Category Archives: Memories

How to make photo albums.

how to make photo books online

I am going to share with you the way I get my photos out of digital storage and into my house. I’ve had many “how do you make these beautiful books?” questions, and today I am showing you step-by-step how I do it. I am not a techy person, so if I can do it – you can too!

Technology is an amazing invention, but sometimes it gets in the way of tangible memories. For instance, how many SD cards, thumb drives, or discs do you have laying around with 1,000’s of photos on them?

I know.

Problem is, we all think that we will ‘someday’ get them printed. Well good luck with that! 😉 Life gets in the way of doing the work. Plus we’re not quite sure how, or where, to print them. Aren’t photo albums outdated anyways? Why not just put them on a digital photo album? Oh yes. Scrolling through a couple thousand photos on your laptop – with relatives and friends hanging over your shoulder – is so exciting! Right?!

Let me tell you, my kids have enjoyed so many quiet hours, paging through our photo books. It is fun for them (and everyone else) to pick up a photo album and look back at  the previous years. I like to keep them on in the living room in a visible spot, so guests can entertain themselves. They are great conversation starters, too!

I will walk you through how I do it, and then give you a few extra tips later. Don’t be overwhelmed by the length of this post – I just give detailed instructions. If you are familiar with copying/pasting photos, it will be a breeze! :)

Here you go:

1. Soon after the beginning of the year, (I do it in January) go back through the previous years’ photos on your computer or phone roll, however you store yours. You do have them uploaded, right? 😉

2. Go through them with a pen and paper, writing down the number of each photo you want. Try to pick only the best ones. You really don’t need 5 photos of your new car. One will suffice. (You’ll thank me later!) I have my photos organized by month, so I do it one month at a time. You do whatever works for you. I realize not everyone has as many photos as me! I have a photo addiction.

3. Once you have the numbers written down, go back and select the ones you chose. I have mine on a Windows desktop — sorry I haven’t figured out the Mac photo thing yet! Anyways, to select multiple photos, you hold the Control ( Ctrl ) button down as you select the ones you want. Once they’re all highlighted, right-click on one of the highlighted photos, and ‘Copy’.

4. Start a new folder for the book photos. Title it appropriately; 2015 Book, or something. Now paste your copied photos into that album. Repeat until you have the best photos from your whole year into that folder. Now go through it and make sure you really need 469 photos! :) If there’s a few you can cut – do it. Whew! The hard part is done! Even if you have to take a day or two for a break, you now have the best sorted out. Just like yearlings ready for market.

5. Go to an online photo printer like Mpix, Snapfish, or Shutterfly. Sign up for a free account, and upload your photos. If you’re tired of working on photos by now – use their autofill method. If you are like me – spend another couple hours placing the photos just perfectly with the correct captions for each! Save it when you’re finished. No – save it after each page is done! I hate losing work!

Frank getting ready to help gather cattle.

Frank getting ready to help gather cattle.

Extra tips: 
Ordering:
You can go ahead and order it at this point. But I like to sign up for their emails and wait on a discount code. I have never paid full price for an album yet. Not sayin’ they aren’t worth it – they definitely are! But when you are on a cowboy’s wages, you learn to be frugal.

Where to start?!!
Start with one year and spend 30 min per day going through them and marking the ones you like, uploading them, and placing them in a book. 30 min per day will get a year done in less time than you think! And just think: a few days of this and you will have a nice album to enjoy forever! Just stick to it. You are an adult. You can do things you don’t enjoy. 😉

I’m so behind I’ll never catch up!!
See, I know how discouraging it is! Let me advise you: keep at it until you are caught up. Do one year per week, or whatever, then let that frustration remind you next January to get right on it! :) You can do this! You just have to sit down and do it for a few days. I missed last year, so for the first time, I have 2 years worth of photos, plus a Florida vacation, multitude of brandings, and miscellaneous events to catch up on. I’m predicting it will take 4 books to catch up. Yuck. Next year you can bet I will get it done in January!

