August 31, 2011

Here I Go Again!

This evening my mother and I are "leaving on a jet plane" for Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.  This is a really special trip. We'll be attending Cris'* wedding; Cris lived with us when she was here in the US on exchange during our senior year of high school.  She is one special gal!  When my mom floated the idea of going to me I was definitely enthusiastic.  Cris was back here for our wedding, but I've never had the privilege of visiting her in her país natal.  (I did spend one night of my life in Porto Alegre, when I was coming home from my year in Argentina as an exchange student and due to flight complications they had to land and put us all up in a hotel for the night.  That was all very interesting, to say the least!)

Before leaving, I'd like to issue a special thanks to the trip's sponsors:

  • Mom and Papa for funding the trip and for letting us host Cris in the first place.  The back story: One day in the school cafeteria she was sharing with me the horrible situation she was in with her original host family.  I had space and a bed in my room, opened up my big mouth and said, "Hey, maybe you can come live with us!"  The rest is history.
  • Mom-in-law and Dad-in-law for babysitting the end of this week so I can gallivant around the globe and Colin can go to work.
  • Papa and my sister for taking the kids early next week for the same reasons given above.
  • The Husband for freeing me to fly off for a week, leaving him to fend for himself and spend his evenings alone.  Poor soul.  What a good man!  (Actually, he told me he's looking forward to the peace and quiet, which I'm sure means from the kids' noise ... right? ... I don't talk that much, do I?!)
  • The kids who really are troopers and very adaptable to being passed around for a week.

Have a wonderful and safe Labor Day weekend!

*I wish I had a photo of us to post, but they're all prints and at my parent's house anyway.  If you're on facebook, you can see a couple of photos of us from 9 years ago here and here.

August 29, 2011

Oh Yeah, I Went to Scotland

The first trimester has drawn to a close and I'm feeling more like real Heather again.  I had not forgotten that I left you all with only a few posts about our trip to Ireland and Scotland this summer, but it has been hard to make the time to blog in the midst of everything else.  So I'm going to slam you now with all 3 days of Scotland in one post.

Why did Elizabeth and I take a jaunt to Scotland?  

Glad you asked.  I don't know how long back it is now, but this lovely woman from Scotland started reading my blog.  She's a Christian; she homeschools; she has a wonderfully charming, dry sense of humor.  We being reading each others' blogs.  You can find her here.  As the summer approached and we were discussing plans for our trip to Northern Ireland, it came to my attention that Scotland is very nearby (compared to Pittsburgh) and perhaps it would be a good idea to look into visiting the Croft.

Thanks to Anne's free schedule and my husband who lets me chase crazy dreams, we arranged for a trip.   The only really sad thing about our visit is that I had a migraine for almost the whole time.  Anne was such a gracious hostess - even letting me sneak in naps here and there.  Next time I'm in Lewis, Anne, I promise I will be a much more engaging house guest.  I was not at my best and brightest and you were so good to me!  

Here's the overview of our visit:

This is the airport check-in on Lewis.  I loved this little airport!

Calum and Elizabeth got on great.  I love how kids play with anyone!

On our first day, Anne took us to some sheepdog trials.  It was like seeing Babe in real life ... though without any participating pigs.

This little pup was too young to participate yet, but so very eager (and beautiful!)

It was a treat not only to meet Anne, but also her whole family: the Builder, D.R., Katherine (below with Elizabeth), Katie, and Calum.  And yes, you read that right, they have a Katherine and a Katie.  Sadly, I came home with no photos of Katie.  We bowled together the first night - but I forgot my camera.  You'll have to check out Anne's post.

On day two, we visited some old "Black Houses."  Lovely name, huh?  They didn't have any windows so it's quite appropriate.  You can also get a good look at peat there in the big black pile on the bottom right.  Peat is used for heating and can be dug up in abundance on the island.  Unfortunately, we ran out of time for a tour of the peat bogs.  The fellow in the top two pics is weaving Harris Tweed.  He does some of his work there in one of the black houses.

After the Black House Village we stopped in at the Callanish standing stones.   I had no idea that there are such stone circles/arrangements all over England and Scotland.  Either Stonehenge is too famous or I'm too ignorant.  Either way, it was really cool to see one of these formations in person.  Seriously, how did they do it?!

That's Anne there in the yellow jacket on the right photographing me photographing.

This is the home on the croft.  A croft is simply a long parcel of land that stretches from the road to the coast.  (Do I have that mostly right, Anne?)  That's why Anne so often has posts those coastal sunset photos - there's just flat land between her and the sea!  Not only is it a lovely home for its physical beauty, but more so for the warmth found within its walls.  

E loved this shower.  I did too.
If we ever remodel a bathroom, I need to get the specs!

On our final day, Anne took us to two special places: the lighthouse at the butt of Lewis (which is actually the top - E found this hilarious) and "their" beach (the beach at the end of their croft that's public, but they claim as their own ... wouldn't you?!)

This fellow managed to escape his pasture.
I think he knew I was coming by and wanted to be on the blog.

Oh the glorious beach!

Anne and me in shadow.

In addition to our time in Lewis, we spent a fair amount of time in the airport in Glasgow.  Check out the warnings on these giant, duty-free cartons of cigarettes.  People, smoking can kill you.  Did you know?!  I was taken aback.

This little lady is a fabulous travel companion.  Traveling with a school-aged kid is sure different than traveling with toddlers and babies!

