A New Journey Begins

Yesterday started out like any other Tuesday. I got up, packed lunches, dropped hubby off at work and went on to my job.

Half an hour later, everything changed.

My boss (the pastor, since I worked at a church) sat down in my office and told me my position was being eliminated.

Talk about a shock–a bolt out of the blue.

It started as a volunteer position five years ago. Health issues prevented me from working with the Children’s Ministry anymore, which was one of my passions. The then-current pastor asked if I could help by sending out welcome letters to visitors, then he asked me to take on a few other small jobs, then I took over the bulletin, then the newsletter and oversight over the website. At that point, the church began paying me and gave me the title of Administrative Assistant.

I loved my job, and I believe I did it well. But things change, and the elders have decided to do things differently. This is not the place to discuss any of that, so let me just say that yesterday I was devastated. In that one sentence, “We’re eliminating your position,” I lost my income, my church, and my church family.

However, I do trust that God knows what He is doing, and that often what He has in mind is indeed more than we can imagine.

So. Looking for a new job, because we have bills to pay. Looking for a new church, because I can’t feel comfortable sitting there after having been dismissed.

A new journey begins

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Magical Mystery Tour

I went on a musical journey to the past Thursday night. 50 years into the past, to be exact.

My granddaughter Ivy had a violin concert at her elementary school. She attends Peeler Open School, a magnet school for the performing arts, where the kids study dance, art, and their choice of piano or violin as well as the usual academic fare.

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Approximately three dozen second and third graders treated us to renditions of Go Tell Aunt Rhodey, Train is A’coming, and several other songs. But the one that took me straight into the past is a song that I learned those 50 long years ago. It’s called Lightly Row.

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As soon as they started playing, I was transported to my childhood bedroom in a house in Sharon Hill, Pennsylvania. I could see the bright room and the window that looked toward my best friend Nancy’s house. The brand new foldable music stand my parents had bought me was clear as day, and I could even see the book open on the stand. If I squint just right, I can even see the notes on the page.

Lightly Row was one of the first songs in the book, one of the very first songs I ever played, and it brought me the joy of knowing I could make music. I had always loved music and loved to sing, and I still do.

But this was different. It was a whole body experience. Tucking the violin up under my chin, settling my left hand into playing position and readying the bow for that first downstroke was like getting ready to make magic.

I was never a great player (although I did audition and was accepted into  County Orchestra one year in high school), and music was never going to be my career, but it was–and is– very satisfying to make music.

In college in 1972, I switched to guitar, (everybody played guitar in those rock ‘n roll years) which I played until carpal tunnel reared its ugly head. I really missed being able to make music. Two years ago, at the suggestion of a dear friend, I started playing dulcimer , and then very recently got a ukulele as well.

There’s just something about making music, no matter how inexpertly, that’s good for my soul.

I’m glad I started that musical journey so long ago, and happy to have taken that little trip to the past last week.

I hope Ivy enjoys her musical journey as well.

Journey on,

Chris

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A Tale of Two Treks

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September 27, 1952

It’s that time again, time for me to take another exciting journey!

But first, a little backstory, a tale of a long-ago odyssey.

Once upon a time in bonnie Scotland, a young Edinburgh woman had a pen-pal, a young man from Texas. After writing to each other for five years, they finally met. The young man traveled to Scotland to attend the University of Edinburgh as a graduate student. It only made sense for him to room with the girl’s parents, right?

Well, for a few weeks, anyway, during which time they fell in love and got engaged.

Fast forward to the next year.

After a wedding and a new daughter, the young man lost his job, and so his visa as well. Faced with a choice between staying with her parents and family in the only place she had ever lived, and leaving that country to cross an ocean and half a continent with her husband, she chose the adventurous journey. With grace and courage, she left everything she knew to come to a strange land.

It was quite a trek–a 16hr ride on a propeller plane to New York City, then a 3 day train ride to Austin, Texas, all with a 4-month-old baby and no disposable diapers. Leaving the cool misty rains of Scotland to arrive in Texas in a blazing hot July was a case of culture shock. An odyssey, indeed.

