“Gladiator Gabby” and Sub-zero Temps.

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“Mom, Gabby has escaped.”

Those were the words that awakened me from my sound, cozy, oblivious to the -1 degree temperatures outside at 2 a.m., sleep. “What? Are you sure?”  Yes, he was sure…and, he was, unfortunately, right.

A little back-story on Gabby…

She showed up one hot, summer day at our old home about 6 years ago, emaciated and timid, lurking in a row of trees behind our above-ground pool.  My older son was the first to spot her so he named her Gabby.  Now, I know the rule about not feeding strays, but I just can’t look at an innocent animal, half-starved, and not offer them a bite to eat.  Not sure of her temperament, we put the food down and stayed at a bit of a distance, though we soon found out, that was how she was going to keep us anyhow.

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We continued putting food out for Gabby, and she continued to keep her distance.  I noticed she would follow me, however, whenever I would go into a certain area of the yard and soon found out why.  I was taking care of our pet chickens one afternoon when I felt eyes on me.  Amazing how we can sense that, anyhow, I looked up and saw two pairs of the most adorable blue eyes staring back at me through the bushes to my left.  Gabby was a mom!

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And, what a devoted mom she was! I was ever so glad I ignored the well-intentioned advice to not feed a stray, and she immediately gained my “mom” respect for taking such good care of her kittens even in her half-starved state.  As time went on, I continued to feed Gabby, and her kittens, now weaned, would come out to eat as well.  Only one of the three would allow me to pet her, and she quickly became my favorite.  She was so pretty we named her “Pretty Kitty” and her sister, the shy, feisty one, we named “Bittie.”

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Bittie in her glory days

Fast forward many months… my precious “Pretty” sadly died and my sweet dog, Princess, was now an accomplice to murder. Gabby was just allowing me to barely touch her, and Bittie, a.k.a. “Miss Pris” or “Fussikins” was slowly warming up.  I tried to find homes for the remaining two, as I am more accustomed to dogs, but quickly found out that cats are very hard to find homes for.  I got them both neutered, up on their shots, and added them to our menagerie of two dogs, seven chickens, and one rabbit, oh my.

Bittie soon showed she had no street smarts, literally, so was held captive inside for her own good.

 She has adjusted quite well…

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Gabby would have none of it, so has remained an outside cat to this day.

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She earned the nickname “Gladiator Gabby” after we moved into our present home.  We have a circular stone area below our back porch, and Gabby soon took to bringing her found objects of prey into the “ring” where she commenced to perform her gladiator show.  I and my sons have rescued what we could by a quick knock on the window, and I have to admit, I have secretly cheered as well when a battered mouse or mole escaped her clutches.

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Though she is now trusting of us and sweet, her love of hunting and the feeling of freedom has kept her from wanting to ever be confined to a house.  Last night, however, I gave her no choice. With temperatures predicted to dip to below zero, I lured her in, untrusting that even her heat lamp could keep her warm in that cold.

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I have to wonder if those in the mid-west, or north-west states laugh at our reactions to these temperatures and snow.  It reminds me of a Texan friend I had while attending college in Missouri, where it snowed in November and the ground remained white until April.  On our first snowfall as freshman, we, that is those of us not accustomed to such snow amounts, were sure that all college classes would be cancelled. Not so. Leaving the dorm, my Texas friend fussed and fumed as we carefully picked our steps down the sidewalk to our classes.  This was not until after she had called her mother, reporting the un-Godly conditions, that she, her daughter, was forced to face. I’m not sure if she thought her mother could call the college and convince them to cancel classes or if she was just so overwrought she needed to vent…either way, we were soon on our way to face the elements. Now please don’t be offended if you’re from Texas. I love the grit and spunk of Texans, but my dear friend just happened to have a strong sense of fashion, and heels, not snow-shoes (though she didn’t own a pair, thus the dilemma) were more her style.

