Will She Get the T-shirt?

We’re back, Hawaii! It’s been 12 years and we have some unfinished business. This is my fourth trip (Bob’s third), and we figured it’s about time we hiked Diamond Head. How hard can it be?

The day prior to our hike I was encouraged by a t-shirt I saw that stated, “I hiked Diamond Head.” It was generic enough that one couldn’t know if the hike was completed or not, but I gave the man the benefit of the doubt.

My brother, who understands my fitness level, at least I thought he did, also had encouraged me that he thought I could do it. He said it was easy to moderate. He was wrong. Very wrong. As Senor Wences always said, “Easy for you, deefeecult for me.” If you recognize that name, you probably are around my age and have seen the Ed Sullivan Show. But I digress.

It is only 0.8 miles to the summit. That brings you to 560 feet above the crater floor. The trail is very uneven and steep, and there are stairways and semidark tunnels to add to the fun. we were told that it would take 1.5-2 hours to do the round-trip. I usually add another 25% to get to my time.

At the foot of Diamondhead it is quite lovely and serene. It is grassy and there are trees to sit under while you are being refreshed by island breezes. There are a lot of birds, too. Former trips to Hawaii introduced me to the Redcrested Cardinal, one of my very favorite birds. I probably took about 50 pictures of them.

I also got to know the small zebra dove, which is only about 8 inches in length. The dove and the common myna are everywhere in Hawaii. Also in abundance is the common waxbill. It is small, only 5 inches, and camera shy. The waxbills travel in large sporadically moving flocks.

As I am sitting here working on this post, the waxbill came right up on the balcony briefly. I told you he was camera shy!

Another new bird for me is the golden plover. They migrate to Hawaii from Alaska every year. It is a nonstop migration. Think about that!

This pre-hike area and the short time spent there taking in nature was my favorite part of the hike. As soon as we started up, I realized this was not about the journey but about the destination. At least it was for this flat-loving Florida girl.

My main goal of this trip to Hawaii was not to injure myself. That means I use a walking stick and watch my feet while hiking. Therefore, my main views of Diamondhead were of the ground. Oh, don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t all about looking down. There were lots of times when I was so out of breath I had to stop and enjoy the view during recovery.

This was one of those times. The man dropped his sunglasses over the edge and tried to get them with his shoe. Then he dropped his shoe. He had another friend with him and she did not video any of this. I was shocked! He did recover his shoe and his sunglasses and another pair of sunglasses as a bonus.

More recovery times to enjoy the view and the breezes:

Evidently, it would take more than three trips to the gym and a couple of times riding around the block on my bike to prepare me for a hike of any kind. Talk about disappointing! I think the main thing, though, is that I am not used to elevation or inclines of any kind. At least that’s what I tell myself to make me feel better.

And then this happened:

I took the video after an hour of hiking and then ten minutes of trying to breathe normally. It was a little concerning for Bob and me.

I ultimately decided I would keep going and reevaluate incrementally. I also decided that I had earned a T-shirt one way or the other. I was sure that Bob was not going to fight me on that!

These are the steps that did me in. you can see the tunnel at the top.

They really like stairs!

Here are pictures from the top. And they were from my phone, not Bob’s! I made it! Now I had to make it down.

I know that my readers are smart people, so you undoubtedly have figure it out by the fact that you’re reading this that I made it! My legs felt like Jell-O at the end, but it was worth it.

So if you are ever on Oahu and decide to hike Diamondhead and someone tells you it’s an easy hike, take note of who is telling you that and remember this story. I would hate to have suffered for nothing! Also, we started the hike before nine in the morning and it is hot in Hawaii. If you decide to do this hike, the earlier in the day the better. Happy hiking and aloha.

I got the t-shirt!

The Tower of London and the British Museum (England Part 7)

The Tower of London fits several categories – palace, prison, site of the royal mint, and the royal menagerie. It is the home of the royal wardrobe and the crown jewels. History tells us that on June 2, 1953, a 62-gun salute was fired from the Tower Wharf when Queen Elizabeth II was crowned in nearby Westminster Abbey. That salute is repeated every year on that date. Of course, it was repeated at the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee.

View of The Tower of London, which is a fortress, prison, palace, etc.

It was not uncommon for gifts of exotic animals to be given to royalty. The Tower of London was home to apes, elephants, lions, and even a polar bear.