It will break the bank to buy all the books I need!
OK, calm down. Remember I said wait for a coupon? Well, many of these are ‘buy two get one free’, or something like that. And they send a couple per year. So here’s what you do: You make them all right now. DO NOT WAIT. When you get the coupon email, you often have 3 days to use it. You will always be busy those 3 days. So you do not stop till you have made all your books and are 100% caught up. THEN you save them in your account, and wait to purchase till you have a coupon code. I mean, how easy is it to log in, select the book you want, and checkout? But if you think you will wait till you have the coupon, to make the books… well, you won’t do it. Trust me, I know! I let a lot of coupons go unused the past two years, because I didn’t have a book ready, and didn’t have time to make one! So learn from me. 😉

Phone photos
Phone photos actually print off ok as long as they are small. Don’t try to make a phone photo an entire page spread. OK is a relative term… of course they aren’t very great quality, but if the phone photo of your child kissing mama is the only one you have – by all means include it! 30 years from now you will be glad you did. Bonus: if you have mostly phone photos, you can fit a lot more in a book! 😉

Isn’t Snapfish awful quality?
It’s not Miller’s Lab, that’s for sure! But hey, I am not rich enough to pay premium prices on photo books. Sometimes you have to sacrifice quality to get the job done. Don’t worry what people think. It’s better – a thousand times better – to have a finished book in hand, than to be snobby about quality that you will never afford. We are a ranch family – we don’t make a lot of money. (and no, this blog makes no money either!) So far, my friends who look at my books are always surprised when I say they’re made at Snapfish and Shutterfly! I am not endorsing or reccomending any site in particular – just telling you what I have done. Hey, if you only do Chatbooks, at least that’s something! (I will probably unfollow you on Instagram, but do whatever works for you! 😉 ) NOTE: I am more and more dissatisfied with the ‘cheap’ photo printing places. I guess getting quality prints does spoil a person! But I still say – do whatever you can do. 

Cost?
Depends on how many pages, what size book, etc. I usually do the 8×11 books with a 50% off coupon, so they run around 15$ each. (on snapfish) But sometimes I make a 11×14 which is really nice! The coupons usually specify page count, like 20 or something. Pay attention to fine print.

Here is a Shutterfly code: https://invite-shutterfly.com/x/1Y1MYX This will get you a free 8×8 photo book. Plus I will also get one if you use this link. 😉 (new customers only)

OK, I need to get back at it – I still have 2 books to make…
Let me know if I forgot something, ok?
And tell me – do you get your photos printed?

Makin’ Apple Butter.

makin apple butterCrisp, bright mornings and warm afternoons – feathered with brightly colored leaves, this is Fall. As a kid, I liked Fall, mainly because that’s when the leaves were raked into giant piles; fluffy and ready for jumping into and rolling through. They were spread out and raked into leaf-paths, perfect for playing ‘Fox & Geese’, or outlining our ‘playhouses’. After we’d played in them for hours and hours, we’d toss the leaves into the wheelbarrow, and if you were small enough – you hitched a ride on top, all the way to the dump.

But the second favorite thing about Fall, was Apple Butter. If you’ve never eaten this deliciousness, I am sorry! Apple butter is nothing like actual butter – it is a fruit spread, made with apples, sugar, and spices, cooked for a long time over low heat, till soft and smooth. You eat it on bread. Fresh bread, if possible! :)

makin' apple butter

My parents had a thing for using a copper kettle, and making it outside over a wood fire. First, Mom and us kids would cut bushels of apples for applesauce. We would can many quarts of applesauce, but after Mom had all she wanted, we’d use the rest of the sauce for apple butter.

Dad would build a wood fire in the yard, and after it had burned down a bit, he’d fix up a stand to hang the huge copper kettle on. We didn’t have a apple-butter kettle, but we had friends and relatives with them, so we would borrow one for the day. When we’d return it, we’d always give a few jars of apple butter as payment. (I miss the old days where everyone was neighborly, and loaned without expecting payment. A simple trade of goods or labor was enough!)

Well, we’d pour that applesauce into the kettle, and start stirring. We had a special wooden paddle made just for apple butter. It was a long handle, with a paddle at the end to stir with, and the paddle end had several holes in it, to better stir the apple butter. We’d take turns stirring it. At first, us kids would stir a lot. Once it had cooked down and was getting thick and brown, Mom and Dad did the stirring, to make sure it was stirred properly, and not burned in spots. Dad would add wood as necessary, to keep the fire not too hot or too small, but just right.

We added sugar and cinnamon and kept stirring. It took hours and hours for it to get to the right degree of thick, brown deliciousness! In fact, it was an all afternoon affair. Sometimes more. Once it was done, we would ladle it into jars and seal them. We always kept a jar out for fresh eating, of course.

