Sunday, July 12, 2009

Simply Wonderful

Scott suggested a simply wonderful date tonight. We visited Whole Foods to purchase the sample sizes of a variety of cheeses, a German wine, a good baguette, and the makings for salsa. About an hour, and much slicing and dicing later, we relaxed on the deck, sampling cheeses, sipping wine...and listening to the police helicoptor circle overhead.

Europe was wonderful. This fact I cannot deny. But I also consider a summer night spent relaxing in our white plastic lounge chairs, a paisley tablecloth hiding our aging table, debating which cheese is our favorite a blissfully wonderful way to wrap up the weekend. Thank God for the simple pleasures in life.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Children and Sheep and Lilies

I started reading a new book this morning, A.W. Tozer's The Warfare of the Spirit (for those of you who know Pastor Matthew at Waypoint, he talks about this man often). The book is a compilation of essays/editorials originally published in a magazine.

I was struck this morning by the following passage:
"Christ likened His followers to children and sheep and pointed to birds and lilies as having valuable lesson for us. These four little creatures differ widely from each other, but have one thing in common: their complete freedom from worry. They live spontaneously, simply, without strain, and God takes care of them."

Since arriving back from our amazing month-long vacation, I've tried to take time to think introspectively about our trip. I don't just want it to be a month of great memories and hundreds of pictures. It is that, of course, but I want it to be more. I want to think about what God taught me on vacation, what He was telling me. This passage caused me to reflect on what I learned about children and sheep (or cattle) and lilies (or other flowers) on vacation.

First, children. We spent much of our time in Germany with Scott's brother's two kids, Aiden and Emma (ages 12 and 10). These kids are troopers, let me tell you, because they visited museums, walked for miles on end, complained little about the lack of bathrooms or meals several hours later than usual. I loved to observe what they enjoyed most about the famous places we were visiting. In Strasborg, France, a beautiful old city in the heart of French wine country, Emma could have spent the entire evening watching the muskrat family we found living in a hole in the wall in the side of the canal. In Colmar, France, she would've fed her entire piece of bagette to the pigeons crowding around our park bench. At the Louve, she was able to pick out the smallest details in the gigantic (and by gigantic I mean as big as my living room wall) painting The Feast at Canna; I didn't notice the little dog that she talked about. She didn't care if we didn't make it to every single three-star sight that Rick Steve's mentioned in our travel guide (which was our "Bible" for the trip). She simply enjoyed each place for what it offered her at the moment. Give her an ice cream cone and a bottle of Orangina (her favorite French soda) and she was a happy girl.

Now, sheep. We didn't see many sheep on our trip, I will admit, but we did see lots of seemingly happy cows. Our favorite spot of the whole vacation was Garmisch, a small town in southern Germany that bordered the Alps. It was a beautifully serene place with lots of fields and pastures, walking trails and small herds of cattle. The cattle (as I've mentioned in another post) all wore bells that jingled as they munched their way through the day. I've grown up around cattle, and I know that they don't seem to worry about much. As long as they have grass to eat, water to drink, and a good place to lay at night, they think life is grand. Do I have such an attitude?

Finally, lilies. We saw many beautiful flowers on vacation. Some in manicured gardens at castles and palaces, but others growing wild in the ditch along the road. On our drive back from the east coast, I was amazed by the large patches of Blackeyed Susans on the roadside. Nobody planted them or cares for them, yet there they are. I, on the other hand, planted two Blackeyed Susans last year, but neither returned to my flower garden (even though they are suppose to be perennials). I am, however, happy to report that the lilies on the side of my yard are blooming for the first time in years!

Besides flowers, we saw many beautiful parts of creation on vacation. Scott and I would both say that we wish we would've spent more time hiking, biking, or doing other things in the country. While we loved the famous places and sights we visited, some of our favorites moments were in outdoors spots: the hills and river outside Neuschwanstein castle. The lakes we stopped by in Austria. The vineyards along the Rhine and Route de Vin. The wooded forests of West Virginia and the Grandview lookout point. The rolling pastures of Kentucky and the rolling hills of Pennsylvania. The Atlantic Ocean. I learned that vacation doesn't have to be a completed to-do list of places to see. The best parts are beauty enjoyed with people you care about.

My hope is that I as I get back into the swing of "normal" life (reading books for school, planning units and lessons, washing laundry, taking care of the yard), I don't lose sight of these vacation lessons. God, help me to see the world through the eyes of children, sheep, and lilies.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Car Drama

We've been having a little bit of car drama around the Mac house this week. First, Scott's car wouldn't start when we got back from vacation. Thankfully, it's a manual transmission, so he could get it started on the giant hill by our house. Drive it to our mechanic (whom we love but he lives in the boonies north of Omaha) and when Scott shuts it off and tries to start it again so Mr. Anderson can hear what it sounds like, it starts right up! Scott left it overnight, just in case, but it started about 10 times the next morning.

As I'm turning into the long gravel driveway to drop-off Scott's car, my car makes this screeching noise. It proceeds to do that all the way home, and, hence, all the way back the next morning when we went to pick-up Scott's car. We sounded like one of those people who doesn't take care of their cars...heaven forbid, gasp, because that's a terrible crime to commit in Scott's world. Thank God, turns out it was just a gravel rock stuck between two somethings and nothing major.

The final piece of car drama was this morning. Since my car was still at the mechanic, I had to drive Scott's car to drop him off at work. I'm always a bit nervous driving Scott's car because I'm parnoid that I'm a) going to grind the gears, choke it off, or something not good for the car or b) even worse, I'm terrified of rolling back into someone at a hilly intersection. I avoid the big hill by our house because I always get stuck at the stoplight right before the top.

