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Traveling Takes A Step of Faith

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My daughter has always accused my husband and me of being the Ma and Pa Kettle of travels. We’ve been sort of lucky and managed to bumble into fantastic places. We like to say my husband often ‘Homer’s’ us into good deals and cool places. But when we travel, it is truly an act of faith. I never traveled much as a kid and when I married, it was a matter of wonder to me that we could get on a plane and fly to fantastic places that had nothing to do with life as we lived it back home. There’s a degree of faith to climb onto a plane and assume it’s going to get you from Point A to Point B safely. When we first started traveling, you couldn’t check out where you were going on travel sites and look at reviews, so you read catalogs and trusted the pictures portrayed the hotel or resort as it actually was. But there was also an act of faith in agreeing to spend money on travel rather than buying that new couch or new car and to never look back in regret on whatever you chose to do.

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People have asked me where is my favorite place, and I would have to say the first place to come to mind is Italy. I know to many people, the first place in Italy they think of is Rome with its Coliseum, St. Peter’s, and the Roman Forum, and I love Rome, too. But I found Cinque Terre one of my favorite pieces of Italy, five villages carved out of the rugged coast of the Italian Riviera. I love the way these villages have balanced color and symmetry of nature with the man-made.  I have friends and family who like to plot their own itineraries, but we’ve always tended to travel with groups or sail on cruise ships.

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There is a sacred beauty and balance in travel, and we can see unfamiliar places with new eyes. Sadly, we don’t always see the sacredness and beauty in the familiar that surrounds us every day, so it takes travel to take us out of ourselves and our everyday world.

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Another favorite place of mine is Venice. I realize none of these places I’m choosing are particularly surprising when it comes to being favorite places, but they are the places that speak to me in meaningful ways. In Italy, there are such contrasts between man-made and nature-made beauty, and yet it all appears to come of one piece, and there’s a balance between nature and man that easily speaks to the soul.

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Easter Island is a place I found myself thinking, ‘Oh yeah, aliens are definitely a possibility when you see these monoliths.’ But again, it’s a place that’s humbling. When you see these statues, you feel they make no sense, but the place gives you a feeling this was exactly what it was meant to be. You look at the guy with the party hat, and you figure he must have been a fun guy and had quite a story to tell.

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Machu Pichu is another place I love that combines the beauty and wonder of man-made structures incorporated into the ethereal beauty of a natural setting. There are places in the world that strike such a sacred, balanced note, that even tourists can’t distract from the harmonious settings.

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The Australian Outback was another amazing place to visit. Of course there, it was an act of faith that the nets on our heads would protect us from the Australian flies! This is a land that might at first seem unforgiving, and yet it lets you know there is a specialness to every place on earth. If we let ourselves be still, God speaks to us wherever we are, and travel does allow us to take a step of faith that is well worthwhile. Travel invites the whole world into our hearts and minds.

Thanks for stopping by and letting me share!

Bren

 

 

 

 

 

Through the Glass Darkly, But Then, Face-To-Face, Happy Birthday Dad!

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Many of us baby boomers take the time each year to acknowledge the birthday of our parents’, or someone else dear to us who has passed away. As we age, I know more and more  friends have died, and with Facebook, we are more cognizant of the passage of time and how easily people slip away without us quite realizing how it happened.

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My dad’s parents and siblings meant so much to him in his lifetime. Family reunions were an important event to him until the end of his life. He and his sister shared a special bond toward the end of their lives, and it was precious to see. Our final barrier to death is that we can imagine what our parents might think of us today, but we can’t know for sure. It’s through the glass darkly now, but when we die, it will be a face-to-face experience.

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I am a notorious person for trying to figure out what things mean and how our history affects the way we see life–especially how we view our own lives. I love sharing memories with old friends, again, this is made much easier thanks to social media. But perception is such a part of those memories. It’s weird when you relate a memory to a friend and they have no idea what you’re talking about, and yet they can tell you another memory you don’t recall at all. Our percepts of the world are always our own, and what we perceive is like no other person’s experience. Below I would like to share an experience I had with my dad not long before he died.