I don’t know why, but it seems that the best tasting apple butter is made in a copper kettle, over an open fire. Maybe spending hours in the cool Fall air, stirring that kettle, makes it taste better! Anyways, I loved that tradition. I hope someday I can find a huge copper kettle, so I can make apple butter the traditional way. Not much better eatin’, than thick, sweet apple butter, slathered on thick slices of fresh bread!

Did you ever have apple butter hot from an open kettle?makin' apple butter

Riding the neighbors’ horse…

Note: not the horse from the story.

Note: not the horse from the story.

When I was a kid, I was your typical horse-crazy little girl. My dad was a logger, and we didn’t have horses, so I would ride any horse I had the chance to ride. Now, I had very little practical knowledge of horses, but I’d read plenty of horsey books and felt quite able to take on anything!

One time I was given the opportunity to ride some Haflinger ponies that were just 2 miles down the road. Trained to ride, but lazy and stubborn from lack of use – they were offered to me to ride as much as I liked. Wow! What a gift to a horse-crazy girl!

They were a pain to catch. I had to lure them (and all their buddies) to the barn with grain. Then when I finally caught one, I spent half my time kicking it in the ribs to make it walk. They were such a pain, I wonder at my own tenacity!

Well, one day I had a extra hard time catching that horse. Once I finally got it caught, saddled and cinched up good, I got on and we stepped out. This barn had a circle drive in front of it, flanked on 3 sides by the horse pasture, one side was the barns and one side was the dirt road.
All was fine for about 5 strides – till Mr. Haflinger decided he wasn’t having any more of this riding business! I kicked him lightly in the ribs, but instead of walking out onto the dirt road as usual, he began to run! Around and around that circle he galloped, as I clung desperately to the saddle horn and prayed I wouldn’t fall off!

…read the rest of the story over at Cavvy Savvy.

5 Reasons Country Kids Aren’t Obese.

5 Reasons Country Kids Aren't ObeseDon’t you hate when you read a title like that and then have to scroll through about ten paragraphs before you get to the list?!
I do too. Here’s my list: 😉

1. They don’t get snacks. Seriously. When I was a kid I thought snacks were the coolest thing! If I told my mom I was hungry, she calmly told me I’d have to wait and that was that. I still feel special if I get a personal bag of potato chips!

2. Their food is portioned out. My mom made the best baked chicken! It is hands down my favorite food, to this day! But there was never enough to suit me. Us little kids (and girls) were served one piece of chicken each, and usually a drumstick. Dad and the teen boys got two pieces. That’s all there was.

3. They don’t get junk food. (much) Cooking from scratch has always been cheaper than buying junk food. A 10-lb bag of potatoes costs about the same as a bag of potato chips, but guess which one feeds a family? I would watch enviously as my classmates brought treasures out of their lunchboxes, like Twinkies and juice boxes and frozen corn-dogs. All I had was bologna sandwiches, bananas and carrot sticks! 😀

4. They have to share. There were 8 kids in our family, and the meals at restaurants were few and far between. Even fast food was a rarity. When we did grab a meal at McDonald’s, (Oh wondrous joy!) my sisters and I shared a small fries. That’s right, and a small Coke as well. Not too many calories in a half-glass of Coke. Good thing we didn’t eat there often.

5. They eat better. Because we didn’t have a lot of money, my mom cooked from scratch. She couldn’t afford to buy pre-made stuff, or even a lot of groceries we now consider basic. She grew a garden, and bought ‘seconds’ fruit by the bushel. We would can and freeze and preserve gallons and gallons of produce for winter eating.
When our garden was growing, many meals were fresh garden lettuce salad with little, red radishes, plate after plate of sweet corn, tomato sandwiches, and a little (portioned, remember?) lean deer meat for protein. That was good eatin’! Mom’s fresh-churned butter from our milk cow, spread thick on homemade pancakes for breakfast…  We had homemade chocolate pudding, steaming and sweet, mounded with sweet strawberries that we picked ourselves. She made the best blackberry pies – more delicious because of the hours of sweaty, itchy work of picking them.

Oh we ate good. It’s a wonder we aren’t all obese! :) Excuse me while I go whip up some homemade chocolate pudding. I am really hungry now. 😀 5 reasons poor kids aren't obese.

Anything you would add or subtract from this list?

EDIT: After some comments on my Facebook page, I am editing this to add that I do realize a lot of ‘poor’ kids in America are living on very unhealthy, cheap foods. This was not the case for me and my siblings, because we did not receive government subsidies. 

