Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Magical Moment 481, "Deer Hunting"

My husband is a Park Ranger at a National Park in New Jersey. Though it's a small park, whose historical significance boasts Thomas Edison's former residence, he still sees his dose of wildlife. And since I love little critters, he took me on a mission to hunt and shoot - my camera. Our main objective was deer, but on our mission, we found some less-illusive critters to shoot. 

More chipmunks that I could possibly count

I find them irresistibly adorable

 More groundhogs than I could possibly count

See baby groundhog on the left, and lazy mamma on the right?

My own pretty little critter, Joy. (She did more scaring away, than helping us find).

Finally, the deer came out.

But the best find, and shots of the day, were of this little baby. I named her Fauna. 

Fauna was brave, but we didn't want to get too close. I'll continue to check on her.

One of the best things about the return of good weather, is that critter season is open. I must remember to keep my camera nearby, lest there be any good shots that I can readily take. :)

You Might Enjoy:

Monday, May 30, 2011

Magical Moment 480, "Happy Memorial Day"

I've said before that my Grandma is the most patriotic person I know. Her family, from Mexico, consisted of her mother raising 10 children alone. And though she is full blooded Mexican, her heart completely belongs to the United States. She is the most appreciative supporter of the military I have ever met. And so for today's post, I turned to one of her many writings to share. She wrote this for her Writer's Group with Betsy Ross and the first hand-stitched flag as her inspiration.

"Red White and Blue" 
by Mary M. Valencia 10/13/2009

Ripples high Red, White, and Blue
Sounds of freedom alerts us to
A Nation's fighting battle cry
Amongst the density she flies high.
Forward rushing 3,000 men
Grimace boldly to defend.
Battles fought on common soil
Where once'st with brother they did toil.
The promise of a new tomorrow
Bodies buried lessen the sorrow.
Atrocious battle has been fought
Unmeasured calmness now is sought.
Forward proudly in the lead
Fife and drum, Red, White and Blue in steed.
A step in time, a skip or two
Voice of "Freedom" rings so true.
The price for peace has been paid.
Friends and Foe weapons laid.
O say does that star-spangle banner yet wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave!

My Grandma and I at her beloved home. Yes, she flies her flag every single day. Memorial Day, or otherwise.

Happy Memorial Day! Enjoy your cookouts, day at the beach, and relaxing time with family. But also, remember the deceased, injured, and forever changed men and women who made the sacrifice for country.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Magical Moment 479, "The Expert"

I watched a young girl of about 5 years old board the subway with her father. It was a warm day and the father seemed exhausted as he scanned the car for an empty seat for him and his daughter. The young girl pushed her way through the crowd to find a vacant metal pole that she could use to steady herself on her feet as the train bounced around. She didn't seem to mind that there were no available seats. At the next stop, a swarm of people left the train and before a new swarm could board and fill the empty seats, the little girl moved quickly to take a seat and save one for her dad. 

Commuters always sit in silence on the subway. There could be a singing musician passing through the car, a homeless man making a scene, or a mouse scurrying across the floor, and most New Yorkers wouldn't flinch or even look up. But something about this little girl enchanted those near her and they smiled at her. She smiled back and told her heroic tale of getting a seat for her and her dad. 
"See, you have to be standing right near one when someone gets up to leave and make sure you sit down right away." Encouraged by the nods and smiles of strangers, and eager to share her knowledge, she continued. 
"I know it's our stop when the train stops 3 times. And when you get off, you have to be careful stepping over the platform."

One woman said, "Well you're quite the expert." She glanced kindly at the girl's father who explained,
"We're new. This is all a new adventure."
The girl was deeply offended by this, "Nuh uh! I've rode the subway a lot before!"
"Oh you have?!" her dad challenged. "When?"
"This morning!"

