lighting at a center called Rockefeller. Maybe the dogs should look there. So they headed for the train station and rode the rails like hobos for many hours. Soon, they heard the conductor say, “Next stop, New York City!”

The dogs huddled closely together as they made their way from the train station. As they walked the busy streets, they saw decorations everywhere, heard songs playing and happy people talking quickly to each other. Then, they found a little lady sitting on a bench,  crying.

The dogs nuzzled her hand as she clutched a tissue that wiped tears streaming down her face. “Hello, beautiful dogs. I’m Emily,” she said. She showed them a picture of her toy poodle. “I came to New York to see the tree lighting and lost my precious little dog, Tiny.”

Leo, Tadd, and Oliver understood lost things. Tadd went looking for the lost little dog as Leo and Oliver sat close to Emily. It didn’t take long for Tadd to return, pushing through the mob of people everywhere. Emily shouted with excitement as Tadd appeared – carrying Tiny. Her sad tears turned to tears of joy!!

After finding Tiny, Emily said, “How about we watch the tree lighting together?” And they did. The dogs never saw such a big tree and so many lights! What a sight for them.

After, Emily said, “You have to come home with me, boys. It’s too cold out here for you. I have to feed you and let you rest. You will like it at home with me and Tiny.”  And so they all went to Emily’s home.

The dogs found their usual places by Emily’s fireplace. This time, they had a fourth dog as Tiny curled up next to them. That evening, Emily’s neighbors visited with presents, cookies, and holiday decorations to share with Emily. She had great friends who remembered her.

Tune in next week for Leo’s, Tadd’s, and Oliver’s continued adventures In Search of Christmas.

 

 

O’ Christmas Tree

This the season for celebration! Included in our celebration is our individual traditions and all our favorite songs!

One of my favorites is –

O Christmas tree, o Christmas tree
How lovely are thy branches…
Your boughs so green in summertime
Stay bravely green in wintertime
O tannenbaum, O Christmas tree
How lovely are thy branches
Let us all remember
In our gift giving and our merriment
With our family and friends and loved ones
The real and true meaning of Christmas
The birth of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ

‘O Christmas Tree! Recently, the Rockefeller Center in New York City celebrated the lighting of a very large tree – a long standing tradition. The official website of the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree claims the tree is a ‘world – wide symbol of Christmas.’  A pagan symbol I realize, however, a symbol of hope and the season of joy. And I have always loved decorating a tree each year.

The first Rockefeller tree has quite a story. The tradition started with construction workers. They were the first men to put a tree up in Rockefeller Center. It was intended as a depression era pick me up. The story goes that on Christmas eve, 1931, construction workers at the Rockefeller Center site decided to pool their money and purchased the first twenty foot balsam tree. They freely decorated the tree with hand crafted garland and other decorations from their families. Then, they then lined up at the tree to receive their paychecks. Thus, was born a tradition. Very thankful men in very difficult times.

During WWII, the tree was decorated in a patriotic theme – red, white, and blue globes with painted wooden stars. In 1942, no materials needed for the war were permitted to be used for the tree, so three smaller trees were decorated – each in one of the flag’s three colors. In 1944, the tree was unlit due to black out regulations during the war. In 1945, the dark year was soon forgotten as six ultraviolet light projections were added to make the 700 fluorescent globes appear to be glowing the dark! By the 1950’s it took twenty workers on scaffolding nine days to decorate the tree. A tradition continued.

Now, trees are found in Ohio, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Vermont, and even Canada and are usually Norway Spruce. This year, a 94 foot tree was chosen from New York. After the holidays, the tree with be used to make homes for Habitat for Humanity. Over 100 million people with see the tree and be reminded ‘O Christmas Tree, How lovely are your branches.

It is my sincere hope as we decorate for the season that we have fun with all our traditions, enjoy friends and family, and never forget the Reason we celebrate!

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