Black & White Ranch Photos

Maybe you’ve seen (or participated in!) the black & white photo challenge tat was going around. Well, I was tagged in it, and gladly shared some black & white photos I have done over the year. Today I wanted to share with you all as well – they are special to me for various reasons, even the ones that are poorly composed or imperfect. :) Cowboys from WyomingCowboys that are like uncles to my kids. These guys come in my house, always looking first for the kids – not the food! 😉

Windmill

Roping practiceRoping practice with friends and neighbors. A gorgeous evening of laughter, fellowship, and yummy beef. :)

child portraitOh, be still my heart! This child is the darling of everyone’s heart around this house!

foggy morningFog and my favorite tree. This tree looks good in any old weather. :)
Have a blessed day!

My Mother Was Amish ~ Part 3

Read Part 1 and Part 2 of the story!

I wrote how my parents met, how my mother left her family and church to marry my father. But I neglected to tell you how the story ends. So today I am going to answer some questions about the rest of the story…

My Mother Was Amish

Did her family forgive her? 

Yes. I really don’t know if they ever had a sit-down-talk-it-out conversations about her choices, but they certainly forgave her. I know a lot of people who leave the Amish are put in the ‘ban‘ and not associated with, etc. But for my mom it wasn’t that way. For whatever reason, she was treated kindly by her family, from what I know. 

Does she have any contact with them?

Most certainly! She has a good relationship with each of her family members. They respect her religious beliefs, and hold nothing against her. In fact, out of 12 kids, only two are still Amish. My grandparents were Amish till they died, of course, but the rest of the kids have went separate paths. Several are Mennonite, and several have left the plain churches altogether. They still love God, mind you, and hold to the Christian faith, but just don’t follow the Amish/Mennonite beliefs. 

I grew up being good friends with all my cousins, whether Amish, Mennonite, or whatever. My mom loved nothing better than a good chat (in PA Dutch, mind you!) with her sister! :) 

My parents didn’t tell me a lot of details about their early married life – I just heard bits and pieces. I think because I was number 6 in line, I missed some of the stories? Anyways, from what I gathered, they lived in Maryland after their marriage, (same community as both families) and they would often go to one or the other of their families places for visits frequently. I think it was more of a culture shock for my mom to learn the non-plain way of living than it was for my dad to learn about Amish. :) They lived in MD for several years before moving to another state.

We frequently went back to MD to visit relatives when I was a kid, and my memories of those trips are all good. I loved both sides of the family. I feel privileged to have such a varied background. I feel right at home with my Amish family, and just as at home with my non-plain family on my dad’s side. 

If you have any more questions, feel free to ask! :)

My Mother Was Amish ~ Part 2

 

My Mother Was AmishSo you see, since my mother left the Amish when she married, I never grew up in an Amish home. Everything I know about the Amish comes from my close friendship with my Amish aunts, uncles, and cousins. And stories from my mother, of course!

The Amish that make the TV series these days are not what all Amish are like. I have known many Amish who are good citizens, have high morals, love God, and live clean lives. That makes for boring television, however, so they find the worst stories – the worst examples to try and shock people. I know there are many Amish who are like that – I just want people to know that not all Amish are like that. My relatives were of the upright variety. Not that they were perfect, and it certainly doesn’t help you ‘get to Heaven’. But it was nice to go to their houses and never hear a curse word, never have  drinking parties, and the young people’s idea of entertainment was board games and ‘singings’.

My uncle is an Amish bishop, so if there was something church-related going on, they were there. Since we visited them a lot, we ended up going along.  It gave me more opportunity to get in on some of the Amish community events. I always enjoyed it. For one thing, since we were Mennonite instead of Amish – we had some status among the younger set. We had our own vehicles, and could wear brighter clothing  – we could even listen to cassette tapes! 😉 

I remember going to visit my cousins and hearing my aunt tell my cousins that they had to ‘stand up’ at 4 am.  ‘Stand up’  is the way you say ‘get up’ in Dutch, if you translate exactly. They spoke Pennsylvania Dutch all the time, unless they were around worldly people or someone who couldn’t speak Dutch – like us.

My mother can speak Dutch, obviously, but since my father wasn’t raised Amish, he didn’t want my mother speaking it in the home. Of course he didn’t care if she spoke it to her friends and family, but he wanted to be able to understand what was said in his home.  So us kids knew a smattering of Dutch – just enough to be dangerous, I like to say!  But I can’t carry on a conversation past the: “What is your name? My name is…” stage.

