Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Happy New Year!!

December 31, 2013

Happy New Year!

As I sit here tonight looking back over 2013, it has been an incredible year. Lots of ups and downs, bumps, curves, hills, valleys, potholes, and interesting obstacles. Several work zones through the year and ones that will even linger into the New Year.  But overall, I guess 2013 has not been too bad.

 I’ve learned a lot this year. As a teacher I can really appreciate that aspect. I had no idea that I’d ever be good with horses, let alone a donkey or a mule. Up till about a year and a half ago, I had never really been around horses. I’ve learned a lot about them this year. I am by no means an expert on the subject. They teach me things every day. Each one has its very own unique personality and each one has its very own quirks. I like watching that. I (along with my husband of course) have spent the last 15 months getting a little colt to where just about anybody can walk up to him, put a halter on him, and touch him. I’ve even got to sit on his back while my husband led us around a round pen! I was lucky enough this year to purchase a five year old gelding that has never been ridden and really hadn’t been messed with much. While he still hasn’t been ridden, I’ve worked with him till he lets me rub all over him. He loves to have his belly scratched and he will let me put a saddle pad on him. I’ve also grown very attached to a donkey that knows what treats are just by my saying the word.  He comes running when it’s feeding time so he can get his treats. He is really the coolest little critter that I’ve ever met in my life, and he is the funniest critter I’ve ever met. I wouldn’t trade that little feller for anything. I’ve also learned that 5 minutes of horse petting after a terrible day at work tends to make all stresses and issues that were bothering me totally melt away. Winston Churchill was 100% on the money when he said “the outside of a horse is good for the inside of a man.” I whole heartedly believe that after this past year.

In addition to learning about the horses, I’ve learned a lot about me. I’ve learned that I am stronger than I ever thought I was. I can bust my butt for days on end helping my husband bale hay and it feels wonderful to know that I’ve accomplished something like that. I’ve learned that I am a pretty good writer and that this is something that I could really see myself doing. I’ve learned to have a little more faith in myself so that I might accomplish some of the goals and dreams that I have.

So, 2013 brought horses further into my life. 2013 has brought a farm to fruition; we are now Radagast Farms and its slowly growing. 2013 brought out the writer in me and the desire to really pursue this purpose. 2013 has brought a new job for my husband, one that is stable and that he enjoys. 2013 brought the trip of a life time for me aboard the USS George H. W. Bush. I won’t forget that as long as I live. 2013 has brought a lot of smiles and a few tears, but for the most part, 2013 has been good to me – to us. We are all relatively healthy, for that I am extremely thankful. We are not wealthy in a monetary sense, but our cup is running over with emotional wealth. And we have gained a little wisdom as the year has progressed. I have much to be thankful for from the year 2013.

Now I sit here looking at 2014! A brand new year! What to do with it? Where is it going to take me? 

I’m sure I’m not the only one questioning what 2014 has in store for them. It seems that with each New Year, I start the same string of questions and ponder the same prospects. I don’t really make resolutions any more. Sometimes my intentions are wonderful and full of vim and vigor, but my follow through really stinks, so I don’t force any resolutions that I know I’ll let go of in a couple of weeks.

For me, for 2014, I do intend to pursue my writing. This blog has been a wonderful outlet so far and I look forward to where this will lead.  My Co-author and I have 2 books under way together and we each have some independent projects going. My goal for 2014 is to finish them. I would love to see one or all of them picked up by a publisher but for starters for me, I want to see them finished. This year I want to get our barn finished and a nice round pen fixed so that I can really work with the animals in a true and proper place. I want to be able to ride the two horses that we have that have never been ridden and start training them both. I want to have a little spot in the barn to work on some wood projects. I also want to work on me. Work on patience (something I always struggle with), kindness (toward others, sometimes struggle with this too), and work on seeing things positively – realistically, but still positive. I hope to find more of the good in the world and in all things that I’m involved in. I hope to cut away the negative stuff that tends to drag me down. 

Right now, it’s still a couple of hours till the New Year arrives and right now the possibilities for what it holds are absolutely endless! So, with that, I say 2013; thank you for all that you brought my way. 2014, bring it on, I’m ready!!

Thank you all for reading! I hope that each and every one of you have a Happy, Healthy, and Prosperous New Year!

