Monthly Archives: January 2020

Arizona Treasures

IMG_1144Are you coming to Arizona for a visit, or do you live in Arizona and need a new place to see?  This past week we had more guests at our home.  We have had pretty much non-stop guests since Thanksgiving.  We are still new to this city and state and don’t know all the great places to take guests.  One place that is always on our list, is a hike at the trails of the San Tan Mountain Regional Park.  The park is a five minute (if that long) drive from our home.  This hike gets our guests directly in the middle of the desert, and surrounded by cactus of all sizes and types.  We took our guests on an almost five mile hike.  We stopped at various benches along the trail, so one could catch their breath, and also time to take in the amazing views.IMG_1163IMG_1153

One of the new found places we went was the Musical Instrument Museum in Scottsdale.  I had never been there, and had no idea what to expect.  I am not a very musical person, IMG_1100knowing very little about musical instruments, so I expected to be quickly bored, and ready to move on.  How wrong I was.  This is a most fascinating museum.  It is divided by continents of the world and the instruments from those area.  We are given a headset when we pay our admission. As we go to a display, one can see the instruments, some printed information, and then on a monitor is an individual or group playing these particular instruments, and the sound comes through the headsets.  As I moved from area to area, the headsets pick up the music of whatever I am standing and looking at.  At one point, I IMG_1099did not have my headset on, and I realized how silent the space was.  No one is talking much, and they are moving about listening through their own headsets to the music.

I will need to return as one cannot do this museum in one day.  There is so much to see and to hear.  Some of the instruments are very unique, and show ingenuity of the people of a region who may not have the technology to make what we would consider a modern musical instrument, but music seems to be universal, and they find a way to make an IMG_1104instrument that plays music to their ears.  I enjoyed seeing instruments from countries where my ancestors were from, finding some countries a bit more musical than others.

I spent most of my time in the U.S./Canada room, and Europe.  I need to return to get the other continents fully.  I loved the two rooms where I spent the most time.  I could have stood at the European classical music section for hours, had they had recordings for that long!   The instruments were so diverse, and some even puzzling and hard to believe.  One of the most interesting type instruments were ones that reminded me of bagpipes, but were made from animal carcasses.  The strangest was the “Ziqq” from Malta.  The instrument is a calf carcass, although I sure thought it looked like the neighbor’s dog!  A horn was attached to where I suppose the neck of the animal was, with a reed of some type to blow in to at front foot.  Just so odd and strange.  Unfortunately, the video did not show anyone playing it, so I have no idea what it sounded like.

There were five of us together, although we wandered throughout the galleries alone to our own pace.  At one point I received a phone call to meet downstairs in their restaurant for quick lunch.  It was a nice break.  Having just recovered from the flu, my ears were aching with the constant music—I guess I wasn’t yet totally healed.  For some of us, it felt like a musical overload.  Even so, it was a wonderful experience.  I plan to return soon to wander the galleries and marvel at the ingenuity of humankind around the world to find ways to make music to “calm the savage soul.”  It truly is a discovery of what all mankind has in common, the ability to create, as we are made in the image of God, who is the ultimate creator.

Another great place to explore was the Boyce Thompson Arboretum.  I am not sure what I expected this place to be.  I think I thought I would walk through some fields and look at trees, and plants, and in an hour be out of there.  That was also a wrong assumption.  This place is located in the southern most part of the Tonto National Forest in Superior, AZ, just east of Phoenix.  The path through the arboretum wound around the mountain.  There was a small lake, and then, winding paths with rock walls.  The plants and trees were exquisite.  It is another place where I need to return and just go ever so slowly and take in everything.  It also was sensory overload of God’s beautiful and unique creation.

I saw trees that I have never seen before, and cannot imagine what a forest of them would look like!  It looked like many of the plants were getting ready for a bloom I the next month, and a return visit is going to have to be on my calendar.  This  very odd looking tree reminds me of artwork in a Dr. Suess children’s book.  I missed getting its name and any history of the tree.  I must go back, if just to learn more about this tree.

Last but not least, who would think a pizza joint would be a must see destination, but we IMG_1139had dinner one evening at a place called Organ Stop Pizza.  (Bring cash—they don’t take plastic).  The pizza is actually good, and the entertainment is unusual and really fun.  Center front of the dining room is a huge ornate theater pipe organ.  The pipes are all around the front walls, along with percussion instruments, that are electronically connected to what the organist is playing.  He plays a variety of music and takes requests.  People are eating a rows of tables, and some are singing along, or clapping, or cheering.  The little ones may be in the aisle dancing along.  This place is tasty and fun for those from one year to 100 years.  It is the last thing you expect when you go to a pizza restaurant, and definitely a must see for anyone visiting Phoenix.

Now, I am resting up from the two full months of our revolving door visitors.  I wouldn’t have traded these weeks for anything.  All of them were so much fun, and we loved showing them our new city.  As we stay longer, we will learn of other great places to visit.  So, you all come!  Get away from the snow and ice that is hitting the midwest and east coast.  Make yourself a plane reservation, and come enjoy the sights and sounds of the southwest.  By the time you come, I may have found some other great stops for you to visit!IMG_1283

I Do Love Gifts!