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I remember a few months before he died my father had a minor heart attack and when he was in the hospital they put tubes down his throat so he could breathe. Afterwards, when he was back at his assisted-living apartment,  he told me about the experience. He said he drifted up to the ceiling and was looking down at all the people in the operating room. He saw a light.

My heart raced when he told me this and I asked, “Did you see Mom, or Grandma or Grandpa?”

Tears welled up in his eyes and I felt his sadness. “No, but I knew if I remembered the name, I could go.”

A flash of hope shot through me. “Was the name God or Jesus?”

He didn’t answer, but kept repeating, “If I could just remember the name.”

Every time I visited my father, he seemed a little bit stronger. After a month, I finally had the courage to bring up the subject again. “Remember when you used to say when you were dead, you were dead, and there was nothing else after?”

“Yes.”

“And do you remember when you were having that procedure done in the hospital you floated up to the ceiling?”

“Of course I do.”

“Dad, I think you came back for a reason. I think God was giving you another chance.”

After a moment’s hesitation, he said,  “I believe you’re right.”

“WouldyougowithmetochurchonSunday?” My question came out in one breath.

“Yes, I would.” He took my hand in his own.

The following Sunday, we drove up to the school auditorium where my church has services on Sundays. It was a hobbling walk for him up to the auditorium, but we managed. People reached out to give assistance as if realizing what a momentous occasion it was.

We sat in the back row of folding chairs, and another graying man leaned over and stared at my dad. “I know you. I used to do some building for you.”

My father’s eyes blurred for a minute, but then lit up with a hint of the old spark. “Darrell Hayes,  I remember you, too.”

After church, the men walked out together and spent time reminiscing about people they used to know. It seemed no small miracle that my father hadn’t been to church in nearly eighty years, and yet he’d found a church friend.

Each Sunday my father and I would go to church and the pastor always seemed to have the right sermon. I had confidence my father would learn the name he was searching for.

Two months later, when it was time for Dad to go, he had no need to struggle. The last time I saw him, he held my hand. “I’m ready to go now. You just gotta know the name.”

And all I can say today is I’m happy you learned the name, Dad, I’m so happy you learned the name. And happy birthday to you!

Thanks for stopping by.

Love,

Bren

 

 

 

Five Favorite Disney World Resorts–At Least My Favorite Five

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I would have to say Polynesian Village Resort is my favorite of the D.W. resorts. https://disneyworld.disney.go.com/resorts/polynesian-resort/ We’ve only stayed there once about ten years ago, but they have since remodeled it, and it looks better now than it did then. Back then, we lived in California, so we got a pretty good package deal that included flight, D.W. tickets, and room. Disney’s attention to detail is incredible, and when you stay there, you feel you’re in Polynesia–very soothing. Today, they even have rooms on stilts over-looking the water, complete with thatched roofs. It’s proximity to Magic Kingdom is great, and you can travel by monorail or boat to get there. And of course, all Disney resorts have buses that take you anywhere around the park. When you stay at any Disney resort on property, you can get fast passes online sixty days in advance of your actual trip, guaranteeing you get the rides you want. The only reason we don’t stay at Polynesian now is, due to its popularity, we can never find discounts to stay there at online travel sites.

My number two favorite spot is the Grand Floridian Resort & Spa. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sweSwKNdZzM I have to be honest and say I’ve never stayed there, but I have had a friend stay and tell me it’s great. She found a discount online for it, but we have not been so fortunate. But we have been inside the hotel, and the decor, restaurants, and shops are fantastic. It has an elegant Victorian style and there’s a piano player in the evening and also a band ensemble. At Christmas, they have a huge gingerbread house that’s pretty cool. You also have access to Magic Kingdom via monorail or boat. There are several restaurants, but my absolute favorite is Narcoosee’s on the water. If you go later in the evening, you can view the fireworks at Magic Kingdom from the restaurant. They have a filet mignon to die for–it melts in your mouth.

