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Archive for the ‘Travel’ Category

Today marks the start of the annual tour for Southwind, an elite drum and bugle corps representing the Southeast region’s best percussion and brass players.

(Oh, and coincidentally, today marks this blog’s 8th anniversary – thank you to all my readers and friends for 8 incredible years!!! xxxooo). Back to Southwind:

They will travel nearly 6,000 miles in six weeks, performing and competing in cities throughout the Eastern seaboard and the Midwest, culminating with a world class competition at the Colt’s football stadium in Indianapolis.

Southwind began 40 years ago and carefully selects its members from rigorous auditions and recommendations. This year, its members hail from 15 states. Lucky for us (and our son who plays the euphonium), they chose our county as Ground Zero for their many weeks of rehearsal camps leading up to today, so we didn’t have to go far to visit him.

Last night they held their dress rehearsal, before they leave tonight for Valdosta, GA, their first stop on the tour circuit. We will catch up with Southwind again next Saturday in upstate Alabama for one of their competitions, before they head north for New Jersey, Pennsylvania, New Hampshire, Michigan and points beyond.

Some highlights from yesterday:

The schedule is dizzyingly intense, with few breaks

Local high schools house the Corps; boys in the gym, girls in the cafeteria, members over 18 in another room (members are from both high schools and universities)

Shoe blow-out is common – these students engage in marathon-training conditions in blistering heat and are fed special high-energy diets and go through gallons of water a day

Did I say “blistering heat?” This was what the sign said yesterday as I was leaving camp at 4:30pm

The supplies and resources necessary to pull off a tour of this magnitude are phenomenal. How every detail comes together is a miracle of the many staff and volunteers who expertly think of everything!

You just never know who’ll show up on tour with Southwind!

(wonder if this guy ever wishes he’d taken up the trumpet instead?) Everyone helps haul the instruments, props and supplies

Meals are served outdoors and consist of lots of high protein, high carb foods. I’m told that spicy and sugary foods are off the list for the most part.

It takes a crew to wash the uniforms, a crew to cook and clean up, a crew to keep track of the students, a crew to organize and pull off the tour, etc. Check out the Southwind website to see their talented Visual Staff and Percussion Staff.

Warming up on the field while the rest of the Corps unloads

Full percussion warming up with brass getting ready behind (note everyone’s gallon jugs precisely at their sides)

Just like a pro ball team, each position/section has its coaches. For the Corps, this includes experts in fine-tuning (literally, as in ensuring drums are properly tuned). The coach listens to each drum carefully, getting down to drum-level with his ear and instructs each player accordingly to ensure perfection.

Each instrument has to be inspected, each day

For each performance, they have a very short amount of time to assemble all instruments, props and supplies, so they learn, among other skills, how to, um, for lack of a better term, haul ass

The drum majors take the field. Yes, that is a roller coaster in the far background but it was so hot we didn’t see anybody on the rides!

The dress rehearsal turned into an un-dress rehearsal, as the searing heat even after the sun went down, prompted them to spare the uniforms for the tour and they did the rest of rehearsal in their bibbers (and white gloves – never ditch the white gloves, so sayeth the Lady, no matter what the conditions!)

The choreography, precision and talent are mind-blowing!

The performers put their heart and soul into each note

This year’s show is called, “The Cage,” in four movements. The first movement portrays what it is like to feel caged – the constraint, the sacrifice of self, the pain of stuck-ness. The second movement illustrates the frenzied attempts to break out of the cage, unsuccessfully.

Movement three is about what we might call learned helplessness, or accepting our circumstances, perhaps complacency and/or ditching the dream to be free and happy. Choosing to settle. Learning to be “happy” and giving up on potential.

In the last movement, the cage finally opens and we experience the joy of true freedom, being able to live life to its fullest capacity and the relief of being out in the open at last.

The show is copyrighted so we are forbidden to upload videos of the performance (plus we don’t want to give our secrets away to our competition before the tour!), else I would have loved to share the power of the sound and theatrics this talented group of students and staff produce.