Businessman offerGifts — who doesn’t love gifts?  As a child, I loved receiving gifts for my birthday or Christmas.  As an adult, I love gifts that bring me memories of the giver.  I got thinking about that today, as I lay on the couch, recovering from the flu, watching the football playoffs, wrapped in a quilt my cousin randomly sent me recently.  Yeah, how often does that happen?  

One day I received a text message from her to be watching for a package to be delivered.  A package from the suburbs of Chicago sent to the suburbs of Phoenix!  I was curious, and had no idea what this package was.  This is what she said, “Expect a package from me on Tuesday for a belated house warming, early birthday wish and a Merry Christmas! I shipped it express mail from the post office and have a tracking number if it doesn’t get there.  Hope you like it!”  My reply was, “Oh okay. What a surprise. Are you coming in the box?  That would be super nice!  I’ll let you know when it arrives.”  When it arrived, I was so surprised to see this handmade quilt from one of my favorite quilter cousins. IMG_1083IMG_1084

What I don’t think givers of gifts realize (at least, to me), is that the gift is not the only thing, but the gift brings memories of the giver each time I look at it or use it.  So, here I am wrapped in this quilt that lays on my living room couch, and I think of Peggy, our years growing up, her kids and grandkids, our times together as adults, and it just makes me happy.

aunt maryI came to this reality years ago, when out of the blue, Peggy’s mom, my aunt, called me and gave me a similar message that Peggy sent.  “Be expecting a delivery.”  My Aunt Mary told me that she found the complete nativity set to the three original pieces I had, and she bought them for me.  It was 2000, and I had recently moved into my new home in St. Charles, Missouri.  I told my aunt that the gift for no reason was too extravagant, and she said it was a house warming gift of something she knew I would like.  Every single year I put out this Coleport by Wedgewood nativity set, and I think of Aunt Mary.  Many times when I would be setting it out for the holidays, I would stop, call her, and make a trip to visit.  The last time I did this, I realized she was slipping.  I told her I came to see her because when I set out this set, it reminds me to visit.  I pulled out my iPad and showed her a photo of the set sitting in my living room. Twice through this visit, she would look at me and ask if I still had the nativity set.  Shortly after that, she passed.

I have informed my children that of all the nativity sets I own, this one is financially valuable, and emotionally valuable to me.  Do not just donate to some charity.  Someone of my kids or grandkids who might cherish this gift I got from Aunt Mary should be the one to take it.  If none of them or interested, maybe they will contact someone of Aunt Mary’s grandchildren and see if they would like it.  Once again, this past Christmas, as I set up this nativity, which each piece is individually boxed in molded styrofoam in a cardboard box labeled by the manufacturer the name of each character, I think of Aunt Mary.  I think of all the times I went to her home as a child to play with my cousins.  Aunt Mary had seven children, so there were lots of cousins, but two were near my age who I played with the most.  Then over the years, I became friends will all of them, older and younger.  When my mom died, Aunt Mary (my mom’s youngest sibling) and I spent much time together, having dinner, watching movies, and spending late nights talking.  I always thought she was taking me under wing with the loss of my mom, but today, I believe I also filled void for her of the sister she was so close to over the years.

SusanI have a ton of little gifts from my friend, Susan Durbin.  She was my sponsor in my 12-step group for codependency, and we became fast friends for years following that.  Most of her gifts were Christmas decor, since my birthday is in December, and she is the great giver of gifts, mostly of giving herself.  I also have little things around the house that are not Christmas gifts.  Whenever I see these items, my thoughts go to Susan, to her sponsorship of helping me to learn to “let go and let God,” to fun times we had doing lunches and dinners, attending my son’s and my granddaughter’s school events, hosting us every summer at her swimming pool where all my grandkids learned to swim.  Her little gifts remind me of the wonderful love we had as friends.  She has been gone for over five years, but these little items bring her spirit back to me.  They bring a smile to my face, that I have been blessed to have her as a friend for so many years.

giftsEven gifts like the multitude of oranges, lemons, and grapefruit we received from cousins who generously shared from their trees here in Arizona — every time we ate the fruit or something cooked or baked with those fruits, my thoughts would go to cousins, Joani, Richard, and Janine, for their generosity, but it also brought back memories of times with them in the past, and now enjoying their friendships currently in Arizona.  All these gifts are bigger because of the givers.