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Merry Christmas 2013

December 24, 2013

Merry Christmas 2013

As I sit at my computer and try to think of exactly what I want to say for this week’s post, there are tons of thoughts floating through my head. This is a hard time of year for me. It has been this way for several years now. I think it has to do with the lack of day light and the cold weather – neither of which are my favorites. Regardless, during December and January I struggle to stay positive and not depressed and angry. I am trying my best this year not to get in the depressive states that I have in past years. With that, I’m trying to be “glass half full” in my thinking. So to stay in those positive, upbeat thoughts, I will leave you this Christmas Eve with my thoughts on all the things I am thankful for. I have so much in life to be thankful for. I don’t think I’ve ever taken the time to list them. I think about that song I’ve sang in church all of my life “Count Your Many Blessings.” Blessed I truly am! Here we go…

I am thankful for my husband Wayne. I am thankful for the relationship that we have; the friendship that we’ve been blessed with as well as the marriage. He is truly my best friend, through thick and thin, richer and poorer, sickness and health. We have had many more ups than we have downs but our downs have always brought us closer together and made us realize how fortunate we are to have each other. I cannot imagine, nor do I want to imagine, my life without him in it. He has taught me what it is like to love and be loved and that to me is absolutely priceless! His love and support in all of my crazy dreams has been constant. He is my rock!

I am thankful this year that my husband and I both have jobs that provide for our home, food on our table, food for all of the critters, vehicles to take us to and from work, and some of the wants that we have. Jobs are few and far between these days and we both have been blessed with good ones.

I am thankful for my family. To me family doesn’t always mean that it is filled with those that are related to me by blood either. I have a wonderful husband. I have a mom and dad who, as far as I’m concerned, still walk on water. I have an awesome big brother that I still look up to – literally and figuratively. I have a daughter and a son that have welcomed me into their lives and have allowed me to call them daughter and son. They have given me eleven beautiful grandchildren that are each ones blessings in their own separate ways. They are amazing little people and I am very thankful to be able to watch them grow and learn. I have a sister-in-law and brother-in-law that are more like sister and brother to me and I don’t know what I’d do without either one of them! And so many, more.

I am thankful for those souls that have touched my life and have gone on to be with God. I was lucky enough to know all four of my grandparents. I miss them each and every day. My dad’s dad was such a jolly man and he loved Christmas and everything about it – he was probably more excited at Christmas than we kids were. I will never forget his laugh or the joy he had when we would go to their house on Christmas Eve and have our family time. Memories of all four of them around this time of year are many and are very precious! I was also very lucky to have been able to be part of my grandson Chase’s life, or rather for him to have been part of mine. Chase was a rare angel that we were blessed to be in contact with for his twelve short years on earth. He taught me more about innocence and seeing the world through pure and untainted eyes than I could have ever dreamed of. He was a much better adult than I will ever hope to be. He was taken from us way too soon, but I am so thankful and so blessed to have known him, held him, watched him , and learned from him for the time that we did have. So while I miss these dear and precious people, and I will miss them till the day that I die, I still rejoice in them having touched my life and my heart. I hold dear the many lessons that I learned from them all.

I am thankful to a dear friend and my soul-sista Stephanie for just being there for me. If it were possible, we had to have been twins in another life. I’m thankful for her encouragement and her support with this writing venture. Without her, I don’t know if I’d have ever had the courage to follow this writing dream and path that we’re forging.

I am thankful for all of the critters that have come into my life this year. To some, that would sound crazy, but for those that love their critters the way I do, I know you all get it. I never got to have pets when I was growing up, so I’ve more than made up for it now. Each of the nine horses that live here have different personalities and quirks. The donkey is the coolest little critter ever. And then there’s the mule, he’s our comic relief. We still have “the girls,” our two little dogs and they’re still prissy and silly as ever. Then there’s the latest addition in our lab/pit mix pup, who has totally brought life back into this place! Anytime I get moody or blue, I can go pet a critter and all of the tension and aggravation from the day melts away.

I know that there is much more that I could list if I thought about it long enough and hard enough. The list of blessing that I need to be thankful for are endless. But I am most thankful for God, who sent His Son, to die for me, even knowing what kind of person I would be, He sent Him anyway. My simple human brain cannot grasp that kind of truly, unconditional love, but I am certainly thankful for it.

So, this year, take a minute or ten, and sit still long enough to think about or to write out the things that you are thankful for. Count those blessings and cherish each and every one for they are all precious and priceless.

Thank you all, those who are reading this for the first time, and those that have followed me since the first post. May God Bless you every one and may you all have a Very Merry Christmas!

Much Love,

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Its the Most Wonderful Time of the Year

December 17, 2013

It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year!

It’s the most wonderful time of the year! Yeah Right! Tell this to the shoppers that you pass in your local Walmart, or better yet, tell it to the people behind the cash registers or the stockers at that same Walmart and see what kind of response you get.

What happens to us as human beings around this time of year? It is supposed to be a wonderful time of year. Filled with the joy of family, friends, giving, receiving, and just general kindness. It’s supposed to be when families are able to gather and maybe have a big meal or just enjoy each other’s company. It’s supposed to be a time when we are able to give back to those who are less fortunate than we are. It’s supposed to be a time where we celebrate what we humans have deemed as the time when our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, was born. But somewhere along the way it seems that we have totally lost this joyful feeling and have turned into humans akin to the Grinch if not worse.