Am I outside the cage, or in? What about you?

And, just like a ball team, they have their own mini-ambulance

Away from the action, empty hangers, backpacks and instrument cases line the fence

Ready to roll up the road to the next venue!

I caught up with him after last year’s show in Hiram, GA

Thanks, God, for opportunities You give us and our children to exercise talents, discover new skills and to experience great adventures. Thank You for freeing us of the many cages of our own making in which we ensnare ourselves….and may we always fully trust and be free in Christ.

(This hot summer – and now 16 and driving! – he values a shorter haircut than last year lol) – Godspeed, Jonathan William and all of Southwind!

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Sea songs and sandals

Bright birds sing of life

In a faraway land where

One finds no strife

Steady the waves rhythmically

Lull one to rest

No wonder so many say

Here, it’s the best!

Beauty abounds and

Art’s seen in all

Nature and man-made

Both having a ball!

Doors, walkways and steps

With fountain or pool

I’ve fallen in love,

Costa Rica’s so cool!

Time to chillax!

Gracias, Dios, por tu creación y por nuevas aventuras. Tu belleza está a nuestro alrededor, esperando ser descubierta.

Hasta mañana, amigos!

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A vanishing point is an interesting study, and perhaps not just for points of convergence or disappearing lines.

I recently found some vanishing points in fire, fog and falls…helping the mind fill in what may lie just beyond, where lines, images and elements dissipate and invite imagination to take it from there.

Kind of like vague relationships.

In my line of work doing online therapy, research is showing that the “fantasy factor” helps both client and counselor achieve an optimal working relationship, even though the missing gaps may or may not be accurate. Freud was on to something when he chose to sit behind the couch, just out of the line of vision of the patient.

The brain and God are faithful to give us exactly what we need to get through this thing called Life.

My eyes saw these realities, but my mind filled in the blanks of what it might be like to go just beyond. I forewent captions, for you to enjoy them as you see them.

A recognizable scene, given pause, may rise to unrecognizable dreams. A waterfall seen from beneath, has an unseen origin, where gravity may not be so pronounced. A slumbering volcano is made awake and alive by rumors of gnomes and fairies beneath.

I invite your mind to fill in the blanks – joie de vivre! 💋

Thanks, God, for the fantasies and illusions that give us hope, faith and perseverance.

May we never tire as we approach the vanishing point, always finding that extra burst of energy to see what awaits us around the curve.

Give us courage to face what’s on the other side, just beyond our line of vision, and equip us with confidence to accept Your will as we pursue the point of convergence.

Take us around that distant bend, Lord, and infuse us with elegant grace and poignant wisdom.

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I had every intention of posting more along our journey to the West Coast (which ended yesterday)…but our trek took us into treacherous and remote places along the way daily, with internet service ranging from spotty-at-best to nonexistent.

But I’m glad to have waited, particularly seeing this week’s challenge topic, since there are now many “on the horizon” shots to choose from. Here are a few of my favorites:

Fog rolling into San Francisco Bay, two nights ago

Crescent City, California

Central Oregon Coast near Newport

Columbia River Gorge, looking towards Washington state

Orchards near Mount Adams

Mt. Hood eclipsing the sun

Between cloud banks on the flight home yesterday

Thank You, God, for the privilege of travel, for affording us new world views, for reuniting with old friends and for rekindling family ties. Your artwork is amazing, Lord, the way You paint each horizon with unique beauty and passion.

Most of all, thank You for the many blessings which continually abound on each new horizon of our lives.

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Being fashionably late to everything, I’m just now stepping up to the challenge due to the hardships of cross-country travel.

But here is what’s NEW through my lens…coming home to Oregon for the first time in 17 years AND getting to share it with my 10 year old son, who was born and bred on the subtropical beach of his parents’ adopted second home.