So of course we would snicker at their English translations, because some things you have to say differently in English – you can’t just translate verbatim! They were so used to talking in Dutch, that I am sure they thought in Dutch. I remember my cousins trying to think how to say something in English…they couldn’t always find a way to translate perfectly. 

Anyways.

My cousins would have to get up at 4 a.m. to go milk their dairy cows. (yes, dairy cows and carpentry are the main Amish businesses it seems!) I loved getting up to go with them! When I heard my cousins getting up – I would jump out of bed and hurry down to go with them. I liked to watch them bring the cows in, feed them, and hook up the milkers. I would peek into the milk tank, mesmerized by the swishing, creamy milk. I was fascinated by the milking machines and their weird sucking noises. I was scared to death of being kicked by a cow, (still am!) and for the life of me couldn’t figure out how they could be so fat if they weren’t going to have a baby calf soon! 😉 

Then I would crawl up into the hayloft with my cousin and watch him pitch hay down. It was very much like Farmer Boy. Once I climbed up into the silo with him, fascinated by the perfect layer of silage he was able to fork off and throw down the chute. The sweet, slightly sour smell of aging silage will stay with me forever. 

I would beg to ride a horse, so they would put a bridle on their oldest, gentlest work horse, and I would bounce around on his wide back till I was covered in horse hair and sweat. Looking back, I am amazed at the patience they had with their horse-crazy little cousin!

Mealtimes were always a delight! My aunt was a great cook – as most Amish women are. The meal would start with a silent bowing of the heads – a prayer to ask God’s blessing on the food, they said. It ended with another silent bowing of the heads – this time to thank God for the food we had consumed. But I never remember a audible prayer spoken at that table. And to my disgrace – I don’t remember praying silently even once. I was just waiting impatiently for the quiet clearing of the throat by my uncle – signaling that the prayer was over and we could dig in.

In between the prayers was a feast. Sometimes simple – but always plenty of food and delicious. Mashed potatoes, gravy, meatloaf or chicken, jello salad, baby peas from their garden, homemade bread- fluffy and wonderful, with strawberry jam. For dessert was chocolate sheet cake with sliced, sweetened strawberries from their strawberry patch – and thick cream! I would watch my cousins tuck away massive amounts of food. I was always amazed at how much – and how fast!- they ate! But to their credit – they worked their tails off between meals, and none of them were even close to fat. I have heard disparaging remarks about the Amish and their carb-laden foods. Well, in my experience – they needed those carbs for some serious energy! Most people I know these days don’t work nearly as hard as those Amish guys did!

My aunt and her daughters were also up before dawn. Usually there was a couple loads of laundry washed and flapping on the line by the time breakfast was ready. They did mounds of laundry – all through a gas-powered wringer washer. I don’t know how the Amish do it these days, but in the 90’s that is what they used.

They also had gas-powered refrigerators and gas lights. I’m not sure how they got away with it – but I’m pretty sure my uncle had an electric freezer in the milk barn. They had to have electric in the dairy – to keep the milk cooled properly. So sometimes they would have telephones, etc, in the milk barn! 😉

Well, this is getting kind of rambly…. Hope you enjoy hearing some of my memories about the Amish in my life! If you have stories and experiences, please share! Just keep the comments family-friendly and kind.

 

My Mother Was Amish ~ Part 1

 

My Mother Was AmishShe was a young Amish girl. She hated housework, but enjoyed working outside. So she started working at the local vegetable farm. She, along with other local youth, hoed, pulled weeds, and picked vegetables in the warm sunshine.

One day as she was picking green beans, she realized that a young man was picking next to her in the row. He introduced himself, and they began to chat as they worked. The next time they were both working at the farm, they chatted again. Pretty soon they were chatting every day.

Well, one thing led to another, and soon they were a couple. He was over 6 ft tall, dark-haired and handsome. His darkly tanned skin and high forehead hinted at his Cherokee heritage. She was a short 5 foot, with brown hair and pretty, dark eyes. They made quite a dashing couple!

But.

Her family was Amish. Amish do not marry people that are not Amish. And for the record, not all Amish call non-Amish ‘Englishers’. In fact, the only place I’ve heard that term, is in books about the Amish. (Which my mom won’t read, because they are so unrealistic! ) Most Amish and Mennonites call community folks: ‘worldly’.