Number three on my list, and one I can more easily afford, thanks to discounts at travel sites, is Wilderness Lodge Resort. https://disneyworld.disney.go.com/resorts/wilderness-lodge-resort/ The hotel is Disney’s version of Yellowstone Lodge, only with much more detail and whimsy. We like to pretend we are at Yosemite when we stay there. It’s surrounded by pine trees, and even has a faux ‘Old Faithful’. Access to Magic Kingdom is via boat or bus. There are lots of grounds because you can walk to the Fort Wilderness campgrounds. They have horses and bikes to rent, also little boats, but all the resorts on the water have boats to rent. There’s a pretty bike/walking trail from the lodge to the campgrounds that’s about 2.5 miles round trip. We usually see a deer or two when we take this walk. (live ones) My favorite place at Wilderness Lodge for breakfast or lunch is The Whispering Canyon Cafe.

Number four on my list is Disney’s Yacht & Beach Club Resort. https://www.disneymeetings.com/disneyworld/yacht-and-beach-club-resort/ These hotels are on the boardwalk right outside of Epcot. It’s easy to take a boat to Epcot or Hollywood Studios. The motif on the boardwalk is New England seaside village and it’s quite pretty at night. The Yacht Club and the Beach Club are considered two hotels, but they sort of blend together, and again, the decor is cleverly done on both sides, but the Yacht Club side seems more formal. There are lots of places to eat, in the hotels, on the boardwalk, and in Epcot itself. Too many choices to choose a favorite. It is usually easier to find the Beach Club Resort discounted on travel sites. Surprisingly, you can sometimes find rooms at The Swan and The Dolphin on sale on sites. They are not technically part of Disney, but they can use the boats and buses that take you around the parks. We have stayed at the Dolphin, and they are both very elegant hotels, yet they don’t have the whimsy of the Disney hotels. They are located on the boardwalk as well, but you do have to pay for parking when you stay at The Swan or The Dolphin, whereas parking is free at the Disney World resorts.

My number five favorite resort is Animal Kingdom Lodge. https://disneyworld.disney.go.com/resorts/animal-kingdom-lodge/ This is a beautiful resort as well, very elaborately decorated and focused on details, much like Wilderness Lodge. It is another resort that is sometimes found discounted on travel sites. There are animals wandering around the resort grounds, which creates a pretty cool atmosphere, but don’t worry no lions or tigers are wandering about. LOL! This is a wonderful hotel, but I think there were two reasons it only made my number five spot. One, we got a discounted rate and I didn’t feel our room was that nice. We didn’t have a bathtub and the room was a little small. In all the other hotels, even with discounted prices, I felt like we got nice rooms. The other reason it’s number five is because the only transportation to get to any of the parks is via bus. This is fine, but I do like when we can take the boat or monorail.  My favorite restaurant to eat at is Boma’s. It is an African buffet and there’s really an unusual selection of food choices, both sweet and savory. It is probably one of our favorite places to eat at the parks.

***I’m cheating and adding one more resort, but I’ve just checked it out and not stayed at The Shades of Green Resort, but it appears to be a great resort with reasonable rates. However, it’s very specific to active or retired military families. But if you’ve previously been in the military, they have specific times you can book rooms there even if you’re not active or retired. It’s located across the road from Polynesian Village Resort and it has a golf course. http://www.militarydisneytips.com/Shades-of-Green.html  

If you’re still a kid at heart, it’s difficult not to love Disney World. But if you’re not a huge fan of the heat and humidity, the best time to come is November-April, and avoid all the holidays when and where possible. Floridians love May & October, but others might think it’s too hot then even though the humidity has generally rolled back at that time. Sometimes, the best time to come is about a week after the holidays or a week before. Of course, this is all my own opinion, and I’m sure other people might have completely different ideas on what are the best resorts, and your own judgment is what matters most. The most important point is to enjoy!!!!

Thanks for stopping by.

Bren

 

 

 

 

I Don’t Think We’re In Kansas Anymore, Toto!

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When I scroll down Facebook pages, after seeing pictures of children and grandchildren, my next favorite photos are those of friends’ pets. Sometimes when I’m feeling a little blue, those pics of beloved pets never cease to make me smile.  I’ve had friends grieve for their animals who have died, and I know friends who have gone through their own illnesses and their pets were there for them and raised their spirits. When I was suffering from empty-nest syndrome after our daughter went away to the Air Force Academy, our dog was there for me.

