“Freedom is never given; it is won.”
“Freedom is never given; it is won.”
During our last summer in south Florida in 2007, we went to visit Lion Country Safari in West Palm Beach. Since Julia has always been an animal lover, being this close to all these wild animals was a dream come true for her.
As you enter the park, they give you a CD, which helpfully tells you about each animal as you slowly drive by.
Our journey through the park got off to a rocky start, however…when this ostrich decided he did not want want us to proceed any further. He spied our van and began moving purposefully toward us. And he didn’t look happy:
He moved closer until he was right up against our windshield and after taking a moment to carefully inspect it, he must have decided that he did not like what he saw…because he began to angrily peck at at it. This went on for several minutes. I swear he was glaring at us. Eventually, he tired of us and finally moved on, allowing us to gingerly move forward into the park.
We dutifully listened to the CD as we passed the lions, who lounged lazily in the sunshine.
And then we came upon this rhino…and were so fascinated that it was standing right next to the road that we turned off the CD and marveled. We could have reached out and touched it, but we settled for just taking a picture:
He ignored us so we turned the CD back on and moved forward….only to hear this:
“Under no circumstances should you stop your vehicle when driving by the rhinos. They are easily startled and can overturn your vehicle.”
We kept the windows up and did not stop for the rest of the drive.
We then moved on to the section of the park where you could walk around and visited the exotic bird area:
We were also able to get up close and personal with the giraffes and feed them. They are so gentle:
Julia had an unwelcome encounter with a bear:
Before we left the park, we rode some rides:
This was the moment when Josh decided that he does NOT like heights:
We were nearly out of the park when Julia got nabbed by a dinosaur:
That day was absolutely wonderful…we hope one day to go on a real safari in Africa! Until then, we’ll always have the south Florida version. 🙂
One of my family’s favorite activities is hiking.
Back in 2009, we decided to tackle Rattlesnake Mountain, which overlooks Squam Lake (for you trivia buffs, that is where the classic movie “On Golden Pond” was filmed).
This is the beginning of the path up the mountain:
It is quite a hike to the top, but the beautiful view is worth the effort:
My brother Jeff was the first one to reach the top:
I wasn’t far behind:
Doug staking his claim at the top of the mountain 🙂
Josh and Julia enjoying the view:
Even though it is called Rattlesnake Mountain, fortunately, this was NOT a rattlesnake!
We are extremely blessed that we are within driving distance of so many fabulous trails. It is our goal to hike all of them.
Since we had burned so many calories, we headed to one of our favorite places for a guilt-free treat 🙂
It was the perfect ending to a wonderful day.
“Doubly happy…is the man to whom lofty mountaintops are in reach.”–John Muir
(Note: The “Path Into God’s Heart series will continue on Monday).
I am feeling very nostalgic today. Josh is in New York City with the high school band and Julia is staying with her Aunt Leslie and Uncle Tony in another part of the state, celebrating the end of her school year.
It is very quiet and I have found my mind wandering back to one of the happiest times of my life: summer 2007.
After five years in south Florida, we were thrilled to move back to our beloved New Hampshire.
We actually pulled out of town on the evening of July 4th, our van packed to the hilt, Buddy tucked safely in his carrier. I will never forget driving down the highway, seeing fireworks light up the night sky as we sped north. It was as if the world around us was celebrating our happy turn of events.
Thirty-three hours later, we arrived at our new home at 3:00 in the morning. The kids hadn’t seen the house yet and they literally ran all through it, calling out to each other in excitement and staking their claims to which room would be theirs. Buddy was right on their heels, wagging his tail and sniffing up a storm, thrilled to be out of his crate.
Afterward, we all gathered out on the back deck, taking in the beauty of the brilliant stars shining in the inky black sky. We never really saw true darkness in south Florida, due to the fact that it is so densely populated and lit up. The blackness–and the stillness– around us right then was startling.
Soon, the sky began to lighten. By this time, it was nearly 4:30. Air mattresses were blown up (our furniture wouldn’t arrive until one week later) and it was time to catch some much-needed sleep. I drifted off that night feeling the fresh mountain air through the screen door in our room, filled with joy at being back “home” in New England.
The above photo was taken about one week later. My mom had flown up from PA to visit and see our new place. We loved showing her around the real-life Norman Rockwell painting where we have the privilege of living.