Being a birder and a Baltimore native (Edgar Allan Poe spent much of his life there and yes, that’s where the football team’s name came from), I was fascinated by the ravens at the Tower of London. I also like a good, weird story. And it seems pretty strange to me that Charles II would have insisted that the security of the crown would lie in ravens living at the Tower. But I suppose silly to one person is just superstition to another.

I didn’t want to leave without seeing the famous ravens. Glad we saw them, because if they were not there, it could have been catastrophic.

A guide explained that Charles II insisted that they be protected, and that the kingdom would fall if less than six ravens resided at the Tower. “If the ravens leave the tower, the kingdom will fall.”

If you’ve seen The Birds by Alfred Hitchcock, you know birds can cause quite a lot of trouble. This was the case for the king’s unfortunate astronomer John Flamsteed. The flock (called an unkindness) was always in the way of his work, so eventually they kept six with a few spares and everyone lived happily ever after. The guide also explained that they keep the spares, just in case, for national security. I love their names – Jubilee, Harris, Gripp, Erin, Poppy, Georgie, Branwen, and Edgar.

The big draw to the Tower for me was seeing the crown jewels. When we got inside and I could almost see the jewels, I asked a rather stupid question to a docent and got more information than I could have imagined. I asked about the sceptre. Was it only a symbol of the kingdom or could it be used as a weapon? (It’s fun to push up against that saying that there are no stupid questions.)

The docent informed me that it is solely a symbol of the kingdom – the crown. There are several and whenever Parliament is in session, a sceptre representing the crown is there. “So,” she informed me, “whenever Boris Johnson is lying to Parliament, he is essentially lying right to the Queen’s face.” That was the first of several clues as to the sentiment of the Brits to their former Prime Minister. It was rather shocking to me to have that said within the walls of the Tower of London. Bad form. But interesting.

Handsome grandsons waiting with us to see the crown jewels.

The British Museum

The collections that are on display at the British Museum reflect the enormity of the British Empire. This was the most diverse museum of our trip. Several display descriptions included the word “hoard,” which suggested to my mind bands of marauders bringing the goods back to the King. I had to tame my active imagination by reminding myself that a hoard is simply a collection. Many things were gifted, but I did not delve into where the artifacts came from. I simply enjoyed viewing them.

The Lewis Chessmen – part of a hoard found on the Isle of Lewis in Scotland in the year 1831.

I took this picture specifically for my granddaughter, Ella, who is a huge Marvel fan.

There was an extensive Egyptian display.

The Rosetta Stone, discovered in July 1799

Bob Anderson with The Gayer-Anderson Cat – bronze with silver plaque and gold jewelry, around 600 BC, possibly from Saqqara – just because we’re Andersons

Marble statue of a boy, the so-called ‘spinario’ (thorn-puller) – Hellenistic, about 200 – 100 BC

This statue is a fitting end to my England posts. You have to take care of your feet! Thank you for coming along with me. Cheerio!

Fun Times in England and Signs of The Platinum Jubilee (England Part 6)

Everywhere we looked, there she was! Queen Elizabeth’s face graced signs, banners, shirts, cups, mugs, totebags, bobbleheads, candy and cookie tins. Oh my! It was so much fun. Here are a few of my favorite pictures from the celebration.

Chinatown London

Fancy a read about the Queen? There is an unlimited supply of choices.

Handmade tribute to Her Majesty’s Platinum Jubilee atop a trash receptacle

School children entered a contest to pay tribute to the Queen on her Platinum Jubilee. Some of the winners were displayed in the shops near Windsor Castle.

These signs were peppered throughout London. I love how polite they are. “Apologies”

While we’re talking about signs, I’m thankful they are generous with their signage. I may be alive today because of signs like this:

I didn’t realize how ingrained in my little brain our American traffic flow is. There are a ton of tourists from the USA and other “right-driving” countries, and the Brits want to keep us alive and well. Jolly good!

You know those annoying humps in the road that are designed to slow traffic? That’s what I thought this sign might be referring to, but it’s not. Plus, when I think of an animal with a hump, I think of a camel.

This sign indicates a pedestrian crossing area. There is a slight hump to the crossing, but the broad white stripes seem to be the zebra connection.

Roads were closed for a bicycle parade one morning of our trip. I was pretty excited as I finally found Waldo!