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But, back to Gabby and her 2 a.m. escape.  She was put into a large, portable fenced area with a cozy blanket, food, water, litter-box, and a cloth covering to surely keep her from thoughts of escaping to wander the house.  She has, in the past, “claimed” a piece of furniture in a way that neither I nor the furniture appreciated, thus the enclosure.  Unfortunately, the fence was no obstacle for Gabby, and in the wee hours of the morning she was off to find another couch.

After coaxing her back into her enclosure, my son and I were quite the early-morning team of “walking” the fence to the nearest bathroom, with Gabby following along inside.  Despite her howls of protests, and a few more escapes, she, and I, eventually fell back into sleep.  I, dreaming of warmer days, and she, I’m sure, of future outdoor adventures.

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Today I woke to -4 degree windchill, but it warmed up to a big °15 by 2:00. School is cancelled for a third day tomorrow, and I’m off to get a much needed 2nd cup of coffee. Gabby got her way and made it out today to play in the snow and has refused all invitations to come back inside, sigh. She is a gladiator afterall.

Until next time,

∼ Jen

Morning Time – December

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Christmas decorations have been put away and the New Year has cheerfully been rung in around the world…now to mentally adjust to the new date of 2018.  I can still remember back in high school when we had an assignment on what we thought the year 2000 would be like….back then, that was like trying to imagine living in outer space. Eighteen years into this millennium and it still sometimes feels surreal to me.

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We had our first snowstorm of the season in early December which gave me some beautiful pictures to look back on.  As I sit writing this, we are in the midst of our first blizzard, dubbed a “bomb cyclone.”  Thankfully, we have not lost power, and I have been baking off and on for two days.  Something about snowstorms puts me in the baking mood, which my family always appreciates.

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I was out early the day after the December snowfall taking pictures before I even had my morning coffee….for me that’s saying a lot.  I wanted to get some pics before Princess and the neighbor’s dogs started leaving their tracks.

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Something about the morning after a freshly fallen snow is just magical.

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snow covered beauty berry

The snow was the kind that clung to the branches, and the snow-laden limbs overhanging the creek were indeed picturesque.

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I had plenty of bird food, with one area in particular resembling a southern smorgasbord, minus the grits, of course. Between the sunflower seed, peanuts, a variety of suet cakes and mealworms I was a shoo-in for birder of the neighborhood.

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downy woodpecker

Unfortunately, it has also become a natural hunting ground for the neighbor’s cats and at least one hawk. I try to keep everything in as safe an area as possible for them, which can be a challenge… a place with no hiding spots for the furry intruders but with a covered brush area for the ground feeders, to hopefully hide from dastardly Mr. Hawk.

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tufted titmouse

Whenever I see the little dark-eyed junco around the feeders, I know a snow is in the near future-he certainly lives up to his nick-name “snowbird.”

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dark-eyed junco

He was caught below doing his happy little “snow victory dance.”

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This is a good article about how to welcome the little guy and other wintering birds that may come to your area.

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blue-jay
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male northern cardinal
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carolina wren

The snow only lasted a few days before the weather warmed up, only to  plunge us into a bitter cold streak a week later. The birds kept me entertained as the cold brought them to the feeders early each day.

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carolina wren

The secret to keeping blue jays happy and continually coming back is found in the power of the peanut!

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Though the male cardinal is known for his beauty, I find the female equally beautiful…

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northern female cardinal

The little group of finches gathered together at the feeder one morning reminded me of little old men meeting up at a country store to gab over breakfast…

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house finch

The wood thrush is a rarely seen visitor, but he makes his presence known by his hopping about and flinging through the leaves so violently with its beak it’s a wonder he doesn’t give himself whiplash.

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wood thrush

Besides birds, the squirrels are always good for a show, and I really don’t mind them raiding the bird feeders or grabbing the jay’s peanuts.

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He was not the only wild mammal to visit our yard…before I had barely opened my eyes one morning I spied a fox trotting off with something in its mouth.  I was relieved to see it wasn’t my cat but a little sad to think one of my squirrels had just become his breakfast.