Back in 1953, of course, there was no Skype or internet, and trans-Atlantic phone calls were prohibitively expensive. Five years of communication by letter and tape-recordings went by until she was able to visit her parents again. What a reunion!

That intrepid Scottish woman was my mom. Over the years since 1958, my mom and dad have been able to make occasional trips back. In 1966, my mom, my brother, my sister and I lived with my grandparents for six months on an extended visit, which left me with a life-long love for Edinburgh as well.

Even after 63 years in the USA, Edinburgh still feels like home to my mom. So now, in her eighties, she’s making another trek across the ocean. Things are different now, of course. It only takes about 6 hours from Philadelphia to London, and we’ll be sailing around Britain on a luxurious cruise ship.

There’s more traffic, more people, more tourists, and fewer tea shops. But hearing the accents of home, walking the streets and gardens of her home city, drinking tea with old friends–all these will make up for the changes.

We’re both excited for the trek to begin!

Our itinerary begins at Southampton, England and includes Guernsey (one of the Channel islands), County Cork, Dublin, Belfast, Grennock (Scotland), The Orkney Islands, Invergordon, Edinburgh, and Le Havre (France) before returning to Southampton.

If the internet cooperates, I’ll keep you posted.

Journey on,

Chris

 

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Touring Roma

 

Day 2:

Democracy–or at least free speech– is alive and well in Roma, Italy.

After a lovely breakfast at our hotel, we asked the concierge to call us a cab to start our day’s mapped-out route, which was to begin at the famed Trevi Fountain. After a number of turns through the crowded streets of the Eternal City, the driver told us that he could not get us to the fountain due to a protest that was going on. He suggested he could drop us at the Spanish Steps instead. Since that was the second stop on our planned itinerary, we agreed.

After several more turns, more congestion, and a few shouting matches with the carabiniere, the driver apologized that he could not reach the Steps either, due to the moving along of the protest marchers. I asked if it was within walking distance, which it was, so we hopped out to walk the few blocks.

Walking the streets, past small shops selling lingerie, shoes, clothes and leather goods, was very different from walking the streets of a mid- to large-sized city in the USA. Narrow sidewalks, cobbled streets, cafes and bakeries all seemed quintessentially European.

In other words, delightful!

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After walking down the many steps, and taking lots of pictures, we wandered the small streets some more, buying a few gifts. All of a sudden, here came the protest marchers. There were police officers in full riot gear, even though the protesters were peaceful. They were allowed to march, but we moved away and walked down a different street.

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We ended up in the Piazza di Popoli, which turned out to be the main staging area for the protest! Loud music, men handing out pamphlets and crowds of people chanting and waving their flags made it impossible to see the Piazza, so we moved on once again. We couldn’t get where we wanted to go by walking, so we ended up hailing a cab and riding through the congestion with a taxi driver, who was texting the entire time he was driving. Talk about scary.

Fortunately, the afternoon went more smoothly.

We had booked a Golf Cart Tour from Angel Tours, which promised an afternoon of tooling around Rome in a golf cart, seeing a number of sights both common and unusual. There were eight of us, plus the driver and guide, in two carts.IMG_1548

What a great time we had! Riding through Rome on a warm spring day with the breeze blowing, the flowers blooming, whizzing through traffic and down small side streets was a grand little adventure! Some of the things we saw: The Villa Borghese, the Pantheon, St. Peter’s Square, Giancolini Hill, the Mouth of Truth, the Keyhole, the Circus Maximus. Thomas, our guide, was quite knowledgeable and able to answer our many questions.

 

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For example, he answered something I have always wondered about–why is it called St. Peter’s Square when it plainly isn’t square? I thought maybe it had been a square in years past, but, no, it turns out that it’s simply a matter of translation. Piazza is often translated “square,” which is a literal translation, but it also means, in common practice, “a large open place.”

Have I mentioned that I love language, and the etymology of words? I have now fallen in love with Italian as well as French, and wish I was better at learning languages so I could learn it!

