Sunday, September 4, 2016

England Flashback - Be More Dog

Last year at this time, Rebecca and I were in in England!  I hesitate to call it the "trip of a lifetime" because I'd really like to have a few more like it, but it certainly was a trip worthy of such a phrase.

I love this quote below:

"We travel because we need to - because distance and difference are the secret tonic to creativity. When we get home, home is still the same, but something in our minds has changed, and that changes everything."  ~ Jonah Lehrer

So lately I have been reflecting about what changes, big and small, that our trip to England have brought about in me.  Here are a few (if you want to just figure out my title, then skip to the end):

1) A RENEWED LOVE FOR THE WRITINGS OF C.S. LEWIS - I have read many of his books before, but I have a new connection to them.  There was something special about sitting in his living room, walking to his church and sitting alone inside (just Rebecca and me), and walking on the exact path he was walking the night he yielded to God.

Rebecca and I were both reading "Til We Have Faces" on the trip, and since then I have read or re-read several of his books (my favorite has been "Reflections on the Psalms").  I even bought a copy of the Bible translation Lewis enjoyed in his day, "The Moffatt Translation"  I had never even heard of it.  I'm also now a member of the Oxford C.S. Lewis Society on Facebook and a subscriber to "A Pilgrim in Narnia" blog - which gives me lots of food for thought each week.

2) A NEW LOVE FOR AGATHA CHRISTIE - Rebecca and I read aloud "Murder at the Vicarage" when we were in Cornwall - Agatha Christie country.  This novel has proved to be the first of many for me.  I love these surprisingly complex mysteries full of charming characters.  She was such a prolific writer that I have plenty of material for years to come.

3) TEA - I only tolerated tea before, but now I love it.  I know it sounds crazy, especially for a born and bred Southerner, but I don't really like iced tea - sweet or unsweet.  I hate coffee (and that has NOT changed).  I like spiced tea, but that's mostly made from Tang, so I have a feeling that doesn't count.  On our trip, all our hosts served us tea in their kitchens.  I let them prepare it the way they like it (trying to be authentic),  and they all served it with sugar and milk.  Also, I noticed that almost everyone had a specific brand of tea on their kitchen counter.  I was happy to find this tea at Walmart!

It is delicious, and I am so glad to have a hot drink that I can enjoy without tons of calories (I switched from sugar to Stevia when we got back to the States, but I still add milk).

4) LEMON CURD - OK, I'll admit that Rebecca and I were not impressed with English food in general, but they've got the right idea with this lemon curd stuff.  It is now a staple at our house:

I have also made several attempts to make sticky toffee pudding, one of the few English treats that we really liked.  And even though we didn't like most of the other British baked goods we tried, since we returned we have become big fans of the British Baking Show!

5) DRIVING COURTESY - It was a great adventure to drive a standard transmission with my left hand while on the right side of the road and while figuring out how to get to places I've never been (Rebecca was an excellent navigator!).  However, I would have hated it except for the extreme politeness and skill of the English drivers.  Everybody seemed to be patient with the roundabouts, willing to back up narrow windy roads when we would meet them head on, offering to parallel park my car on a hill, etc.  And they seem to have merging down to a science.  They were also quick to give smiles and "thumbs - up."

I've now wondered how they feel when they come to our country.  I have tried to adopt what I call "the English system" and be an extremely courteous driver.

6) A NEW PERSPECTIVE ON POLITICS - While in England, several of our hosts discussed U.S.  politics - specifically they were very concerned about Donald Trump.  I assured them that the Republicans would never be foolish enough to nominate him, and they needn't worry.  So now in addition to my own election quandary, I am embarrassed when I think of how those UK citizens view us.

7) WIZARD - Played this game with Felicity while we visited her (near Cambridge).  It has now become a favorite family game.

8) BE MORE DOG!  We saw signs saying "Be More Dog" on almost every subway stop and in almost every subway car.   We had no idea what it meant because there would be nothing else on the sign other than that phrase.  We did notice that the British loved their dogs!  When we got back home, we looked up the marketing campaign and have found this slogan an excellent metaphor for life.  Now when I'm considering an adventure, I just think to myself, "Be more dog!"

Saturday, September 3, 2016

Noah Goes to Nationals

Noah has participated in speech and debate for the past three years.  His goal has been to make it to the National Championship.  The first year, he missed going with his illustrated oratory speech by one spot.  The second year, he missed going with another illustrated oratory speech by one spot.

This year, he gave an awesome informative speech and made it to Nationals!  And once again, he missed going with his illustrated oratory speech by just one spot.