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The geese didn’t seem to mind the frigid water temperatures and they delight me each morning as they honk their goodbyes when leaving the peninsula.  They don’t wander  into our section of the creek often, so I enjoy it when they do.

I end with a morning view from our anniversary getaway. The deck was obviously too cold to enjoy, but the scenery was well worth waking up to.

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I hope my dear blogging friends going through the blizzard with me are staying warm and cozy and enjoying the beauty of the snow and the wildlife it highlights.

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Until next time,

∼ Jen

Merry Christmas…

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 To my dear friends and treasured acquaintances here in the blogosphere, I wish you a very merry and wonderful Christmas season!

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As I sit here sipping my coffee, watching my cat sleep peacefully by the fire, I can’t help but recall all I have to be thankful for in my life, and I wish this  same peace and joy on all who may read this.

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We know it’s not about the material possessions, status, or any of those other things that have no lasting meaning…peace and happiness come from inside and the relationships we surround ourselves with.

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 One of my most peaceful Christmas seasons came at a time when I didn’t know when my next paycheck was coming…true peace transcends those things.

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And at this time of the year especially, as we celebrate the birth of our savior, we find life’s truest joy…

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I have been reading the last in the Thomas Kinkade’s Cape Light series, this one written by Katherine Spencer, and I loved the way a character in the book summed up the manger scene:

….it is a scene of community, cooperation, a coming together of so many diverse players in this joyful drama.  Characters of high birth and low. A tradesman and his young wife, seeking a new home. A shepherd and a king. A wise man and even an angel. All from different backgrounds, with different perspectives on the world and different opinions, I’m sure. But their differences seemed suddenly trivial, eclipsed by their common experience the awe-inspiring experience that connected them, that brought them to common ground, both literal and spiritually. The recognition and adoration of the baby Jesus.

…finally, I thought of the beautiful, innocent baby in this scene.  A baby who responds the same to the admiration of the shepherd or the king. A baby who doesn’t know the difference between any of the different faces surrounding him.  He reaches toward all of them with equal love. Because that is the way God has created and loves us.  We are all equal in His eyes and all worthy of love, respect, and care.

 

May you each experience this true and lasting joy.

Until next time,

∼Jen

 

 

Because a Song, Needed to be Sung….

 

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Early music days

It all began in a little recording studio where a mutual friend had taken me to cut a demo.  The co-owner was engaged to be married at the time, I became engaged a few months later, at some point we both got un-engaged, and the rest, as they say, is history.

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Lewes, De – First Date

And how can it be we have created twenty-five years of history already….it seems like yesterday, and yet so much has happened in our little lifetimes together. Times of joy, times of tears, new beginnings and new lives…all because a song, needed to be sung.

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We left the altar filled with dreams and hopes of a lifetime together…and we have been blessed.

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First one precious son, then another, and a third child we’ll someday meet in heaven…

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While our sons grew into young men, lines crept onto our faces, and gray, though fiercely fought, invaded our temples…and still we face our days yet to be written, thankfully together.

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  I smile, as the lesson in my Bible study this week just happens to be the love chapter

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. 1 Cor. 13:4-7

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I wish I could say I lived up to all those wonderful words of wisdom on love…yet, it is love, along with God’s grace and a good dose of humor, that has seen us through the past and will hopefully grant us many more years in the future…because, a song still needs to be sung.

To my husband, with all my heart,

∼Jen

So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.

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The Last Two…

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“Hmm, what’s this? Looks like the little lady put out some peanuts for our morning snack”

 

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“Whoa, wait a minute there blue, those nuts are spoken for.”

 

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“That’s right, off you go, I saw these first.”

 

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“What, you again….didn’t we already have this discussion?”

 

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“Back away, back away I tell you!”

 

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“Uh, oh, this is not looking good…”

 

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“One, one little nut to get me through this coming snow, the world’s gone mad I tell you…”

 

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So, who got the last nut? Your guess is as good as mine! Snow is in our forecast, so, I’m off to fight the crowds of milk and bread buyers….I’ll be putting peanuts in my cart;)

Until next time, go buy some peanuts, you’ll be glad you did!