"The only source of knowledge is experience."
-Albert Einstein

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Magical Moment 478, "Oxyphenbutazone"

I've mentioned before that my husband and I are big scrabble nerds. I've held the title of "The Ruler of Scrabble" for a few years now. My statistics for number of games won, highest word score, and highest game score have been mine for a while. But today my husband did something that...well, I don't know if we can call it amazing, or extremely nerdy. Probably a little of both.

While I was at work, he found himself bored with nothing to do. So he played a game of electronic scrabble. He went back and forth with himself as each player, and strategically set up the board in a way that would allow him to create the mother of all scrabble words. The word that if you're playing for real, the chances are about 1 in a million that you would be able to make this word legitimately. After several hours, he completed his task. Ah Eddie. Some write poetry. Some play music. And some want only to get a word score of 1,710 points:

Friday, May 27, 2011

Magical Moment 477, "By Their Fruits"

Recently I was out with some friends and we ran into someone I hadn't seen in over a year. He is a music producer with a great deal of success in NYC. I worked as his  intern for a very brief time when I first moved here, and was actually surprised that he remembered me so well. 

As we all got reacquainted, my friends mentioned a play they're working on called Children of God, to which my former producer boss asked, 
"Are you all Christians too? I know she is," as he pointed at me. 
There was no mocking tone. He asked with genuine interest, almost admiration. And it completely took me by surprise because I'm almost certain we never directly discussed that issue when I worked for him. 

I took it as an enormous compliment. I have no idea what I did in the short weeks that we worked together to make him "know" I was a Christian. But I must try and find out, and then do more of it.

"Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles?" 
-Matthew 7:16

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Magical Moment 476, "The Best Advice Ever"

Yesterday, I sat on the couch, clutching a tissue as Oprah dished out her final pieces of life advice on her last show. Feeling inspired, I went to my computer to endow my own wisdom upon whoever wants to read it...

So here it is. My 10 best pieces of life advice:

1. Jump out of an airplane
Don't go out of your way to do it or anything, but if someone walks up to you and says,
"Hey, I'm gonna jump out of an airplane now. Why don't you join me?"
And you don't have a pressing obligation any time soon, then just do it. It'll be fine and you'll forever be glad you did when it's over. Plus, you'll have bragging rights for life. I still brag about jumping out of airplanes. See? I'm doing it right now.

2. Don't let your laundry pile up
It took me 28 years and an apartment with no washer and dryer to figure this one out. See, the more laundry you let gather, the more you have to wash at one time. Remember that feeling in pre-school when you realized that 2 apples put together with 2 other apples made 4 apples?! Whoa. Mind blower. Kinda like that.

3. Take up running
It clears your head, gives you a sense of accomplishment, and makes you feel like you can take on the world! Also, it burns lots of calories and keeps you thin.

4. Get a dog
It is my personal belief that having a dog is preparing me to raise a kid in the future.
Dealing with noise? Check.
Unconditional love and affection going both ways? Check.
Potty training? Check.
How much more difficult can a kid be?! (If you're a parent, feel free to throw large, sharp objects at my head now).

5. Smile and be friendly to the Dunkin Doughnuts Guy
After a while, he'll have your coffee ready before you even order it. He'll get your cream and sugar just right. And when you're short a few cents, he won't mind.

6. Occasionally binge on Doritos, Chinese food, and chocolate
It'll keep you from drinking. If you feel that horrible the next morning from eating all that junk, just think how much worse it would be if it was too many martinis. Ugh.

7. Read children's books well into adulthood
They take less time. They always have meaningful, life-applicable morals. And they have bright pictures of cute, little bunnies.

8. Learn how to change a tire
That way, when someone else says they don't know how to change a tire, you can make a big deal because you know how to and they don't. Ha! Also, if you ever get a flat tire, you'll know how to change it.

9. Be Prepared
Keep wet wipes in your purse, an atlas in your car, and pre-plan a come back for every creepy pick up line imaginable. A guy once asked me that icky, old line, "Are you a natural red head?" And I said nothing. But thanks to the charm and class of the New York City subway system, I was given another opportunity a mere 2 months later and this time I was ready. With seemingly razor sharp wit, I replied to that creepy guy, "Are you naturally bald?"