The kids look so little to me! Josh had just turned 11 and Julia was 9. Josh is now quite a bit taller than both Doug and me and Julia is close to surpassing us.
I look at that photo and I can almost hear the nearly endless laughter of that sweet time. Our hearts were so full and we were all excited to begin a new chapter.
We had no way of knowing then that the economy would crash and Doug’s industry would be dealt a harsh blow. The job that had brought us here was gone two years later and life hasn’t been the same since.
Looking back, I celebrate the fact that I knew deep in my heart that that time in our lives was very special…and I truly treasured it as I was living it.
Live all your moments…especially the happy ones.
He who binds himself to a joy
Does the winged life destroy;
He who kisses the joy as it flies
Lives in eternity’s sunrise.
Every May, our little hamlet begins to come to life again as people from all over the world arrive to experience the beauty and charm of this place that we are blessed to call home.
I snapped this photo on Friday night. We have had seven solid days of rain and it had finally slowed to a slight drizzle. These hearty folks decided that enough was enough and were determined to enjoy eating outside by the water. Even in the rain, the view of the lake and the mountains are lovely.
I could hear bursts of laughter mixed with the sound of the Beach Boys music that the restaurant was playing and it made me happy.
The tourists are here. Let the summer begin!
Back in 2001, we took Josh and Julia to visit a local fire station.
These heroes were opening up their station to the community for the day and the kids were thrilled to have the chance to actually see the inside of a real fire truck and the station.
When I look at these photos, I cannot believe how small the kids were…particularly when I look at them today:
Time marches on…the kids’ dreams change…and I treasure every moment.
It truly was a new beginning for all of us.
The year before was without a doubt the hardest year of our lives. I underwent surgery, Doug’s job was cut, we had to sell our home, and my father died.
In January of 2003, Doug was offered a job in south Florida and we moved there in February.
The sunshine and warm weather were a balm to our souls after what had felt like a never-ending winter.
The day we left the northeast to make the long drive south, it was 4 degrees below zero. We had experienced several days in a row of snow and the grayness and cold seemed to have seeped into my heart. The Florida sunshine was so healing. For the first two weeks, I just literally sat by the pool and soaked it in.
I also made the unfortunate decision to cut my hair short and have it dyed white-blond. My new stylist tried to talk me out of it, but I was determined to make a big change. In my mind, it represented a break with the previous awful year and a brand new start.
What was I thinking?!
At any rate, Easter morning dawned bright and beautiful. My mom was visiting and she took this photo right before we left to visit a new church right down the road. I can’t believe how little the kids look to me…particularly since I look up at both of them now! 🙂
The main thing I see when I look at this photo is a family who is bonded together in a very powerful way. Having lived through a year of heartbreak, we were more aware than ever of the preciousness and brevity of life. We were stronger, full of faith, and ready to seize all the joy and laughter we could.
The church we visited that year had the strangest Easter service ever. It looked like a traditional Baptist church on the outside…but the minister rambled on and on for about an hour and a half…and he never mentioned the resurrection or the fact that it was Easter Sunday even once!
However…even that weird service could not dim our joy.
Easter is a glorious time of new beginnings and we were living ours.
Because of Easter, Christ’s love and joy blaze undimmed regardless of circumstances. He is an expert at healing wounded hearts and giving beauty for ashes.
“God sent His Son, they called Him Jesus
He came to love, heal, and forgive
He lived and died to buy my pardon
An empty grave is there to prove my Savior lives!
Because He lives, I can face tomorrow.
Because he lives, all fear is gone.
Because I know He holds the future,
And life is worth the living, just because He lives”–Bill Gaither
Doug was working at Bloomingdale’s in Manhattan, so we lived one hour outside of the city by train.
It is such a quaint, lovely place.
New Canaan is town of incredible wealth. Many celebrities own homes there. If you call for a taxi, a Mercedes pulls up at your door. The student parking lot at the high school is filled with BMWs, Porsches, and Jaguars.
We did not want to flaunt our wealth, so we decided to live modestly:
The above photo is actually of the Waveny House, which used to be a private home and was bought by the town in 1967.
In reality, we were actually poor as church mice according to New Canaan standards. We lived in a two bedroom apartment within a mile of the train station and Main Street, but we loved it.