I’m not sure if it’s because I’m a mother of three boys (and I can’t leave out my daughter Dena in this question) or if this is just who I am, but I can appreciate some bathroom humor – especially of this kind. I’m going with the mom thing.

I’ll hold it right there, for now. I have one more post to share before we leave England, but first here’s my own little tribute to Queen Elizabeth assembled with my own souvenirs.

The Theatre, Museums, and Harrods, Oh My! (England Part 5)

On our last night in England, our young folk took an evening bike tour. While that sounded good, it was a little too energetic for us. Plus, I had made it almost to the end without injuring myself, so why take a chance.

From our window at the St. Martins Lane Hotel London we could see the advertisement for Amy Adams in the Glass Menagerie at the Duke of York’s Theatre. I have been a fan since she was in Julie and Julia, plus we literally had only to walk across the street, so the choice was simple.

This play by Tennessee Williams is said to be brilliant. I found it interesting, but I’ll leave the critiquing to actual critics. My favorite part of the evening was being in the theatre.

The most unusual part of the evening was when the “ice-cream man” popped in at the end of the rows to sell ice cream during intermission. I had already determined that the British really like their ice cream. There were shops devoted to it everywhere. But I did not expect it to be pedaled at the theatre. I have learned since from my British friend, Mavis, that it has been that way since she was a child.

Not just vanilla – it’s luxury vanilla

While I’m mentioning St. Martins Lane, a few photos need to be shared. Not the typical spot for Bob and me, but Jesse, our son, stretched us out of our usual choices more than once. Thanks, Jesse. It sure was interesting. It’s fun to be shaken out of the norm now and then.

This wall appears to be a boutique tea counter, but the golden hand which my grandson is gripping opens an otherwise invisible door to a cocktail area.

Are these golden “teeth” for sitting upon or are they individual tables on which to put a drink?

This is the focal point of the restaurant. Makes you want to curl up with a drink and a book. We used the room for late night games of Azul, our favorite board game.

While we aren’t huge museum people, we do enjoy a visit. Because of my admiration of Queen Victoria and her husband Albert, not to mention Jenna Coleman’s portrayal of the Queen on Masterpiece’s Victoria, the V & A was a must. The museum itself was spectacular.

Finding a Chihuly was a pleasant surprise

The V&A is huge – the world’s largest museum of applied arts with over two million objects. It was founded in London in 1852. Had I done even a small amount of research, I would have discovered that the museum has very little to do with Victoria and Albert and is more about their legacy. I guess I was expecting another episode of Masterpiece – silly me!

The most interesting museum for me was the Churchill War Rooms, located near 10 Downing Street in downtown London. I am fascinated with World War II history, and this museum does not disappoint.

Notice all the different colored telephones – like modern-day phone cases so you can tell them apart

In this hallway the outside weather was posted. If it said windy that meant a heavy raid was going on.

British leaders worked underground while the Germans were bombing above. The fate of the war was decided in these rooms. They were closed and locked after the Japanese forces surrendered on August 16, 1945 and were left undisturbed until 1948 when they became an historic site. As I gazed through the protective glass, I could see telephones, maps, partially smoked cigars – it was like the people could return any minute. It’s one of those places where you can “feel” the history – was that PM Churchill’s cigar that I was smelling?

Would a trip to London be complete without a stop at Harrods? Yes, but why not! Harrods is a department store and considered the best there is in that, well, department. It is actually a store full of department stores and each offers service that is unmatched by just about any standard. Some of the services they offer are toy concierge, a cobbler, private shopping in the penthouse, luxury piercing, and fashion rental service. Restaurants include Gordon Ramsay Burger and The Harrods Tea Rooms, among others.

Prada, Gucci, Boodles, Tiffany & Co, and countless others that I have never heard of are found within its walls. It’s fancy. I think it could be better described as fancy-schmancy. It’s that upscale.

I guess stockings are more of a thing in England than they are in hot Florida.

This is an example of the saying – “There really is something for everyone.”

Stores beckoned shoppers inside via sight, sound, and smell. Even in the stores that did not carry perfume, the strong scent of it (or was that what money smells like?) was more than my sensitive, dry eyes could handle. Still, it was worth a walkthrough revealing how the other half (or some much smaller percentage) lives. All in all, I’ll take Costco.