And finally, the best advice ever...

10Watch Oprah when they start airing the reruns. Or just buy the DVDs. And take notes. She has way better advice on life that I'll ever be able to give.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Magical Moment 475, "Senior-ity Rules"

Well, today I discovered where every senior citizen in northern New Jersey is at 11:00 am on a Wednesday. The grocery store. I've always connected really well with older people. Probably because we have the same taste in music and movies. And bedtime. I used to play piano for nursing homes and retirement communities in college (something I would really like to get back into), and always felt very at home and grateful to be there.

So it really, really bothers me when I see people make rude comments to, or about seniors. Today I saw several instances of honking, eye rolling, and general impatience and disrespect at the Food Lion, and began to think about society's relationship with senior citizens. And well, this is how I think it should be.

Let me put it this way. In the military, whenever I was in the presence of a high-ranking officer or NCO, I pretty much made sure I had my act together. Not that I knew anything about them. I didn't know if they were a good leader or not. But the one thing I did know from their visibly worn rank, was that they've been here waaaaay longer than me. And that deserves a little respect, regardless of who they are personally. So if a Colonel was taking her sweet time in the check out line in front of me, I wouldn't make a snide comment like, "Hurry up!" I'd stand there quietly and wait. And if it looked like she was having trouble carrying everything, I might even offer a, "Can I help you with that Ma'am?"

That's how we should treat senior citizens. Like Colonels and Generals. And senior citizens should treat the rest of us like they outrank us. If I say or do something disrespectful to Vern Goldenblatt from the Bingo Hall, he ought to have the right to hem me up at attention and give me the chewing out that I deserve. 

See those wrinkles and white hair? They might as well be a polished silver star on a starched uniform. Straighten up. Keep your mouth shut. Treat them with respect. They outrank you.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Magical Moment 474, "Meant To Be"

Sometimes I see, or hear of a moment between couples and immediately know that those 2 are "meant to be." Here are just a few examples.

-My dad's name is Ricky after the 50's singer Ricky Nelson. Ricky Nelson sings a famous song called "Hello Mary Lou." In the song he sings about her "big brown eyes." My dad married a woman named Mary Louise, with big brown eyes. You can't make that up. 

-I have a friend who is notorious for his corny jokes and ill-timed humor. The first time I met his wife, she told a story and in the middle paused and looked at her husband, "I know you want to make a joke here, so go ahead." He cracked the not-so-funny joke, and then she proceeded with her story. That's when I knew they were perfect for each other. She let him be just what he is and loved him for it.

-My Grandpa used to select one rose from his garden every season to bring to my Grandma. His explanation was, "One rose means one true love."
When he passed away, my Grandma laid a single rose in his coffin for her one true love.

-When Eddie and I first began dating, I once checked his voice mail on his cell phone for him. There was one saved messaged and when I listened to it, it was my voice! Months ago, loooong before our relationship began, I left him a work-related voice mail about a meeting the next day, and he never deleted it. Smiling and flattered, I asked why he still had that message. He just replied that he could never bring himself to delete my voice, even before the thought of us being "together" occurred to him. 

I know you must have seen or experienced these kinds of moments as well. Share them below if you like. :)

Monday, May 23, 2011

Magical Moment 473, "Where Has the Compassion Gone?"

I've been wanting to write about this subject for a long time now, but never felt the right words until recently. I try not to get on my soap box too much in my blog, but like today, I have a few exceptions:

I was just wondering, where has the compassion gone? I don’t know if it’s because I’m simply noticing different things as I get older, or if it’s because I was raised in Nebraska, a land as different as night and day than New York City, or if it’s because the world really is losing its empathy for others. But I just can’t help but wonder, where has the compassion gone?