So. My mother was Amish, and Amish don’t marry worldly people! This was a problem. My mother dodged that issue by just leaving the Amish church. When she turned 21, she just walked out and went with my father to a Baptist preacher to get married. If you could just see the photo of the two of them on the church steps!! Tall, handsome Dad, looking sharp in his gray suit, alongside him was my mother, dressed in a gray Amish dress…because Amish are not allowed to wear white to their weddings, you see. That would be too worldly. They try to be different from the world in as many ways as possible.

Anyways. My dad was not raised Amish, and had no desire to convert. He liked cars and engines and conveniences. So they compromised by going to a Mennonite church. Mennonites may look very similar to someone who is not used to them, and in reality they are quite similar. But there is a few glaring differences:

  1. They are allowed to own and drive cars.
  2. They are allowed to use electricity and modern conveniences.

So it came to be, that a Amish girl married a local redneck, and they started a family in a Mennonite community. With my dad coming from a non-Amish background, and my mother coming from an Amish home, I feel like us kids had a unique worldview given to us. Dad would see things one way, and Mom would see them another, and we just listened and made our own decisions. Not surprisingly, each of us kids have taken a slightly different path in life. Our journeys are different, yet the same. We are all committed to Jesus Christ, and each one of us follows Him the best we know how.

To be continued…

http://www.nancherrow.com/2014/03/fridays-unfolded-101.html

5 Things I Have Learned About Grief.

5 things I've learned about grief

I miss my baby boy. He would be 9 today, ya know. I have a hard time picturing him so grown up! He was still my ‘baby‘ when he left us. Sure, he was 2 years old – but still my baby! A rowdy, fun-loving, curly-haired little two year old. He liked to tackle his older siblings and eat tons of bananas. (seriously, 5 in one evening?!) He would tell me “Goo Shob” when I did any little thing for him, like getting him a drink. Heard it so many times himself, I guess. He loved animals and screamed when I took him off the horse’s back, that time I thought I would just sit him in the saddle for a minute. He was ready to stay awhile! 

This is my Andy. 

andy 001

And 7 long years later, it is his birthday again. In honor of which, I decided to share 5 things I have learned about grief. It isn’t really a fun-loving post, but if you have ever lost a child, perhaps you will understand.

andy2

andy4

 

  1. It can come back and bowl you over any time, with no warning. Recently there were several sudden deaths, several miscarriages – people I knew. Or sort of knew. The barrage of sad news just made my own sadness resurface. I cried and cried in the shower. I told my sisters to stop telling me sad stories. I was a mess. I felt a little silly, I mean, seven years, hello? I should be over the weepy stuff, right? But no. There I lay in my bed, tears running down my cheeks, just remembering all his sweet ways. And realizing fresh that he is not coming back to me. I must go to him. And I will! 
  2. It doesn’t help – ever- to hear someone tell you that they understand. Either they understand or they don’t. And no, losing your dog or your grandpa is not the same as losing a child you carried beneath your heart for 9 months. Your own flesh and blood, a tiny human who smelled like you and cried for you and who you cared for 24/7. So if you understand, just act like you do – some of the people who ‘understood‘ the most had never lost a child. That had nothing to do with it. It was their deep heart of compassion that showed through and comforted me.
  3. Some things are always going to hurt. For me, it is curly-haired little boys. And bridges over creeks. And irrigation canals. I can hide my feelings pretty good – can’t we all? But sometimes it is all I can take to not run screaming from a rushing irrigation ditch. I really think I would be OK with never seeing one again. (sorry, farmers – I know they are your lifeblood!)
  4. It is lonely. I have an older-than-me very wise friend who lost two sons in one day. She told me this. I didn’t understand at first. Because at first, you have friends and family and neighbors, all wanting to help. They bring meals and scrub your house and do your laundry and it at least helps you feel not so alone. But after everyone goes home, it’s just you and your thoughts. Memories. Wistful dreams of a do-over on that day. And it is lonely. This is probably why I write about my experience every year. I want to get those feelings out and sort them and maybe feel like others have been there too? It’s incredibly lonely to be grieving someone who most people in your life never even met.
  5. It has it’s own rewards. I have learned so much about compassion, sympathy, and love through this experience. I used to be kind of dry and cold towards others problems, but now I can sympathize deeply with someone who has lost a child. I find myself crying for someone else’s loss. I am touched by sad stories and have a real heart for the unwanted children in the world. I just want to gather every neglected child into my arms and love on them! I still don’t understand the why of it all, but I can trust that God is still in control, and accept that one good thing that came out of this experience, was that I learned compassion. 

andy1

andy3

andy5

 

If you’re curious about the rest of the story about my son,you can read it here.