We had a little mangy mixed-breed dog who always looked like Toto to us. Actually, he was Toto to us. We were never in Kansas as long as we had him, and our lives never felt gray and dreary, rather always in technicolor. He was a part of our lives for a dozen years and he meant so much to us as a family, actually, he was part of our family.

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Life is awesome, and our pets make our lives even more meaningful. They give us the unconditional love we hope we give to our families, but sadly, sometimes it’s easier to give this unconditional love to our pets. Our animals never judge us, they expect nothing from us, and I think more importantly, they’re never disappointed in us!

 

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Sometimes our pets share those holidays and special milestones with us. And they react with quiet dignity when we put silly outfits on them! And where would we be without those adorable occasion cards with animals? If you are lucky enough to have a pet,  give your pet a hug today and be thankful for those wonderful memories.

I know many people have dogs who are ‘service animals’ and have been trained to help if people cannot see, hear, or even if they have some illness the pet can detect before it becomes life endangering. But in Missouri, the ‘show me’ state, this man went into a restaurant with his pet snake wrapped around his neck. Other diners were quite queasy and nervous about this pet, many diners leaving. When the man was asked to leave, he refused because he said the snake was a ‘service snake’ and kept him from getting depressed. The manager accepted his explanation, only later discovering the only legitimate ‘service animals’ are dogs. So, if you want to take your pet iguana out to lunch, I don’t think you’ll be able to call him your ‘service animal.’  http://abc13.com/pets/man-eats-lunch-with-snake-claims-its-his-service-animal/933023/

What can I say? People love their animals. I don’t know if everyone knows this, but there’s a internet cat video festival in St. Paul, Minnesota.
http://www.walkerart.org/calendar/2015/internet-cat-video-festival-2015 

Curious, I looked up whether dogs have festivals, too, but apparently, they only have conferences and conventions.  I don’t know if this means cats are naturally more fun than dogs, or if dogs just take life more seriously. I think this is for the cats and dogs to sort out. All I do know for sure is that pets are a joy and a comfort to us. I envy my friends who still have pets. We had problems when we traveled, because people would  watch Toto only once, then nevermore. He was seriously one strange dog, so we could never replace him.

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Well, thanks for stopping by!

Bren

 

 

Excerpt from “Life of a Baby Boomer”: Or My Life in the Brig!

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THE LIFE OF A BABY BOOMER1966

Below is an excerpt from Steve Stinnett’s memoir, “Life of a Baby Boomer: Above is a picture of my friend and I, but he never spent time in the brig with me! He was always a lucky dog!

Chapter Twelve

  “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day

    has enough trouble of its own.”  Matthew 6:34

The brig on board our ship was referred to as a red line brig because of the red lines, the color of the marine corp., that were painted in front of every cell, hatch, or door.  If a prisoner ever touched a red line, he was worked over by a marine for a few minutes, and it hurt—it hurt badly. This type of justice changed by the seventies because of abuses within the system, but it was in full effect back in the sixties. I tried to keep in mind my small mustard seed of faith, but things looked bad for me.

As a matter of self-preservation, I had the program down in less than twenty-four hours. Although it’s been over forty years since I was in the brig, I still remember every word I had to recite in order to move in that environment.

If I said everything was structured in this situation, it would be a wild understatement. At shower time, I was allowed thirty seconds to soap, thirty seconds to wash, and thirty seconds to rinse. I never learned what would have happened to me if I didn’t shower in those ninety seconds because I wasn’t about to take that chance. During mealtime, I had to eat every item on my food tray in three minutes.

After we ate, we left the chow hall as a group, and we marched in half-step with one finger through the belt loop of the sailor in front of us, looking straight ahead at all times. It reminded me of those lines we used to form in kindergarten via the buddy system.

Getting back into my cell was something I’ll never forget, and believe me, I’ve tried. I’d enter the brig with my shoe at the red line, not touching it. As loudly as possible, I’d shout, “Sir, Prisoner Number 3312 requests permission to speak to the duty turn-key, Sir.”

While I shouted, the marine guard slammed the iron cell door back and forth. If my foot had accidentally touched the red line, the grill would have smacked me in the face. After three tries, I was allowed to formally speak.