Each Saturday morning while I slept in, Doug walked into town to get me a fat-free raspberry muffin at our favorite bakery.
One morning, he was just approaching the bakery when a Jaguar pulled into a parking space next to the sidewalk. A woman immediately jumped out of the car and literally ran up to him.
The first words out of her mouth were, “I LOVE your work!”
Doug was understandably confused that she was familiar with his work as a marketing manager at Bloomingdale’s By Mail.
Undaunted by his silence and the quizzical look on his face, she continued gushing.
“I have ALL your records! I just love your music!”
As the other passengers alighted from the car, she gestured excitedly toward Doug, saying, “It’s ELTON JOHN!”
As I said, New Canaan is home to wealthy celebrities, so it is plausible that one could see someone of Elton John’s stature strolling down Main Street…but not that day, much to the woman’s disappointment.
Frankly, I do not see the resemblance:
You be the judge.
This photo was taken last Saturday at a party to celebrate this milestone. My aunt (who is my dad’s older sister) is wearing the hat she wore on her wedding day in 1946.
They met when they were both 16 years old at a Halloween party. Upon walking into the party, my aunt was handed a number and told that the game “Post Office” was being played. (Not being familiar with this game, I had to ask the rules. Turns out it’s very simple. Each person has a number and when someone calls your number you have to kiss them). My uncle had immediately noticed the lovely petite redhead, managed to discover her number and called it as soon as he could. Within minutes of arriving at the party, she found herself kissing my Uncle Ted.
He was instantly smitten and asked her out that night.
She refused, but Ted was undeterred.
Every single day, when he knew Dot was home, he walked by her house with a different girl in a blatant attempt to make her jealous.
Eventually, she agreed to go on a date… and finally accepted one of his many marriage proposals… six years later!
They married in Jacksonville, Florida at a Methodist church across the street from the USO. Ted had served in the Navy during WWII (he was an electrician, first class) and one of his Navy buddies and his wife were going to be their witnesses. However, the wife was sick, which meant they needed another witness. Ted ran across the street to the USO to ask if anyone would mind serving as a witness. The woman who agreed spent the entire time trying to talk them out of getting married! She was going through a divorce and didn’t understand why anyone would want to get married in the first place.
Clearly, they ignored her advice. 🙂
Prior to her marriage Dot was working as a receptionist for the National Steel company. She was told she must vacate the job once she was married because a woman’s place was in the home!
Choosing to go against the cultural grain, she simply found another job and worked for several years until my cousin Missy entered the picture.
Ted retired in 1981, which allowed the couple to travel around the world. Dot’s favorite place was the Canadian Rockies, while Ted loved the beaches of Hawaii.
In 1984, their granddaughter Sarah was born and she (and her mom Missy) continue to be the light of their lives.
When asked what advice they would have for other married couples, they both said:
1) Always be honest with each other
2) Never go to bed angry (given that my aunt is a fiery redhead, she admitted that there have been some very late nights!) 🙂
Interestingly, my aunt added one more piece of advice for the women and that was to “be a career lady.” She told me that when she served as a nurses’ aide for the Red Cross at Charleroi hospital during WWII, she loved assisting in the operating room and dreamed of one day becoming a surgical nurse.
Dot and Ted have lived in the same house for 55 years. I love to visit each time I go home to Pennsylvania, as happy memories of family gatherings fill my mind and the heavenly smells of my aunt’s cooking greet me the second I walk through the door.
Please join me in wishing the happy couple well as they celebrate this amazing milestone! Happy 65th anniversary Dot and Ted…we love you! 🙂
Our family was in Washington DC for a wedding back in 2004 and we were able to spend two days touring the city. Josh was 8 and Julia was 7.
Julia has always enjoyed history and her favorite president is Abraham Lincoln.
She ran ahead of us when we reached the Lincoln Memorial and stood for a long time staring up at the statue:
And she sat down to read it.
Completely oblivious to the other tourists roaming around, she sat cross-legged, her camera case around her neck, solemn and focused.
When she had finished reading the entire address, Doug went over and sat down beside her to discover her thoughts.
I captured the moment as they spoke of American history and our tremendous 16th president.
My girl is still interested in politics. During the 2008 presidential campaign she watched every debate with us and already has her favorites for 2012.
Who knows? Maybe she’ll be on the ticket one day! 🙂