Palaces and Castles (England Part 4)

What makes one massive, beautiful building a castle and another a palace? I had never thought about that, but those thoughts came with being in England. A little research revealed that the castle has fortification. Castles were built for defense and palaces were more for showing off wealth. If you cross a moat to get in, you’re going to a castle. If you see cannons aiming at you, yep, that’s a castle. If you need sunglasses to protect your eyes from the sheen and sparkle of all that gilded stuff, you’re probably in a palace.

Castles, like palaces, are often among the residences of royalty, but they were built more for defense and protection. When you go to Buckingham Palace, for example, you are more likely to be shown a good time at a state dinner while you are marveling at the artwork and grand surroundings. You have your massive thrones, enormous banquet halls, and gilded everything. Very palatial!

Queen Elizabeth had six official residences. She passed at Balmoral Castle in Scotland. This was her end-of-summer home and is thought to have been her favorite. I like the thought that she passed in a place she loved so much.

I visited two of her other residences during our time in the London area. Alright, it would be an exaggeration to say that I visited Buckingham Palace, but I saw it – briefly. It happened to be my birthday, and the whole of London was preparing for the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee. I had to give it a go. You don’t go all the way to London and not see the Palace. We got close, but that was all we could do. The Mall, which is a tree-lined road that goes from Trafalgar Square to Buckingham Palace, was blocked off from any kind of traffic, but they left a heavily policed area to cross. I was thankful for that, so as I was shuffled quickly across The Mall, I aimed my camera down the road and there it was!

This gives a lovely view of the barricades with the Palace in the background.

St. James’ Park and Duck Island Cottage, which is a great bird-watching area, are right along the way to the Palace.

I was rather shocked that the Oxford comma was not used on this sign.

While the guys were out golfing, my daughter-in-law, Dacia, and I toured Windsor Castle. I know they love to play golf, but I think we had the better day.

Windsor Castle seemed to me more like a walled city than a castle, but that makes sense as castles are built for defense. I suppose that also speaks to my limited knowledge of castles as much as anything. I was so impressed by the sheer size of it. Touring was splendid, but we were not allowed to photograph most areas.

The mail is delivered in royal fashion. I watched to see if perhaps Her Majesty would come to the curb to see if there was anything worth keeping that day, but alas, she did not. I imagined she was resting up for the Jubilee. I also wondered if The Queen gets junk mail, but again, she probably has people for that; plus, who would dare! What a perk.

Statue of Queen Victoria outside of Windsor Castle

Also at Windsor, this is as close as I got to a changing of the guard. It’ll do.

We also toured Blenheim Palace in Oxfordshire, which is the birthplace of Winston Churchill (1874). This palace confused me all the more in my distinguishing between palaces and castles. Inside most of it felt more like a government office or museum. The outside looked like a palace for sure. Parts of the interior were very palatial, but it lacked the overall pizazz that I want in a palace.

Hanging on the back lawn of Blenheim Palace.

Front view of Blenheim Palace – very palatial

The British know how to make magnificent gardens.

The Marlborough Mice were tucked here and there throughout Blenheim Palace. It was like a scavenger hunt. Here they are on prominent display at this banquet table.

The Mice close-up

The main reason we visited Blenheim Palace was because Winston Churchill was born there. Our son is a huge fan and named one of his sons Winston. Our Winston had lots of pictures taken throughout the palace and, actually, our entire trip. It was like a Winston BOGO.

Winston in the room Winston was born.

Winston by Winston in the Churchill War Room

Winston and Winston.

I’ll leave you here with this pack of Winstons.

The Cotswolds – Don’t You Love that Name (England Part 3)

Nothing to see here – at least nothing man-made like billboards or kiosks or switchbacks of people waiting to go on attractions. This region called The Cotswolds is the attraction. When you break down the word, “cots” means sheep enclosures and “wolds” are gentle hills. As we traversed the area, that made perfect sense to us.

This was how I pictured the English countryside. When we pulled up to the lovely Slaughters Country Inn in Cheltenham, I felt like I had truly arrived in jolly old England. All I needed was a cup of tea and a biscuit.

The Slaughters Country Inn

We passed along roads with names like Sheep Street, and Talbot Ture and the Monarch’s Way (which is an alley/footpath).

Some signs were not quite as fancy as others.

Each place we looked seemed a bit more quaint than the one before.