Since the world did not end as Harold Camping predicted, I have heard more ridiculing comments than I can count, “What a bunch of dumb-asses.” But here is a group of people that believed something so fervently that they literally bet their life on it. You rarely see faith like that in the world. One of the first things I thought at 6:01 pm on May 21st, 2011, was how badly their faith must be shaken right now. And I wonder if they’ll find their way to the truth.

Ironically, this group was very judgmental and harsh to others. Homosexuals for instance. And well, frankly I’m just so tired of seeing homosexuals be condemned, judged, and sentenced by other imperfect people, as if the only ones who have ever sinned in the world are gay people. (I commit some kind of sin every single day of my life. Sin is not ranked from best to worse in God’s eyes. That's something we make up to feel better about ourselves. But most "sin" is perfectly acceptable and legal to the world...and to Christians). Oh, and if you're gay you can't be a Christian. Is there anything more ridiculous than that? While we're on the subject, I think homosexuals should be allowed to serve in the military and should be allowed to get married. Yep, I do. The United States doesn't make things illegal because they make us uncomfortable or because we might think it's a sin. We make things illegal to protect our citizens from physical harm, or to keep its citizens from being taken advantage of.

Why must we all have judgments about other people’s personal choices, when so often our own choices are ghastly to the One who really matters? God. Some of the most stomach churning words I’ve ever heard include (and I have heard these personally):
“If a female in the military gets raped, she deserves it because women don’t belong there in the first place.”
“A man living a promiscuous homosexual lifestyle gets what’s coming to him if he dies of AIDS.”
“A married woman in the New Testament church without children is an abomination.” (This from a Baptist preacher.)
And countless disapproving remarks about interracial couples, homeless people, unwed mothers, or someone’s political or religious beliefs.

It’s difficult to write about this, because I myself know that I am guilty as much as anyone. We do it without realizing it. But I think it’s time for me to realize something else. Jesus had compassion. He didn’t point at Zacchaeus, the lying, cheating thief in a tree and say, “I publicly rebuke you for your sin!” Instead, he invited him to dinner.

He didn’t tell the woman at the well that she deserved to die of a miserable disease for her sexual sin. He had a conversation with her. 

Jesus hung, dying and bleeding on a cross next to a legitimate criminal, worthy of death. He did not say to the man, "Well, you got what's coming to you!" He forgave him and told him he would be received into Heaven.

A few days ago Eddie and I were in New York when a homeless woman approached us for money. We shrugged and said that we had no cash on us. About a block later, Eddie dug into his pocket and found a $20 bill.
“I’ll be right back.” He said.
He ran down the sidewalk to find the woman and as I stood on the street corner waiting for his return, I began to fume. That whole $20 he is just giving to that woman and who knows what she’ll do with it?! I was ready to let Eddie have it when he returned, but he just said softly,
“It’s ok. She cried when I handed it to her.”

Jesus would have given her more. He had compassion. Real compassion. Not feeling guilty, or obligated to others. But real, true love for strangers who didn’t deserve it. We are all undeserving, homeless, diseased people. Because we all sin. But God had compassion on us in a way that we can't fully understand. How easily we forget. We get on our high horse and look down on others who don’t need to be judged by us. They need our compassion. How else will they see God’s love for them, if not through the actions of His people?

God help us all if we “get what’s coming to us.” Oh wait. He did help us, and that’s why we won’t get what’s coming to us if we trust and believe in Him. And part of that acceptance is showing the same compassion to others, that He showed to us.

"You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye."
-Matthew 7:5

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Magical Moment 472, "Honor Grad's Homecoming"

After a month away with the Army Reserves, Eddie will finally return home today from his psychological operations training. I am proud to report that he earned the highest score in every activity, making him the class's honor graduate.