I then shouted, “Sir, Prisoner Number 3312 requests permission to enter the brig, Sir.” I had to repeat this procedure for every step I took. It usually took fifteen or twenty minutes to actually arrive back inside my cell.

No matter how much they tried to humiliate me and crush my spirit, I learned that if I followed orders, kept my mouth shut, and accepted my fate, I’d get out in two weeks. At night, I’d repeat Bible verses I’d learned in Sunday school and that helped me survive the two weeks. The major harassment ended in two days so long as I continued to follow simple procedures. The worst part for me was when there was a parents’ weekend where a thousand relatives came aboard for one day.

I remember marching to the chow hall, half-stepping with my finger in the belt-loop of the sailor in front of me and hearing little kids laugh as they pointed at the funny way we were walking. The stares and the whispering of the adults burned in my soul. I’d always planned to reenlist and make the navy my career, but this humiliation and powerlessness made me realize I’d never serve more than the next two years.

When I was sent to the brig, another sailor also received fourteen days correctional custody for under-age drinking as well. While I learned to work within the structure of the program, causing the harassment to stop, unfortunately, the other sailor couldn’t accept such harsh treatment. He told the marines to lock him in a cell and release him after the fourteen days were over.

Since we’d been reprimanded to the brig, we were now under the jurisdiction of the marine corp. and must comply with their uniform code of military justice. The other sailor refused to comply and his sentence was doubled. When I was released after the two weeks, that sailor was sent to a military prison. This meant his non-compliance had earned him over ninety days of prison time. I prayed he would make it through his time served.

While in the brig, we never had access to counsel or guidance. The other sailor was sent to a military prison because he thought the punishment harsh and unreasonable. Justice could be capricious at this time in the military.

Earlier in my career, I’d met a bartender at a bar in San Francisco who was captured by the F.B.I. for being A.W.O.L. for eleven years, and all he received was six months in the San Diego brig. I learned later that he’d been reinstated to his original rank and allowed to complete his military duty. To me, underage drinking seemed a far lesser crime than going A.W.O.L., but his punishment seemed light compared to ours.

The final incident that convinced me not to re-enlist when I completed my commitment happened to my division officer after I got out of the brig. He was a chief warrant officer, 4th class (CWO4), the highest rank within the enlisted ranks. He’d been in the navy for twenty-eight years, and he was a gold striper, meaning he had a perfect record, with no disciplinary marks against him.

During his last two years of service, he wanted to be stationed in Alameda, California, where he’d bought a house and settled with his family in preparation for his retirement. The navy ordered him to Atsugi, Japan, to serve his final commitment. In spite of all the appeals and letters he wrote, he was still sent to Japan. It came down to the needs of the navy, and the loyal service he’d given to his country for twenty-eight years counted for nothing.

With these incidents fresh in my mind, I determined to serve out the rest of my duty honorably, but I would not sign up for another four years. I still believe that every able-bodied person should serve their country, and I’ll never regret my time in the service. The navy gave me outstanding experiences and helped me grow in body and mind, but I think as an organization it still should keep in mind the needs of the people serving their country.

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After my stint in the brig, I did learn to consider the consequences of my actions. My faith in the unseen grew stronger. There was something bigger and more powerful out there, and if I listened carefully, I would be led where I needed to go. During those two weeks in the brig, alone at night, with the darkness surrounding me, God gave me strength to survive the hardships. I was ashamed of my weaknesses, but where I was weak, God was strong. Once I’d served my obligations to my country, it would be time to move on, and God would lead me wherever I needed to go. I’d learned to appreciate the fact his forgiveness was total and came without strings.

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Sometimes when I’m feeling discouraged I find I like to reread chapters of my husband’s book for inspiration. I hope you enjoy these chapters as well. If you’d like to purchase his book, its on Amazon at http://www.amazon.com/LIFE-BABY-BOOMER-Steven-Stinnett-ebook/dp/B00CMTCGT0/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1438471768&sr=8-2&keywords=Life+of+a+Baby+Boomer

Thanks for stopping by.

Bren

 

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