We have turned into a nation that “gives thanks” for what we have on a Thursday in November and by five pm that evening are running over each other in our local malls and Walmart to get the latest and greatest deal on things we don’t even need but we’re going to get because it’s on sale. We are a nation that has eighty-five year old women fighting to the bitter end to get this year’s Christmas teddy bears before they all sell out. We are a nation that has placed the value of “things” higher than the value of love, friendship, or human life in general. We are a nation that has sold its soul to the devil to get the newest iPhone and all the cool little gadgets that go with it. We are a nation that runs out and spends thousands of dollars on a credit card that we’ll never have any hope of paying off – personally and governmentally. And a nation where a mother goes and stabs people to death in a store to get a video game system for her kid because her little boy had to have the best on Christmas morning and she would do it again if she had to.

Do we not realize that these “things,” these video game systems and smart phones, fancy running shoes and $30 socks, iPads and Kindles, all of these “things” are just that, “Things?” There isn’t a one of those things that is absolutely going to 100% improve your life, make you a millionaire, put food on your table or that of your family’s, or make life truly worth living. None of these things that we put so much value upon can love us in return. None of these things can comfort us when we’re sad, rejoice with us when we’re happy, support us when we’re trying something new, or grant eternal live. When we die, all of these things will still be here or in dumpsters and landfills where most things end up. Those smart phones that are this year’s hottest item will be obsolete in two weeks after Christmas if they aren’t already. That game system will wind up in a heap of wires and controllers just like all the others before it in no time. Those $30 socks won’t be in style next week, so we’ll have to get different ones. Those fancy running shoes will eventually wear out or your kid will outgrow them in six weeks and you’ll have to throw them out or replace them. These things do not make someone a person of worth. I could have every one of these things and many, many more, plus all the money in the world and still, I might not be a person of any worth what so ever. When will we realize that worth is not a monetary value?

What is worth? Worth to me is offering a kind word to a haggard mother, who is struggling through a grocery store with three small, rambunctious kids while trying to buy enough food to feed them all with her very limited budget instead of being ugly to her about her children’s behavior or because they’re being kids and laughing or giggling through the store. Worth is saying “Thank You” to the little old man you pass in the store that is wearing a World War II hat instead of getting frustrated with him for taking longer in a line or holding us up as we rush through running over people. Worth is taking the time to appreciate the twinkle in the kid’s eyes as they enter a store and see all sorts of wonder and excitement this time of year instead of only seeing the bad and the sour and the ugly. Worth is saying “Thank you” to someone who opens a door for you or lets you go ahead of them in a checkout line. Worth is smiling at or waving at the person in the car near you who has motioned for you to pull out since you’ve been sitting in line waiting forever. Worth is saying “Excuse Me” if you bump into someone, get in someone’s way, or have to walk in front of them. Worth is saying “Please” or “No Thank You” if you’re asked by the clerk that is bagging your groceries, “do you want this is a bag?” Worth is a simple smile or a simple gesture that is given from your heard and directed toward others.

So during this time of year where we as a nation have valued “things” over human and money is more important than love and kindness please take time to ponder what simple things you could do to make this truly “The Most Wonderful Time of the Year” for yourself or for someone you don’t even know. Smile at someone that you pass in the store. I guarantee you, they’ll smile back. If they don’t, then smile at them the next time you pass them. Eventually that smile on your face will become infectious. Say a kind word to a worker in a store you’re in because goodness knows they’ve probably not seen much kindness during their shift. Drop some coins or what you’d spend on a caramel macchiato into one of the Salvation Army’s red kettles so someone else might be helped with it. Donate a toy to a toy drive. Enjoy time spent with family for no other reason than just being with them. Do something, anything, besides put all of your hope and all of your value in a thing this year. Remember what this season is supposed to be about and make it so for you and yours. This could be the most wonderful time of the year if we’d all make a little effort!

With that, I say to you all Merry Christmas! May God Bless you, everyone! And I do hope that is truly is The Most Wonderful Time of the Year for you all!

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Adventures at Sea Part 8 - Finale

Adventures At Sea (Part 8)

December 10, 2013

Continued from December 3, 2013

After lunch we were led to the Admiral’s office.  He wanted a chance to see us again before we left.  He had a flight scheduled that afternoon, so he would not be available to see us off when our chariot arrived to take us away.   On one of the walls of his office is this amazing picture.  It was of the Bush’s Kennebunkport home with one of the ship’s helicopters hovering over it and the carrier in the back ground with a jet landing on board.  Absolutely BEAUTIFUL!  The skill of the photographer impressed me as much as the actual set up for the shot itself.  The Admiral asked each one of us what had been our favorite part up to that point.  For me it had been everything up to that point was my favorite part!  We visited with him for better part of 45 minutes or more.  He told us a little of what to expect with our upcoming launch and wished us all luck.  He is most definitely a very impressive man.