Here we got to take a stroll in the rain. Rain doesn’t stop things here like it does at home. Also, fences don’t stop people here like they do at home. Here in the Cotswolds they give you a right of passage through farmland filled with grazing sheep. Not only is it fine to walk through, gates are provided to allow you in and keep the sheep from wandering as well. This was one of the biggest contrasts to home. I loved it.

I loved the stone fences. Simply charming.

On our walk we passed Horse Chestnut trees. They reminded me of a fuller, taller version of our Crepe Myrtles. That is until we got up close. Magnificent!

Green is my favorite color. Our walk interspersed with lush, rolling hills and canopies of trees was truly a study in green.

Sunset after the most relaxing part of our journey.

The slower pace was helpful, because we were about to take it up a notch as far as activity went. Next we would tour a palace and be off to London.

Loving it in Liverpool, and Lytham St. Annes, too (England Part 2)

While the Royal Lytham & St. Annes Golf Course may have been the driving force (pun intended) for our stay in Lytham, there was much to see in the non-golfing world here. Visiting a pub during a soccer match was quite the experience. The pub was split into two sides with one side viewing and cheering for Liverpool in one game while the other half did the same for Manchester in a different game. Not having an allegiance either way, we went to wherever there was seating for the six of us and quickly became Liverpool fans – or was it Manchester? By the sounds of the room, it was an exciting game. Both sides of the pub rooted for winners that day, which meant that Manchester won the championship – an event that I still couldn’t explain to you. I’d have been totally lost if I hadn’t recently watched Ted Lasso.

Pub food is great and another must while in England.

Woops, I didn’t photo the food.

After the game, we walked the town. I was particularly moved by the flag of The Ukraine flying across from our hotel.

Golfing continued at Royal Liverpool the next day, so Dacia and I went on a Magical Mystery Tour. Honestly, it wasn’t that much of a mystery nor was it very magical, but it featured the Beatles, so it seemed like the thing to do. Plus, there was Beatles music – so just another “Day in the Life.” Oh, boy!

The blue suburban skies were showing off big time as we bussed around the home of the Beatles.

Penny Lane was a hit. It was in our ears and in our eyes, and I’m humming it right now as I write. There was a shelter in the middle of a roundabout, which you likely have heard of. Roundabouts are ubiquitous to England. They drive me crazy, so it’s a good thing I don’t live there.

I am a huge fan of Sir Paul McCartney. I’ve seen him in concert twice (even though he looked about the size of an action figure from our seats high above the stage floor). He brings you into the concert and makes it seem like you’re part of an enormous family reunion. So, I was especially happy to visit the modest home in which he grew up.

George Harrison’s Birthplace

Then there was Strawberry Fields, which began as a children’s home in 1936. It was originally a private home in the Victorian Era before it was bought by the Salvation Army. As of the early 2000s, the Salvation Army no longer maintains it as a home for children but continues to use it for other purposes.

This place has been here forever.

Hanging with John

Liverpool Skyline

To quote The Beatles – “There are places I remember.” Especially if I write about them.

England

The sad news of Her Majesty the Queen passing has given me the inspiration I needed to finally document our late spring trip to England. I hope you’re up to several posts with a British accent.

First, I must tell you how much I admire Queen Elizabeth II. Her love for her country and her people was constantly on display, as was her grace and sense of humor. Hers was a job which she did not choose but she executed her duties in a manner that will long be fondly remembered. I send my condolences to my friends across the pond.

Like Queen Elizabeth, I have four children and eight grandchildren; but this is where the similarities end. This American woman can’t imagine running a country while chasing kids around at sporting events, running carpool, and keeping up with laundry and meals. Well, maybe if I had “people” for those duties, but who am I kidding!

I had never been to Great Britain before, and I am so thankful that our trip was planned during Queen Elizabeth’s Platinum Jubilee – the festivities and her smiling face were everywhere. The energy was palpable.

Bob and I made this trip with our son, Jesse, his wife, Dacia, and their teenage boys Manning and Winston. The guys are all avid golfers, and this trip was designed around five golf courses. That gave us a great overview of the countryside as well as London, and plenty for Dacia and me to do while they played.

We landed at Heathrow on May 21 and headed to York. How I wish we had more than a half-day to spend there. Perhaps it was because it was our first stop that I so quickly fell in love with York and England. Or maybe it was simply because it’s amazing.

York’s Roman walls have stood for centuries. They are the most extensive Roman walls in England and provide a lovely walking path and picturesque views of York Minster, the largest gothic cathedral north of the Alps, which I thought was a strange starting point for measurement. The 235-foot-tall cathedral towers over the city.