A lovely dinner at a local restaurant rounded out our day (I had a plate of handmade pasta with four-cheese sauce. Half-way through, it occurred to me that I was really just eating a plate of mac-and-cheese–but what great mac-and-cheese it was!), and we packed up and got ready to transfer to the ship in the morning.Rome profile

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Never mind the bend in the road, there was a blockage in the road . . .

There’s a line in a poem by Scottish poet Robert Burns that says, “the best-laid schemes of mice and men gang aft agley.” I guess that goes for bloggers, too. My plan to blog every day as I cruised around Europe went the way of so many good intentions.

While the wifi at the Rome hotel was a bit slow, it was free and it did work. When we boarded our ship and I checked the prices of the internet, it seemed a bit steep, but I was going to sign up anyway. However, in talking to my fellow passengers who had been on board for a week already, I heard many complaints that the internet was not working well. One gentlemen told me that he bought a 120 minute package and spent 119 of his minutes just trying to log on!

So, I decided to save my pennies and try just using the wifi at the terminals, or at cafes. I suppose that works okay if you are traveling alone, or want to spend all your time doing that, but I was traveling with someone else and we had a lot to see and do.Rome profile

So, I will post over the next few days, and hope you are still interested in seeing a bit of my journey in Europe!

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Anticipation, part two.

I’m embarking on another trip, again thanks to my travel-crazed, wander-lusting gypsy-mama. In the past few years, we’ve cruised the Caribbean with the Philadelphia Phillies, sailed from Quebec to Boston on the St. Lawrence, winged our way to the Holy Land of Israel, and now we’re flying to Rome.

I’ll be fulfilling one of my long-held dreams, a bucket-list item if you will. I’ll finally be setting foot in France! I’m not sure why I’ve always been so fascinated by France, but the fact is that I am.

I studied French in high school because I didn’t want to take Latin, and since I had a little exposure in elementary school, it seemed like the easiest thing to do. Four years in high school and one year in college. French Club in high school, including a trip to the French Embassy in Washington, where we spoke actual French to an actual French person! And he understood us!

Okay, back to the present day. I’ve been brushing up a bit on my very rusty French. Here’s hoping I get to speak some French and that I will, once again, be understood!

The Itinerary: Rome, Pompeii, Palermo, Florence/Pisa, Sardinia, Corsica, Monte Carlo, St. Tropez, and Barcelona! Two days in Rome followed by 11 days on a Holland America cruise liner.

I’ve taken the first leg of my journey today (Friday), driving from my house to my mom’s–a trip of 500 miles. Saturday, a few final details, errands, and packing. Sunday, to the airport!

I want to write something every day, to share my experiences with you, but I’m not entirely sure if I’ll be able to access the internet. Please free to follow along!

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Get out of the box . . .

Out of the Box . . .

Last week, I bought a box of Asiatic lilies—20 bulbs in an assortment of delicious colors. Saturday dawned bright and sunny—after several days of clouds and rain—so I pulled on old clothes and headed out to plant them.

I gathered tools, mulch, and my box of bulbs and got ready to work. On my knees in the dirt, I opened the box, and pulled out the inside bag. To my surprise, those bulbs were already growing, sending sprouts out to twine and tangle up with all the other sprouts. I gently untangled and planted my eager-beaver bulbs, but it got me thinking.

Are you that ready to grow and bloom?

Or are you being held back–stuck inside a green plastic bag, inside a cardboard box?

There’s an old saying that a journey of 1000 miles starts with a single step. Whatever your goals, take one baby step on your journey today. Stretch those muscles or little grey cells.

Looking to improve fitness or lose weight? Take a walk around the block.

Want to go to grad school? Do an on-line search.

Want to learn a new hobby? A new language? How to do your own taxes? Go to the library and find a book.

Whatever your dream or desire, brainstorm ways to get there, and then take one first step towards accomplishing it. Remember, the first step is always the hardest.

Get out of your box and bloom.

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