If you ever find yourself near Scotland, consider dropping in on Anne and her beautiful family & island.  I have a feeling you'd be welcomed with open arms.

August 24, 2011

Unload Your Brain!

I feel scattered these days.  Summer's waving it's good-byes in cool morning breezes and the nearing of Labor Day.  School will soon begin, routines will reign (which is actually music to this type-A Soul), Sunday School and Homeschooling Group will resume, and the leaves will begin their annual transformation, blanketing the hills in the warm tones of autumn.  Typing this list reminds me how excited I am for the transition!  But what's got me scattered is that between now and the beginning of October, I have three separate trips to take, I'm teaching 6 weeks at our weekly homeschooling group, the house will get dirty, need to be cleaned, and then dirty again, same with the laundry.  Oh, and there are relationships that I'd like to nurture and develop both within our family and with friends.

How quickly I can get overwhelmed when I don't breathe ... mentally.

And I forget to let my brain breathe.

Then I settle into patterns of worry and fear.

Didn't Jesus say something about tomorrow having enough concerns of its own and to focus on the day at hand?  Oh yes, He did.

All of those things that crowd our minds and threaten to undo us are real.  In my case, the trips will happen, I will teach the classes, the house will get dirty and cleaned (even if it's only the swiffer and disinfecting wipes version), the laundry will get done (because my family appreciates clean underwear), school lessons will be completed.

But the Savior reminds us to look at today.  I don't need to worry about how everything will work out this fall, September, next week,

or even tomorrow.

Today I need to look at the people and tasks before me and take care of those things that must be done today.

Breathe.          Pray.          Be still and know that I am God.

Then what?  We all still have things to do within our realms of calling.  It is unlikely that in your quiet time God will give you a specific to-do list for the day; at least this has never happened to me!  But God does give us space to cast our concerns on Him and gives us wisdom by His Spirit throughout the day.  For example:

Has a friend come to mind?  Prioritize giving that person a call today or tomorrow. 
Preparing for a big event or the school year?  Break it down into parts and spread out tasks over the days you have between now and the event or first day of school. 
Do you have some travel coming up?  Hang a piece of paper somewhere or start a list on your phone so you can jot down things you want to remember to take as you think of them.

We need to unload our brains!  (Don't tell, but I even keep a piece of paper handy during my quiet times to jot down things that come to mind; once they're out of my mind but recorded somewhere, I can refocus on what's before me.  I'm one distracted lady.)

I've been working on unloading my brain by talking with God about my concerns (rather than clinging to them) and writing important things on pieces of paper.  Because, quite frankly, we finite folks cannot reliably keep it all in our heads.

We aren't meant to.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding.
In all of your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight.

Will you join me in doing some "brain dumping" today?  I pray that it's a blessing to you and brings peace to your heart and mind as you anticipate the beauty and busy of the coming fall!

August 23, 2011

Lewis, on Love & Christian Marriage

But, of course, ceasing to be 'in love' need not mean ceasing to love.  Love in this second sense - love as distinct from 'being in love' - is not merely a feeling. It is a deep unity, maintained by the will and deliberately strengthened by habit; reinforced by (in Christian marriages) the grace witch both partners ask, and receive, from God.  They can have this love for each other even at those moments when they do not like each other; as you love yourself even when you do not like yourself.  They can retain this love even when each would easily, if they allowed themselves, be 'in love' with someone else.  'Being in love' first moved them to promise fidelity: this quieter love enables them to keep the promise.  It is on this love that the engine of marriage is run: being in love was the explosion that started it.

Mere Christianity, p . 109

August 19, 2011

A Family Vacation

We were away for a week, that's why it's been quiet around the blog.  My parents treated my siblings and me and our families to an amazing weekend in the mountains in a house that fit all of us ... with an indoor pool across the driveway, miles of hiking trails, a garage full of John Deere ride-on toys for the kids, a fire pit, a huge porch overlooking the mountains, all over a weekend with a full moon and perfect weather.  For some reason they thought taking us with them to celebrate their 35th wedding anniversary was a great idea; it certainly was for us!

I will say that a huge open-plan house with great acoustics (read: no sound absorption)  and 7 kids 7 and under had this pregnant lady a little overwhelmed at times ... more times than I'd like to admit.  But wait, I just admitted it.  I guess the cat's outta the bag that I get cranky sometimes ... even when I'm not pregnant.  But I digress.  Despite the noise and excitement, it was a really relaxing time and I'd happily go back for another week.  Thanks, Mommy and Papa ~ HAPPY ANNIVERSARY!

Here's a little summary of the week in photos.

Tractors and trikes were ridden every day.

 Fishing, resting, picking corn, eating meals, roasting marshmallows,
and lots of cousin fun!

 There's a little village on the grounds that includes a chapel and banquet hall;
I think I've decided where E should get married!

The pool house: we spent time here every afternoon after nap time.


sadly we did not see any bears or their prints.

Living Treasures Animal Park

Gramma's new iPad was quite popular during down times.

Fort Ligonier
being soldiers

E picked up a souvenir.

One of the few pics I have of me.

And one of the few I have of Iris.

 Fireworks on our last night together

Now we settle in for the last weeks of summer, looking ahead to school and fall routines.
I imagine we'll try to go to the pool most afternoons and try to get organized around the house.
I'm not feeling very on top of things.

How will you be spending the final weeks of summer?