He had as much fun beholding majestic wonders from above as I did, answering his gazillion questions about the earth, aviation, nature, God, geology, geography and all manner of why-cuz.

His very first flight ever…he remained fixated on the skies both to drink in the experience and to conceal his cheek-busting nonstop grin

Why are we at this angle? What if those rivets weren’t tight?

Mommy!! “What IS that down there? What’s happening to that side of the land?” That is where snow fell. “Why did it just stop at that line?”

The clouds seem to mirror the mountains below. We managed to fly over 12 states total!

Is that frost on the window? What’s it doing way up here?

Rocky Mountain High!

At PDX, a to-scale version of Multnomah Falls, all in Legos!

Later, when he got up close and personal to the live, giant Christmas trees, more questions arose which challenged my memories of college biology and botanical reproduction: How do they get so tall? Why are they so sheddy? Why are there so many pine cones and what do they do?

More adventures to come….

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Leap of Faith

In a recent conversation, I posited that faith is not tangible, that it is blind trust paired with hope. Expected outcome without guarantee. 

As a lawyer’s daughter, I think faith might be experienced by walking a thin tightrope held up by a combination of idealism, high expectations, justification and a pinch of foolishness.  Better carry a good, long pole for balance!

What makes us trust? What makes us run? What makes us cling in the face of no sound reason or rationalization?

Lately I have been challenged to trust…and others to trust in me. How can I expect them to trust in me when I might not fully trust in myself? Doesn’t it take at least one person to step forth and proclaim “CARPE DIEM!!” ? Who determines who goes first? Is faith a chicken and egg conundrum?

The wounded shy away from trust and need to be coaxed, reassured and led. 

The doubtful need to be shown.

The Pharisees need to be out-foxed.

So what do the faithless need?

Proof? Facts? Numbers? It can’t be…that is the essence of faith.

If you are waiting to be shown, for veracity to be proven in factual terms, you’ll be waiting a long time. 

The onus is on YOU to believe. Only then do dreams come true.

Thanks, God, for the gift of faith, no matter how little or how great ours may ebb and flow over the course of our lifetime. Thank You for getting my 12 year old on those planes and safely to the other end of the continent today. 

Thank You for showing me things when I step back and have time and space to consider facts vs. faith. Thank You for trusting in me, even when others may not, and even when I may not even trust in myself. Thank You for the great gift of faith!

 (he had only heard and read about the Grand Canyon prior to today, but this plane afforded him visual proof!) 

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There is nothing I do not love about summer. It is my favorite season, hands down.

Naturally, I couldn’t resist sharing a few glimpses of my summer for this week’s Photo Challenge:

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Fort Morgan, Alabama

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Sunrise on Jeckyl Island, Georgia

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Favorite Swimming Hole

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Sharing my paddle board with a friend

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Horse Fly!

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Unexpected companion while kayak fishing on Hilton Head Island, South Carolina

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Summer Lovin’!

 

Thanks, God, for summer lovin’…for cherished memories, for seasons of change, of play and of rest, for periods of sweat and cooling off.

Thanks for tall, refreshing drinks, toes in the water, humming cicadas and opportunities to grow and explore new horizons.

Thank You for an unforgettable summer of growth and new beginnings.

Please bless the WP readers with a safe, happy and enjoyable summer.

And may everyone find time to relax, recharge and reinvent themselves.

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I blinked, and it was gone, just like that.

Our Harley-Davidson motorcycle was sold, picked up and gone, gone, gone while I was at work today.

I didn’t even get to say goodbye.

We babied it, coddled it, met its every need and it served us well. Our last trip on it was, of course, along the beach.

But one day its engine gave out, and it was under wraps until we could pony up the dough to fix it. With four growing children with their growing needs, sadly, the ol’ HD had to keep waiting.

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Nothing can ever go in that spot in the yard again- EVER.
Except, maybe, a memorial headstone.

Priorities, you know.