And, then there is the gift that was given to me, that I also did not ask for, did not expect, and definitely did not deserve.  The gift of God’s love and redemption for me through Jesus Christ.  Whenever I am in the presence of the gift, in worship, prayer, in fellowship with other Christians, I am reminded of so many memories, of how God has redeemed me.  How through the death of Jesus, he freely took my sins on himself so I could be in Businessman offerfellowship with God.  I didn’t do any thing to deserve this gift, God gave it freely, lovingly.  It wasn’t an easy gift.  Jesus, being man and God, struggled before his death.  Matthew 26:9 states, 

“And going a little farther he fell on his face and prayed, saying, ‘My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.’”  Jesus prayed if this “cup” (what was his coming death) could be removed, but then he knew it was His will to give his life for each of us.  It was a gift.  It is free!  No strings attached!  We just have to take it, just like I accepted the nativity set, the quilt, and all other gifts I did nothing to earn.  I took the gift.  I accepted Jesus’ death as the punishment for my sins, and accepting that gift, I am a child of the God Most High.  I am a daughter of the King!  Wow!  What a gift!  What memories I have and future memories I will have in His eternal presence.

Thank you, friends and family, for gifting me and helping to remember you as dear friends and family.  And, thank you, Lord, for gifting me, so that I am in your family for eternity.  It is the best gift I will ever receive.Romans 5-8


Forever Changing

I realized the other day that not only we were into a new year, but also a new decade.  I have lived seven decades and one year.  This past decade has been one of great changes for me.  I went to my computer to look at photos since my Mac can allow me to look at each year of photos.  This quick review has gone on for three days, and I’m not done yet.  There are a lot of photos taken and scanned over the last 10 years.  I think of myself as a newlywed until I realize that the most of this decade I have been with Dennis.  How time flies.  Not just getting married (something I never expected), but the travels.  I have seen much of the United States this past decade, and even a few countries in Europe and the Caribbean.  There are a ton of photos of time with my grandkids—swimming, overnight parties, and trips.  There are photos of family and friends at our home.  Also during this decade I lost a dad, a sister, and one of my very best friends.  Reviewing these photos brought all kinds of feelings.  One of the things that really stuck out to me is the word change.  I remember years ago a work colleague made a comment to me that I always seemed to reinvent myself.  Reviewing these photos reminded me that not only did I change, but my surroundings changed also.

I thought it might be fun that instead of talking about change, that I would show you change in my life and surroundings by showing photos.  I would call it before and after photos, but some are probably before, later, and after still to come.  So her goes:

This is me before and after.  Not much change except a bit of aging.  I suppose that is a process that cannot be stopped. These are both unretouched photos.  Ugh!

These are three of my grandkids and how they have matured these past 10 years.  They were young children, and are now young adults.  I love that I can relate to them as young adults, but I miss these cute and funny little kids.


My home in the St. Louis area changed.  It is amazing how changing a floor, countertop, and stairway spindles can give a different look to a home.  I had that home built in 1999, and moved out when I married Dennis in 2013.

The biggest transformation was the home in Mid Missouri.  Here is how the outside looked, and then the transformation to what it looks like today.

And the interior of that house was the same way.  Dennis allowed me to put my touch on it.  We repainted the interior together.  It was frightening to see Dennis on a tall ladder to cut in at the ceiling at 20’ above the ground.

Also, here is the transformed kitchen.  Once again, only the floors and countertops were the big change.

One of the things you may have noticed is that I cleared things out.  When I was a kid I was messy.  I must have been really messy, because as a teenager my dad told me I could never get married unless I cleaned my room.  When I got engaged and called my best friend to tell her, she asked me if I cleaned my room!  I recall telling her that my dad was probably glad to get me and my messy room out of the house.  The funny thing about that is that as I have matured, and clutter really bothers me.  It almost makes me feel claustrophobic.  I need clean lines and a reduction of “stuff” to not feel overwhelmed.  I have learned over the years that less is more—at least for me.

In the last ten years I have changed, not only in appearance, but also on the inside.  I have more confidence than  I ever had.  Maybe I no longer feel I have to prove myself to someone, to be loved, to be valued in the work I do, to love and value my family and friends.  I have grown in my faith, and can see how the challenges I had in the past have made me a more loving compassionate person, and also ever more grateful for God’s loving grace of holding my hand and bringing me through some very tough circumstances.  I have moved from having a career in human resources to being retired, occasionally dipping my toe back into the field, but doing so less and less these days.

time fliesAs for all of us, it has been a decade of ups and downs.  It flew by faster than I could ever imagine.  By the time we end this decade, which will probably move at warp speed, I will be 81, God willing.  I look forward for this decade to be one that I can remain relatively healthy.  I say that because I have learned that once one turns 70, the wheels start falling off.  I will do what I can to keep the wheels in place and the engine running!  I will see grandchildren find their careers and their life partners.  I hopefully, sometime later in this decade, get to meet some great grandchildren, and watch my sons become grandparents themselves.  I know that this decade I will lose some more family and friends.  That is always difficult.  This decade I want to lean into my faith in Christ even more.  After all, being in his presence gets closer every day.  I want to be prepared!

I wish for you a decade of love, joy, peace, and contentment.  I wish for you to let go of what is not important in the scheme of things, and embrace your future, whatever it be, full steam.  May you look to the future with optimism no matter the circumstances.  Happy New Year in 2020 and beyond.

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