At Nationals, Noah's speech went even further, and he made it all the way to semi-finals.  Noah's speech was on dementia, and he shared some of his grandmother's story in it.  It was neat to see how God used the speech to bless others.  Several judges made a point of telling him how much it meant to them, and Noah got to share the speech on choir tour (after they visited a home for the disabled) and with several other groups.

Here's the speech if you want to see it.

Noah had some other fun speeches this year.  He did a duo called "The Seussification of Romeo and Juliet"  that was so funny with a friend from Cleveland, TN.

He also performed a piece on "Slumdog Millionaire" and the Book of Jonah.

Nationals was held at Oklahoma Baptist University this year.  It was four long days of speaking (Noah), judging (me) and hanging out with friends (both of us).  Here are some of my favorite photos from the week:


Next year, Noah's goal is to break his three year, missing Nationals by one spot in Illustrated Oratory streak.  He also hopes to qualify for Nationals in as many categories as possible.  Go Noah!

Next year, the Nationals are in St. Paul, Minnesota.  That's good, because I wasn't that impressed with Shawnee, Oklahoma as a destination.  I did find they have one claim to fame as the home of Sonic, which was right around the corner from campus and frequented by me daily:

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Caleb - Class of 2016

It's hard to believe, but we now have our third high school graduate in the family.  Caleb opted out of a ceremony, but Central Baptist in Bearden (where Caleb has been attending for a while), has a big celebration each year for their graduates.  This was the closest he got to a ceremony.  He borrowed his sister's cap and gown, so the sleeves were a bit small.

I have not been that sad about this milestone as in many ways Caleb has seemed independent for a long time.  But I teared up as he was walking in.  He's still my little boy.

I'm very proud of Caleb.  He's got more initiative in his little finger than most have in their whole body.  And whether it's hiking the AT, painting artwork for his room, designing furniture, cooking on the grill or whatever, he's ALL IN.  

Caleb will be finishing up his associate's degree at Pellissippi State Community college and then headed to UT to study Business Analytics.  He could have started out at UT, but he made a wise money decision to let the state of Tennesssee pay instead of us - I call it "taking one for the team" as it won't be long before we have three boys in college.  

Camping & Flat Tires 2016

It's so hard to fit a camping trip in these days with everybody's differing schedules, but there was a week in May that worked for 5 of 6 of us, so we went for it.  Terry, Rebecca and I were the "advance party," and Noah and Nathan were going to be joining us later when Nathan finished his last final exam.

There are so many places that I would like to camp, but when we can often only fit in one trip per year, it has to be to Little Oak Campground on South Holston Lake.  When we lived in Johnson City, it took us about an hour and a half to get there.  Now that we live in Knoxville, it takes 2.5 hours.

This time it took FOREVER.  We had a flat on the interstate when we were barely out of town.  Not just any flat but a flat that damaged the boat trailer.  We almost turned back and cancelled the whole trip.  Fortunately, we found an underpass with some shade and a sharing redneck with every tool imagineable right on his front porch, so Terry got us fixed up.

While Rebecca and I drove the trailer to the campsite, barely making it there before the gate closed for the night, Terry was launching the boat in the dark by himself.  He ended up falling in the water at the ramp and soaking his phone.  Fortunately, he wasn't hurt but he was much later arriving, and he had no way to reach us.    Rebecca and I managed to park and pop-up the trailer by ourselves using our iphones as flashlights.  We finally got to bed around midnight.   

The rest of our trip was much more restful.  The water was brisk, but we skiied anyway.  

We had several Tri-Cities friends that came out during the week to hang out with us during the day:

 Night time was for camp fire food (such as these campfire cones which were delicious):

And playing games:

And keeping up with tradition (see end of this post), we had another flat tire on the way home.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Smoky Mountain Air Show

On a sunny Saturday in April, we went to the air show at McGhee-Tyson Field.  I was the only one in the family who had been to an air show before.  The traffic was awful for almost everyone (two-three hour waits to park), but we took a different route (totally by accident), and avoided the worst of it.

My favorite performance was the Aeroshell Aerobatic Team.

We were really sad when one of the Blue Angel pilots we saw at the show crashed just a month later. Here is the photo of the Blue Angels over Knoxville.

Noah Finds a Sport!

Noah has never been passionate about any sport - either as a player or a spectator.  Probably his favorite so far has been swimming, but his working as a camp counselor prevented him from swimming on the summer swim team.

Enter Ultimate Frisbee.  The local homeschool team - the Hornets - has traditionally been one of the best in the city.  Noah started playing with them this past fall, and he also played again this spring. He has finally found a sport he can get excited about playing.

These photos aren't the greatest.  Rebecca hasn't purchased a telephoto lens for her new camera yet.
Fortunately, Noah plans to play again next year.  He is number 16.  He is also 16.