It was sort of like when someone contracts a long-term illness that is terminal. We refused to give up hope. There was denial, anger, bargaining, but acceptance will always be hard to come by.

So it was up for sale for a few months – we knew this day could come, but I didn’t expect it today, not when I wasn’t paying attention, not when I didn’t get to sit on it just one more time.

Just one more time…

And *just like that* it was snapped up and gone.

Riiiiiiip, went the Band-Aid when the call came to me this morning.

Today’s lunchtime run seemed much more fueled, which was good, since I thought I could beat the approaching thunderstorm – but lost.

My tears went unseen for the pounding rain which dripped through wild strands of hair and into my eyes, washing away both makeup and memories, burning both heart and hamstrings. Sweet, sweet sorrow…

This evening the back yard was a little more empty than I care to see. One quick glance in its direction tonight while doing the dishes staring out the kitchen window over the sink, my eyes averted in painful grief at the unusually empty spot where it had proudly stood.

It’s gone. But it will forever remain a fondly cherished memory, something that enhanced our lives, and will remain on its own revered pedestal of Good Things Past.

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You never know what you’ll see riding a Harley – 10-pound baby aboard!
Start ’em young, y’know.

In my grief, I found all sorts of things to justify its departure. It was too big. I couldn’t reach the ground. I couldn’t drive it myself. I gave myself the hope of someday owning a chick-bike that I can operate on my own.

In the meantime, a boat may be in our near future. The trusty HD gave a sense of freedom, but had its landlubbering limitations.

Perhaps the Harley-Davidson people need to go into the boat-making business. I believe the same sense of free spirit and bad-boy pirating may have a market at sea. Pray-tell the proceeds of this baby may afford enough extra for me to get a leather bikini.

With fringe.

(Husha-my mouth!!)

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Ironically, this week’s photo challenge theme was issued while your Muse was schlepping around the one place in the entire world that few might recognize as the ultimate earthly Ground Zero of UP-ness.

As in, the uppity-uppest up, giant-est step that mankind has known.

This is the record-holding Saturn V:

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It was built under the direction of one Wernher von Braun, a German who originally wanted to be a composer of great music. His career plans were derailed by his rocketry brilliance. His brilliance was used by Hitler to build the V-2 missiles (the “V” was for “vengeance”) until von Braun pledged allegiance to the United States of America, not long after witnessing the horrific conditions in the concentration camp that housed the prisoners who built his rockets.

When he tried to appeal to the SS on their behalf, he was told in no uncertain terms to hush up or he’d be given a black-and-white striped uniform of his own. After a two-week imprisonment by the SS for reasons unknown to him, he then “felt that only by surrendering such a weapon to people who are guided by the Bible could such an assurance to the world be best secured (Mike Wallace television bio).”

The rocket is too large to capture in its entirety. Here is the bottom half of the Saturn V, just two of its engines:

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von Braun was named director of the Marshall Space Center for NASA in Huntsville, Alabama, where he oversaw the creation and building of the Saturn V between 1967 and 1973. The Saturn V was used to launch Apollo 11, enabling man to finally land on the moon. von Braun also drew up plans for his vision for a manned mission to Mars.

Here is the inside of the rocket engine. I love the patterns (where’d that V come from on the top, anyway?) and the crispy burnt effects on the aluminum…hot chihuahua!:

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A total of 24 astronauts got to the moon this way. Bless their wives and families.

And also Major Tom, bless his heart, wherever he may be.

On the grounds of the U.S. Space & Rocket Center in Huntsville, you will find a museum, G-force simulators, tributes to astronauts, an awesome gift shop and a rocket park filled with retired, heavenly transportation vehicles. This is the Pathfinder:

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In his spare time, von Braun also dreamed up the notion that children’s dreams of space travel should be nourished and encouraged. Thus, Space Camp was created and thrives today, now also including the Aviation Challenge camp. When I was there, the grounds were swarming with professors and teachers. It’s where the nation’s trainers are trained in the field.