York Minster

As I was on the ready to find souvenirs, turning onto The Shambles took my breath away. Not only is it quintessentially British, but it was also inspiration for the Harry Potter franchise. Part of Harry Potter and The Philosopher’s Stone was filmed in York. I discovered afterward that York’s railway station was used in the first film. Just as well as we would not have had time to visit it. While I enjoy Harry Potter, I’m not a huge fan, but I have children and grandchildren who are, so I figure any references to Harry or Hogwarts can only up my cred.

I walked into “The Shop That Must Not Be Named,” only to feel like I was in a giftshop at Orlando’s Universal Studios. Mentioning to the young staff that I was from Orlando gave me the only sense of royalty I experienced on this trip. If you’re a Harry Potter fan, coming to Orlando is like a journey to the Promised Land. Except for the excessive heat and humidity, of course.

So ended Day 1. Then we were off to Lytham via a country road which led us to follow signs to The Winehouse. Nothing says, “Welcome to England” like watching your grandsons taste their first scone at a winery next to meadows of sheep and cows.

This was a great foundation for our British experience.

At No Time Did My Fingers Leave My Hands

I continue with PT on my shoulder. I have gained a lot of range of motion but I am not where I want to be yet It’s been six months. When I walk through the doors at my PT center, I feel like Norm from Cheers. Everybody knows my name.

Fred and Jo have been caring for me well and I will miss them if I ever get to stop going to PT. They are very cheery. No matter how much they make me wince, they keep on smiling.

Every time I go, Jo has written a new joke of the day or riddle on the whiteboard. Today’s was, “how do you tie a knot in a string while holding one end in each hand without letting go?”

I have literally been practicing to respond to this riddle all of my life. I told her that my dad is a magician and I know how to do it. She said she did, too, and demonstrated. It was not elegant like my dad taught me.

“Let the magician’s daughter show you how it’s done,” I said. I took her rope and made my dad proud. Voilà!

Fred was entranced. He had to know how to do it. I showed them several times, just like my dad always did. Then one at a time, I handed them the rope and watched them fail. This was the most fun I ever had at PT!

I took pity on Fred. He kept coming up to me and asking me to show him one more time. He interrupted my pulley workout, my weights. and my stretches. Finally, I did it in slow motion, and before long Fred, too, was ever so clumsily tying a knot in the rope. He was so proud. I told him now he needed to practice. “Give me 10 reps,” I said. “Maybe you’ll master this before I’m released from here forever.”

There are some bright spots in these PT days after all!

Counting My May Blessings

When I was a kid, I thought my mom had the best job in the world. She was a stay-at-home mom. At that time, I had no idea how hard that job was. I had my first child in 1979 and my last in 1987. Four children, just like my mom. Let me tell you, it is a hard job, but I wouldn’t trade it for anything!

Since the month of May contains Mother’s Day, I have been thinking a lot about my blessings in that regard. I had two wonderful grandmothers, both of whom I knew well. One grandmother went blind from glaucoma when I was a teenager. She had an amazing attitude towards life despite her condition. My other grandmother and her husband, my grandfather, came to live with our family when I was a teenager. They were so much fun and full of love. They are the ones who taught Bob and me how to play pinochle, a huge part of our family life to this day. That was when we were dating several decades ago.

My mom lives with us now, and that is a huge blessing and a wonderful opportunity. She loves Jesus and she loves her family and I get to talk with her every day! We also have an almost-daily game of scrabble.

Mom was born the same year as Mickey Mouse, so when I saw this sweatshirt in the store, it had to be her Christmas present last year.

I also have been reflecting on my four wonderful children and my sweet husband. Watching our children grow into adulthood has been amazing, humbling, fulfilling, and exhausting. But they made it! And they have blessed us with their spouses and eight nearly perfect grandchildren.

Last week our granddaughter, Mia, came to visit us. She is our first grandchild, and she was born on my birthday 19 years ago – the best present ever! My son, Scott, was born five days before my birthday (different year of course). Before Mia and her family moved to North Carolina, we would always celebrate our three birthdays together. We were blessed to celebrate together last week.

I encourage you to spend some time counting your blessings, too. I am thankful for each of you who take the time to read my blog posts. The next one will be coming from Jolly old England!