Have you ever lost a child or a loved one? What is one thing you have learned about grief?

Linking up over at: http://www.nancherrow.com/2014/02/welcome-fridays-unfolded-96.html

Florida Vacation

When I was a kid, my dad would often go to Florida for the winter. We would rent a small house and get seasonal jobs from October till May.  It was great! :) I have some of my best childhood memories in that warm and steamy southern state. Yes, it gets hot. Yes, it gets humid. But I loved it!

Still do, for that matter.

 

Siesta Key

My favorite vacation photo! My 4 kids on Siesta Key.

I enjoy the warmth, the swaying palm trees, the warm rain, and the raucous screaming of seagulls. I love walking around St. Armand’s Circle in the evening, or strolling along the docks at Marina Jacks. A picnic on South Lido Beach in the evening is delightful…salty sea breezes gently brushing your face.

seashellss

My son was intrigued with this broken seashell.

Siesta Key

What a beautiful beach! Seagulls and waves…

And then there is Pinecraft. Anyone who has been there knows what I am talking about! :) A small community of mostly Amish and Mennonite people. Mostly older people, who come south every winter for the climate. And then the young crowd (Breaking Amish, anyone?!) that comes down and ‘sows their wild oats’, away from the eyes of their parents, friends and preachers. Pinecraft has it’s own flavor – an odd assortment of religion, homeless people, and tourists. The streets are filled during winter with people walking, biking or driving golf carts.

Pinecraft house

My parents’ house in Pinecraft. ~Photo credit to Rose Miller~

My Amish grandparents bought a home there in the late 1960’s. My parents helped them move down in ’68. The streets were still sand, back then. They (my grandparents) lived there till my grandpa died, (I am not sure of the year) and then my grandma lived there till her last few years. She died at age 99 in 2005.

pinecraft

My kids were out on this street with their bikes every. single. day.

 

pinecraft

My dad and Lucia.

Some people who have spent time in Pinecraft, or have relatives there – stay far away from it… don’t like the reputation, or the connections – I’m not sure what.  I lived there many winters, and I still like it! 😉 The Amish neither intimidate nor impress me. I am not Amish or Mennonite, but I have many good memories there, and besides that – the streets are PERFECT for kids to bike on! Or for anyone, actually. When I took my kids there earlier this month, they spent a good part of every day just biking. They have a lot of these cool 3-wheeled bikes, and they are fun to ride! My 5 year old enjoyed it tremendously. We could hardly pry her away from her bike! :) My parents continue to spend their winters in Pinecraft, and my dad fixes up old bikes to sell or rent. So he had plenty on hand for us to pick from!

Myakka

Enjoying Myakka State Park on a chilly day!

palm trees

We drove out to Myakka State Park one day to see alligators… but it was cold and windy (for FL) and we didn’t see one gator!! In all my years of going to Myakka – I have never been there and not seen a gator. But this year… THIS year, when I had my kids along – nope! Not a one! The main wildlife we saw was vultures. Ugly old birds, they are!

IMG_3088

We took in the Famous Lipizzaner Stallions – the show isn’t as good as it was when the Mr. Hermann was running it, but I think it will revive in time.

Lippizaner stallions

We spent a morning at Jungle Gardens – always a favorite! The reptile show, the jungle vegetation… but especially the Bird show was extremely popular with my kids! It was the only attraction we took in that cost money. But well worth it! Those birds are hilarious! And so smart.

florida flowers

florida trained birds

We went to various beaches, the kids built sandcastles (of course!) and the last evening we had a picnic at South Lido – just like we did so many times when I was a kid. It was fun.

Lido Beach picnic

Lido Beach

I sure enjoyed my short visit… I thought maybe the reality of Florida – after being gone 14 years – would make me realize I liked it less….

I was wrong.

I like it more! 😀 I think living at the North Pole (aka: Wyoming) for a number of years has given me an even greater love for all places warm! 😉 Hopefully I can visit my favorite childhood home again, someday. And I’m hoping I don’t have to wait another 14 years! 😀

So where is your favorite vacation spot? Do you prefer cold or warm?