The city of Huntsville never forgot von Braun’s original passion for the arts. The Von Braun Center, a sprawling, multi-venue facility for the arts (even with its own ice hockey arena) features top acts, Broadway plays and is a regional mecca for all things artistic and musical. Even though my eldest child had been to space camp years prior, I was unaware of the significance of this place until he was invited to play at the Von Braun Center last week. Perfect timing for an UP challenge – thanks, WordPress!

And when it’s time for a classic, homemade Southern dish, you MUST visit the Blue Plate Café . It’s the Southern equivalent of the Mediterranean diet. I kid you not.

So if you ever go tripping around in the South and have a hankering to discover this type of up, or if you have an up-wardly inclined child, I highly recommend a stop in Huntsville, Alabama.

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Long after the thousands of ground-kissing passengers disembarked the ill-fated Carnival Triumph, the not-so-triumphant ship continues to occupy the skyline, in sick bay.

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“Somebody” has to fix her before too many more trips are cancelled.

Too bad the passengers didn’t stick around long enough to dig their toes in our sand, but I can understand wanting to go home after being adrift  – it’s all about longsuffering faith and the promise of redemption, of finally getting where we know we belong.

The Triumph has fooled me since she’s been in port. By day, the massive ship demands everyone’s attention simply by it’s important size and position. You can’t NOT look. It then seizes the imagination of what it must be like on the inside.

But passing by the ship at night, the first glance affords blazing windows, shimmering shadows within, as though there were parties in every room on every floor. Kind of like the “Home Alone” scene where the naughty burglars cruise by at night and imagine the house is fully occupied with the party of the year going on inside.

Inside, you imagine endless halls of excitement waiting to be discovered. Richly decorated rooms, elaborate design, posh furnishings and a collection of even more valuable but complicated lives of the party. Endless offerings of exquisite food. A sensory overload of visually tantalizing playthings like pools with waterfalls and tunnels, never-ending games, entertainment of your choice on demand. Golden trays of wealth, wisdom and wit delivered to you poolside (or even bedside), with fun little umbrellas topping every thirst-quenching drink of distraction.

Everything to indulge and satisfy the never-satisfied, always-hungry soul, the soul adrift at sea and far from home port.

But upon closer scrutiny, the heart sinks: it was merely a mirage, the strong shipyard floodlights beaming upon her from without, merely ghosts of shadows within of good times passed, hollow and devoid of life. Totally empty. Spirits of What Was, dancing amid the destruction of failure. Darkness swallows the Triumph as she impatiently awaits her new Engine, new plumbing, new interior – her new Life.

What appeared to be a fun ship on an exotic voyage, an attractive fruit in the garden of life, turned out to be a black, empty void, a hollow shell. Yet it was empty as any of the rest of us, vulnerable and of dust, ultimately reliant.  Nothing without new Life.

In the end (and always without warning and at the most inconvenient of times), the Triumph failed, and miserably. In the process, its failure siphoned off the joy of the thousands who trusted her to provide all that glitters. Like all of us, at some point she realized she was adrift in an expansive sea, carrying tremendous responsibility and no way to get Home.

There had to be that moment of helpless panic. The mighty ship had to rely on a tiny, barely visible tow line in order to reach her point of restoration.

This is no simple engine replacement job, not with several stories’ worth of backed up toilets for days on end to be reckoned with. God bless those good-sport passengers. Good thing the shipyard has plenty-o-cranes. And lots of fresh air. The amount of effort, expense and time it takes is directly proportional to the size of the failure, and then some.

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Get well soon, dear Triumph.

(And next time, please dock here not just in times of sickness, but also in health).

May your Easter be blessed with reflections on the hope that comes with vulnerability. May you cling with fervent faith to tiny tow lines taking you Home.  And may you bask in the love of His restoration that awaits us in Port. Thank God for His Shipyard and His promise of new, triumphant life in Jesus.

Happy Easter, y’all!

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