Since we both left active duty a year and a half ago, there have only been a few reminders of the difficult life that comes with being full time military. Conquering these challenges is a crucial ingredient to what makes a good soldier. So, it's no surprise to me that Eddie once again excelled, in the military and in life.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Magical Moment 471, "A Silly Prophecy, Or Useful Reminder"

One day, a few months ago, I was expecting company. My mother's father who I had very little contact with my entire life was making a special trip from Philadelphia to New Jersey to see me. We were never close, I barely knew him, but it was a big deal that he would take a few precious hours out of his life to travel and see his estranged granddaughter. So, I cleaned the house. Rid it of the intolerable animal hair that he is notoriously allergic to. And I made a pot roast. Some might say an act of God that I cooked. I sat outside on the front porch with my dog, scanning up and down the road, waiting for his rental car's arrival. He was right on time. We ate pot roast. Chatted a bit. And then he left and I've not heard from him since.

I'm a little fuzzy on the details, but according to some pastor, Jesus will return Saturday around 6 pm. That's a handy little piece of information to have. I've seen it for the last few months on billboards and on the side of buses: "May 21, 2011, Jesus will come again." Now, I've always believed that Jesus will return again and take His believers to Heaven. But I also believe that no one can know when this will happen. In fact, not even Jesus Himself. Only God knows. Even for a Christian who is sure of their life after death, the event can seem intimidating, scary even. Despite all the knowledge and assurance that it will be a glorious occasion for believers, it's sort of unnerving.

Why? I wonder. What if my mother's father had shown up at my house and it was a pit?! What if he stepped in the front door and started a sneezing fit from the filthy, black hair left on the couch by my lazy cat? What if he was hungry and I had no food in the house? I would have been so embarrassed. And I barely even knew this man!

Goodness! What if Jesus, the One who literally SAVED MY LIFE, came back to get me and take me home, and I was a mess? A bitter, angry, lazy, icky mess. What an embarrassing disaster. Now that I think about it, that's what's so unnerving about the whole thing!

So with all the talk, the chaos, the gossip, the condemnation, the speculation about this pastor's prophecy for Saturday, it's not just something to snicker and shrug off. If the world ends, the true disaster wouldn't be that I never finished recording my album, or gave my nephews and nieces one last hug, or missed Oprah's finale show. It would be the shame of not being ready to come face to face with my Savior. And so, while personally, I do not believe this pastor's prophecy that Jesus will return May 21, 2011, I certainly believe that He COULD return at any moment. And that is an ever sobering reminder, that I should ALWAYS be ready to meet Him.

John 14:1-4
1 “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. 2 My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. 4 You know the way to the place where I am going.”

Matthew 24:36 & 42
"But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only. Watch therefore: for ye know not what hour your Lord doth come."

John 3:16
"For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish but have everlasting life."

Friday, May 20, 2011

Magical Moment 470, "Pioneer's Park"

During my quick trip home to Nebraska, we spent an afternoon at Pioneer's Park for a family picnic. Unfortunately, the record high heat, made it a short afternoon. The kids got overheated and the playground equipment scorched their little legs and feet. But before we packed up the fried chicken and headed home, we made a few mandatory stops. Pioneer's park staples if you will...

The perfect picture of Nebraska. Open prairie, muddy little pond, wildlife.

We love the elk. Though, the boys lovingly call them "reindeer."
Regina (sister), Ethan, Beth, Zach, Mary (mom), Erica (sister)

Another family had a day out as well.

Glad they enjoy stale hot dog buns.

 See those pillars waaaay over there? That's where I got married. Sorry Eddie. Too hot to walk over. Zoom will have to due for today.

Here's a close up of them from nearly 4 years ago.
*photo by Frank Ekeler

Normally, there are buffalo out here, but they must have been hiding from the sun. I never realized how funny it must sound to Eeast Coasters when they find out that I'm from Nebraska and got married at a place called Pioneer's Park. They must think I'm a real hick. But as you can see, it's quite lovely. Grand Canyon and Niagra Falls be darned, put Pioneer's Park on your bucket list!