∼Jen

 

 

Morning Time…October-November

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Well, Thanksgiving is behind us, and though it is not officially the end of fall,  winter doesn’t seem too far off.  I love living in a place where I can enjoy each of the four seasons, and quiet mornings, sipping coffee, seem a wonderful way to savor them.

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Once again, I have gathered those pictures from my morning photo shoots to relive the moments. With fall being very hectic I missed October’s post so am combining the two months…I hope you enjoy.

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Red-bellied woodpecker

Woodpeckers like these are the reason I ask my husband to leave the smaller dead trees on our property standing.

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The pileated woodpecker, below, is quite the character, and also quite loud, competing only with “Harold” in volume.

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The net was put on the pond in October, and the frogs put on quite the show as they bounced on it like a trampoline.  There is a large opening allowing them access into and out of the pond, and one was actually observed bouncing, then doing a backflip into this exposed area…Nadia Comăneci would have been impressed.

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Taking a break from gymnastics….

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The squirrels enjoyed raiding the peanuts and sunflower seeds from the bird-feeders…

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Downy woodpecker is a frequent visitor to the bird feeder area, especially enjoying the suet…

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Downy Woodpecker 

Another favorite at the feeder is the tufted titmouse, such a friendly little guy…he flys off to nearby branches to bang open the sunflower seeds.

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Tufted Titmouse

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Sparrows and chickadees were also in abundance, however, the chickadee was not very photogenic;) Though I think the below sparrow is a white-throated one, I am not confident of that-feel free to educate me!

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Of all the birds I enjoyed watching in the last two months, I was more than thrilled when the typically seen cardinal reappeared after more than a months absence.  His presence one morning in the tree below made my day!

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I tried to convince myself the cardinals were not around the feeders because of the abundance of fall seeds, but after seeing red feathers on the ground, and the character below on at least three occasions near the feeders, I was beginning to worry.

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I’ll be the first to admit, though I admire nature more than most, I am not at all a fan of hawks!!!  If I saw them flying with a snake dangling from their mouth I may feel differently, however, I have only ever seen them zooming by with poor, helpless songbirds in their clutches.

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Morning sunlight on the creek

Lastly on my trip down photo memory-lane… I was able to photograph the raccoon below as he neared the creek at low tide, then nimbly walked across a newly-fallen tree to the peninsula on the other side.  I wish I could have gotten his front, but he is still a beaut from behind.

It was an adventurous two months of coffee-time scenery, and I enjoyed many other nature moments and firsts not captured on film. Though it’s hard, sometimes I resist the dash for the camera and force myself to simply sit still and treasure the moment.

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Until next time, may you have many memorable nature moments as well.

∼Jen

A Grateful Heart

Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. James 1:17

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Mourning Doves in the fall

Well, today is that glorious day we set aside here in the states to give thanks for the many blessings bestowed upon us from our gracious Heavenly Father.

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A fall walk

It’s usually a day spent with family, enjoying one another’s company,  grateful for each one gathered, while recounting another year of the many things to be thankful for. Our family is fortunate this year that we will all be present and accounted for…with a family of five siblings, that is no small feat!

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Toad trying not to be seen

Usually, I would be scurrying around preparing the corn pudding, baking pumpkin pies and the usual things I contribute to the feast. Today I will be doing those things and a few more at a leisurely pace, as our family will gather tomorrow so that all can be present.

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Purple Finch

 I am reminded this year, as in many past Thanksgivings, of the importance of counting our blessings and truly being grateful for what we have, even in the hard, and sometimes lonely times which we all go through in life.

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In doing so, I usually look back to a trip I took with members of my church to Haiti as a young adult. I vividly remember my first sight of the poverty-stricken country… I wanted to run back to the airport and catch the first flight back.  I had never seen such conditions up close and personal, and it left an impact on me I will never forget.