All went well, so when I decided to go to the gym, I thought, "I'll take Scott's car." Sometimes I'd run down or ride bike (since it's under two miles) but ominous dark clouds hung in the sky this morning, and I was not in the mood to get soaking wet, so I drove down. Again, everything went smoothly, so by this point I'm thinking, "Hey, look at me, driving Scott's car with no problems...woohoo!"

Well, when I attempted to start the car after my workout, it wouldn't start! It would almost start, but not quite. Called Scott. Waited several minutes and tried again. No love. Go back inside the gym to ask a friend that I bumped into there if she could give me a ride out to the mechanic when she was done working out (so we can have at least one car that works). She agrees, but I try the car one more time, just in case. Nothing.

By this time the sky had cleared, so I decided to walk home to wait for my friend. Picture this: me walking along Cass and then 72nd street (both of which are busy) in my gym clothes carrying my cute red purse. Yes, I was the picture of style and grace. It's a good thing there weren't any "What Not to Wear" cameras hiding in the bushes.

The kicker in this whole story? After I retrieve my car (which involved spending at least 20 minutes talking to Mr. Anderson, who always has a story...or two or share) and pick Scott up at work, we swing by the gym and....yes, you can see where this is going...the car starts for him the very first time! What the?!?! The rational side of me knows there is no way for the car to know that I was driving it, but this isn't the first time. It's like Kit from "Knight Rider" Scott tells me, with a smile on his face. I don't find it quite as entertaining. Just you wait, little black 1993 Honda'll get yours.

Enough Already!

I think I just need to turn off the TV because if I see one more Michael Jackson tribute, I just might break something. Yes, he was a great musician. Yes, he had an enormous impact on music and the world, to some respect. But if the media would devote even half the effort to somethign that actually matters instead of this ridiculousness, who knows what could happen. What's going on with US/Russia relations? I'm not completely sure, since they only spend about 1/3 of the time on that story. What's going on with Iran? Uhm, not sure because they didn't talk about that on the news this morning.

I'm not sure what has me so fired up about this (Scott's laughing at my angst) but seriously, we need to be concerned about more important things. Yesterday the Today showed aired a spot about a woman who flew from London to attend the memorial service, but she was not one of the lucky 9000 chosen to receive a ticket. She stood on the side of the road with a sign asking for the ticket. Thankfully, they let us know later in the show that she got one. Good to know...I may not have slept without knowing.

The next story they showed was about MJ's chimp. He's currently living at a reserve, where he's been for several years. Someone called up the reserve and offered to fly the chimp to the memorial service. What the?!?! Are people serious? That chimp has no idea that MJ is dead, and he probably doesn't care. As long as he has food and a nice place to stay, he's happy with life.

And my favorite quote of the day: Al Sharpton saying, "There wasn't anything strange about Michael Jackson. It was strange what he had to deal with." Uhmm, yeah. Even assuming that he never molested any children (because he was never convicted), I find it a little strange to have a children's wonderland called Neverland. I find it a little strange for him to admit that he shared his bed with adolescent boys...even if nothing happened. I think it is very unfortunate that the media can't just let him rest in piece and move on, but not strange? I'm not so sure.

OK, my ranting and raving is not changing anything. I just need to shut off the TV and get over it, eh? Thanks for listening.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Final Vacation Thoughts

Arrived back in Home-Sweet-Home Omaha late Sunday night. After a quick trip up to Norfolk to retrieve the cat on Monday, I'm spending the afternoon on the couch (which I feel I've earned after my first run in over a month this morning and about 3.5 hours of yard work. Who knew that so many weeds to grow in the flower bed in one month and that so much grass could grow in such tiny cracks in the sidewalk!)

Isn't it funny how as soon as you're home, vacation memories seem about a million miles away? So, in an effort to capture the last few days of our summer adventure, I offer you this bulleted list:
  • Such a wonderful suprise to see my friend Rebecca from college. She played a big part in making the trip possible because she gave us somewhere to leave our car. Cindy was glad to see us.
  • Scott got a tour of an air craft carrier. I spent those two hours in the car with LeAnn (her Navy pilot husband was giving Scott the tour), sipping Starbucks while the girls watched a DVD. We both had a lovely afternoon.
  • Nothing like ending a vacation with time at the beach. Spent time in Virginia Beach with college friend LeAnn and her family (three adorable girls) and her brother's family visiting from Nebraska. Altogether, five kids under the age of six in the house...hilarious and slightly chaotic.
  • Reapplication of sunscreen at the beach is key. Scott and I forgot this important little detail and are waiting for the peeling to begin. I keep hoping that perhaps it will just fade to tan, but I'm not betting on that.
  • Spent evening, night, and morning with another college friend, Angela, and her husband and five (yes, you read correctly, five) kids. Oldest is six, youngest is one. Yes, she is amazing and slightly insane :) (love you, Ang). Seriously, though, most well behaved kids I've ever spent time around. How many families have you hung out with that included that many young kids that you could still have an adult conversation. Amazing! Great job Ang and Joel!
  • The state of West Virginia is beautiful! The only part not covered with trees is the road.
  • The crispy tacos at Jack-in-the-Box are, apparently, the best tacos ever. We had to make a quick exit when Scott saw the sign. Were they good? Yes. But did I think they were the best ever? I think that's taking it a bit too far. Lucky Scott...ate at Jack-in-the-Box and Chick-fil-a. Does it get any better than that? Yes, it the form of a Sonic blended root beer float, my new favorite summer treat.
  • The drive back from vacation always seems longer than the drive there.
  • And the most exciting news of the week? I don't have to carry the red Osprey over-the-shoulder bag anymore. That bag was starting to feel like a part of me...a part of me I didn't like. I'm so glad to retire it until the next trip.