When we left the Admiral we went back out on Vulture’s Row, outside of the Flag Bridge to watch the flight ops that were just getting underway.  I’m pretty sure that we were there for more than an hour.  It still amazed me just as much as it did the first time I saw it the day before.  I don’t think I’d get anything done except watch launches and landings if I were on that ship for any length of time.  We were able to get some video of launching and some really good pictures from where we were.  The day was absolutely beautiful, the sky and the ocean were all a brilliant blue and the smell of jet fuel tickled the senses!!  

        (These pics were all from Vulture's Row, 9 August, 2013)

Our escorts pulled us away from our observation vantage point and took us to some control rooms that were really a huge part of air traffic control.  They had the radar screens and everything.  I cannot remember the initials or the name of the rooms that we visited only it was dark and reminded me of the room where the Captain is smoking his cigar and listening to the dog fight in the air on Top Gun as Maverick and Ice are in the air with a bunch of Migs on their tail.   They also lead us through a room where they control the defenses of the ship.  

At 1500 they took us back to the room that we first went to.  We were again greeted by the Captain and the Command Master Chief.  They had come to give us their farewells.  The Captain showed us all the goodies we would get when we left the ship and landed back in Norfolk and then he told us his version on what to expect from the launch, especially where to place our feet.  The flight crew came in then and got us suited up in our life vests and cranial helmets and they escorted us to our chariot.  I really did not want to leave.  I cannot believe how quickly 26 hours went by.  And there was so much crammed into that time frame.  

When we were all in the COD and the door closed the flight crew told us that they would let us know before we took off.  They would shout “This is it!” and we were to lean forward into the straps of our harness, grasp the harness cross ways over our chest, brace our feet and then we would be airborne.  Taxiing on the flight deck feels much like it does on the ground.  You can just sense a small additional movement with the forward movement of the ship.   We taxied to the cat that we’d be shot off of.  You could hear and feel bumps and movements where they were hooking the shuttle up.  Then the plane revved up, the crewman shouted “This is it!!  This is it!!  This is it!!” and we were GONE!!!  That was ABSOLUTELY THE MOST INCREDIBLE sensation that I have ever had.  For a moment you feel a little bit of pressure against your chest where you are leaning into the straps; then there is the slightest moment of shear weightlessness where you feel like you’re floating; then there is this thump feeling and sound and we are clear of the flight deck and the plane has caught up to itself and we’ve just been catapulted off of the USS George H. W. Bush!!  According to my Honorary Tail Hook Certificate, we went from 0-128 mph in less than 3 seconds!  I would most definitely do this again in a heartbeat!  If they called me tomorrow and told me “Laura, we’re going to launch you off an aircraft carrier again, are you in?”  It’d be a Heck Yeah answer and I’d be gone to where ever I needed to be to meet my ride!  The rest of the flight and the landing back in Norfolk were totally uneventful compared to that take off.  

It was right at 5:30 when we landed back in Norfolk.   We were each given a hat with the ship’s seal on it and our name embroidered on the back, a photo book that had some photos of the ship and then photos of us individually that they had taken while we were on board, a folder with all the ship’s info and bios of the men in leadership, an Honorary Tailhookers Certificate to show that we had completed an arrested landing and a catapult assisted takeoff from a carrier, a commemorative coin of the ship, our little toiletries bag with monogrammed GHWB on the outside, and a CD that had many, many publicity shots of the ship on it.  

I CANNOT say enough good about this trip!  It was beyond amazing and beyond my wildest dreams that I would ever get to see something like this in person and in action.  I was fortunate to see the USS Eisenhower while it was in port in Norfolk back in the summer, but it was a warehouse compared to the Bush being underway and alive!  Everyone that we met was so wonderfully welcoming and so professional, from the Admiral, all the way down to the lowest ranked seaman.  I have a total, new found respect for the men and women that live for months at a time on this floating city.  I cannot imagine what that must be like.  They have my highest respect and regards.   I am forever thankful to the men and women aboard the USS GHWB that made our stay so wonderful and provided us with such an opportunity of a life time!

I learned so much on this trip and I hope that you all have enjoyed the stories.  My words in no way do justice to what I saw and experienced.  I don’t think there are enough words to properly describe it all even if I could!  I do know that we are a blessed nation and have a truly amazing group of men and women that serve our country and protect us each and every day.  I remain truly amazed and in awe of everything that I saw and everything I did!

THANK YOU US Navy and crew of the USS George H. W. Bush!  May God Bless you all!