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A quiet bench in the fall

What impacted me more, though, was the absolute joy and gratitude, and what could only be described as graciousness, from the Christian people we had the opportunity to meet with while there. I recall going to a church out in the country-dirt floor, rough lumber for pews, no electricity-and the absolute spirit of thanks these people had as they
showed off their prize possession. We were also invited into their homes, where they shared enthusiastically from their very meager supplies, meals served with the greatest of hospitality.

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Glen Ellen Farms, upper Maryland

 After experiencing such phenomenal gratefulness in the face of such abject poverty, I remember getting back to the states where hearing complaints for the smallest of things felt like being slapped in the face with an ice-cold cloth.  And, after determining I would never grumble or complain again, sadly, I too, soon fell into my old ways of not always being thankful for even the littlest of blessings in life.

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Geese at Assateague Island, VA

Oh,there are many times I thank God just for hot running water, as there we experienced just a trickle in the shower, while some of the locals were bathing in mud puddles in the street.  And when I take my  first sip of steaming coffee in the morning, I am usually very grateful.

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But, there are those times, when I simply forget and grumble about the smallest of things when I have so, so much to be thankful for….a  loving family, friends, a warm home, food, clean water, books to read and the ability to read them, the love and care of my Heavenly Father… the list could go on all day.

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Squirrel on island of moss

My prayer continues to be that I will always be grateful for even the smallest of blessings and be mindful of those less fortunate than myself.

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Wild turkeys encountered on a cycling trip

Wherever you are, whether celebrating Thanksgiving here in the States or elsewhere in this big, wonderful world, may you celebrate all the things to be thankful for in your life, this day and each day forward.

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Until next time

∼ Jen

Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; for his steadfast love endures forever! Psalm 118:1

 

Near Miss

I have been busy with Thanksgiving preparations but so enjoyed this blog post that I decided to re-blog for others to enjoy. Stewart is a wonderful story teller… browse his site, you’ll be glad you did!

Happy Thanksgiving all, we have much to be thankful for!

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Until next time,

∼ Jen

Storyshucker

Wait! Frantically I chased the bus trying to catch the driver’s attention. Brakes screeched and exhaust puffed as he threw open the door and impatiently waved me in. Out of breath from my unexpected sprint, I leaped onto the bus which jerked roughly into motion. Why does everything seem so urgent?

Ear shattering noises blasting from my alarm clock that morning had startled me into reality. Abusing the snooze button meant ultimately springing from bed in a hasty rush. After a speedy shower I dressed in a hurry and dashed out of my front door to see the bus pulling away.

And from now on I should hurry! I nearly missed it!

Anxiety at work as constant emails popped up. Between fast-paced phone calls I zipped out for a quick lunch and realized in a panic that I was late to a meeting. Choking down a sandwich while running, I…

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A Friend’s Thanksgiving

Oh! Think Not My Spirits Are Always As Light

…The thread of our life would be dark, Heaven knows
If it were not with friendship and love intertwined;
And I care not how soon I may sink to repose,
When these blessing shall cease to be dear to my mind.

 by Thomas Moore

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Of all the holidays and gatherings, I think Thanksgiving has to be my favorite.  It is a time  set aside to remember all we have been blessed with, giving thanks to God for all the bountiful gifts and blessings He bestows on us in so many different ways.  It is simple, unpretentious, not bogged down in commercialism…just a beautiful season of gratitude, because, in each season of life, we always have things to be thankful for.

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A few year ago I decided I would like to have a “Friends Thanksgiving” to celebrate the wonderful friendships in my life.  I am so grateful to be surrounded by family, and we have our day of celebration on the actual holiday, but during this season I am also reminded of the absolute blessing that real friends bring to our lives.

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Over the weekend we had a gathering of our closest and dearest friends along with their kids who are now treasured friends of our kids…double blessing!  It was a night filled with much laughter, good food, and just plain fun.  Among my dearest friends is one I have known since first grade.  We could spend hours laughing till we cry reminiscing over past memories.  She is my fellow nature lover, photographer, and incredible artist who hasn’t met an artistic medium she can’t conquer.  She is a teacher any parent would love to have for their child because of her caring heart and common-sense approach.  Long ago school days, ice-skating on frozen ponds, hiking through woods, cycling nature trails and kayaking all while solving the world’s problems then laughing hysterically are all cherished memories with this incredible friend.  Knowing my love for plants, she brought me the beautiful rosemary plant pictured below, which Kitty has adopted.

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Another treasured friendship is from my  single, college days.  This is my very practical friend, also a nature/animal lover and the one who taught me all a dog owner ever needed to know about cats.  We call her the cat whisperer as she is the one who first dared hold the wild cats that showed up in our yard that we have since adopted and love…yes the one above was “wild.”  I have so many fun memories of silly things single girls do and then the memories continued as we both went on to get married and have kids within the same few years.  As our kids grew up together we shared play-dates in the park, baseball games, basketball games as the crazy moms on the top bleacher, family cycling days, campfires, beach days, and more recently, hikes through West Virginia.  She gave us all a scare this year with a cancer, but thankfully she is well, and it was another reason to set aside a day and give thanks for her friendship.

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Last, but not least, is a more recent friend made when our kids were older elementary-aged.  She is also practical, but fun-loving and a loyal, trusted friend.  We, too, have shared cycling trips, field trips with our kids, coffee time on our porches, pool days, Easter egg hunts and tears and laughter as we tried to figure out the crazy teen years together!  She is an incredible mom, as are my other dear friends, and I have been blessed with her wisdom and understanding as I navigate through the stages of motherhood.

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As I look at the fading beauty of the mums on my porch, I am reminded that the beauty of true friendships never fade. As I tell my sons, if you have even just one true friend in life, you are blessed- someone you can laugh with, cry with, be yourself with and be loved through the good times and bad…in essence, “family.”

May you treasure the beautiful friendships in your life!

Until next time

∼ Jen

Simply Fall…

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Late Autumn by William Allingham

October – and the skies are cool and gray
O’er stubbles emptied of their latest sheaf,
Bare meadow, and the slowly falling leaf.
The dignity of woods in rich decay
Accords full well with this majestic grief
That clothes our solemn purple hills to-day,
Whose afternoon is hush’d, and wintry brief
Only a robin sings from any spray.

And night sends up her pale cold moon, and spills
White mist around the hollows of the hills,
Phantoms of firth or lake; the peasant sees
His cot and stockyard, with the homestead trees,
Islanded; but no foolish terror thrills
His perfect harvesting; he sleeps at ease.

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Geese grace the autumn sky at a local state park

  I have enjoyed reading many Autumn poems this season, and it would be interesting to know, of the four seasons, just which one has inspired more poets.

While each season holds its own special enchantment, fall definitely has a magic of its own…the cool, misty mornings; later sunrises, earlier sunsets; trees bedecked in jeweled tones; leaves dancing on the breeze before floating gently to the ground, scents of smokey fireplaces drifting in the night air; outings to pumpkin patches and wandering through corn mazes, while pumpkins, gourds and mums decorate the landscape.

For this post, I simply wanted to share some of my favorite fall pictures, past and present.  I hope you enjoy!

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The above picture of the snail posed perfectly on the pumpkin greeted me as I stepped outside one crisp, fall morning.

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Mature trees lining the streets make fall an especially favorite time for walks….

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A  pair of geese enjoyed a few hours on a fallen log one autumn afternoon…

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and my buddy “Harold” remained longer than expected as we kayaked into view another fall day…

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Fall colors through the window of a favorite reading spot…

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Green makes way for fiery oranges, yellows and reds …

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Geese honk their arrival in the evenings as they rest for the night on the peninsula, and at a favorite park during the day they glide over then land with a splash…

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I hope this season finds you joyful and well!

Until next time!

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∼ Jen