Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Ewwww---I don't like Branson!

Rockaway Beach, Missouri

I just posted several pics of the Branson, Missouri area on FaceBook. None were of the "strip" & shows. I have had so many people say they "don't like Branson" because it is so much of a tourist trap. My response to that is that you may not have REALLY visited Branson. There's so much more than the shows and t-shirt shops and mini golf!

IF you are one of those people, I encourage you to visit again. But this time--get out of town. Long before the town was there, there was the Ozarks. This is one of the most beautiful parts of our country. From the views along the ridges to the valleys and hollows to the clear lakes and streams, beauty abounds.

So you go to Branson...what's there to do if you don't just stay "in town?"

*Hiking! Did you know there's some awesome trails--a few that start right in town! You can find trails that wind around out into the woods and down by Lake Tanneycomo, through parks and away from the neon lights of Hwy 76. Check out for more information.

*Boating! Bring your own or rent a boat or pontoon or kayak. Taneycomo, Table Rock and Bull Shoals offer many amenities for you--and then there's the streams and rivers.

*Ziplining and Alpine Slides! Zip across the forest or a lake. Zoom down the side of a mini-mountain. Either way, you'll enjoy nature.

*"Sunday Drive"--Any day of week! Go for a drive to any of the quaint towns and villages surrounding Branson--each is unique in its own way. Hollister, Reeds Spring, Rockaway Beach. . . any direction you go, you'll have plenty of photo ops!

Don't just stay in town. Book a condo overlooking one of the lakes. There are many rental options (check out VRBO and HomeAway) or directly through the resorts. Many of the condos have swimming pools, private beaches, boat docks, fishing, etc. Your options are many--everything from rustic camping, glamping, condos to luxurious homes.

Whatever you do--if you visit Branson and don't go outside the city limits, you really haven't visited Branson.
Sunrise on Table Rock Lake
Rural Branson Barn

James River--Sycamore Church Road, Branson, MO

Monday, March 26, 2018


Sometimes it takes a while for something to hit you in the face.  Sometimes you see it, it hits you, and you walk on.  And then it hits you again.

And again.

And again.

Then your head spins.


I entered church through the back door and up the stairs.  The door was closed to the sanctuary.  And there was the sign:


I've probably been through that door many times but that day I stopped.   Sanctuary.  A place of safety.  A place of security.  A place to be held in the arms of God.  I took a photo.  That's what I do to remember.

Our nephew contacted us about a church he is helping to plant in the Washington, DC area.   A church in the midst of sojourners from every nation.  A place to learn about God's love for all people.  A sanctuary.

Three weeks later I'm in the nail salon having my nails done.  The most unlikely place to have God speak about sanctuary--but there on the tv, no sound--close captioned, was a show about churches across the country giving sanctuary to those seeking shelter in our country.  Over and and over as I watched, the word appeared again and again.   Sanctuary.  I don't know what show it was--I searched once I was home and couldn't find anything about it.  But it touched my heart.  Sanctuary.  God didn't say we are to close our doors but to open them.  God didn't say we are to worry about the sojourners taking our jobs but to help them.  We are to be sanctuary.

And now the song is playing over and over in my head:

Lord, prepare me to be a sanctuary
Pure and holy, tried and true
With thanksgiving, I'll be a living
Sanctuary for You

It is you, Lord
Who came to save
The heart and soul
Of every man
It is you Lord
Who knows my weakness
Who gives me strength,
With thine own hand.

Lord prepare me to be a sanctuary
Pure and Holy, tried and true
With thanksgiving I'll be a living
Sanctuary for you

Lead Me on Lord
From temptation
Purify me
From within
Fill my heart with
You holy spirit
Take away all my sin

Lord prepare me to ba sanctuary
Pure and holy, tried and true
With thanksgiving, I'll be a living
Sanctuary for You

I don't know how or where--but prayer is that God will allow me to be a living Sanctuary for Him.

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Let me explain . . .

For the past three years I have created an “advent” calendar with my photos on Facebook.   The first year was just various Christmas related quotes.   Last year was verses from the Bible relating to the Christmas story.   This year I decided to create the calendar using Christmas and holiday songs. 
I decided that the last few days before Christmas that all of my posts would be using songs about the birth of Christ and not the Santa Claus and other seasonal fare . . . but then I went to church on Sunday—

Sitting in front of us was the cutest toddler.   She was wiggly and not cooperating at all with sitting still during the service.   She had some toy that had little pieces that kept “dropping” on the floor.   Dan picked one up that rolled under their pew towards us.   One stayed on the floor.   I don’t know what toy it was, but the round piece looked like the old fashioned Christmas candy that Mom would stuff in our stockings.   You know the kind—the ones that are a disk with a flower or Christmas tree in the center?  They usually come with hard ribbon candy.

So, I should have been listening to the choir, but I started thinking of one of my favorite non-church Christmas songs, “Hard Candy Christmas” by Dolly Parton.  As my mind wandered, I decided I would do an advent day with “Hard Candy Christmas” as the song.
Fast forward to last night.   I look up the lyrics as I try to decide if I want to venture out and buy some hard candy for my photograph.   AND THEN I READ THE LYRICS!  I guess I never listened close enough . . .but “I’ll get drunk on apple wine.”    Wait a minute!  I have apple wine.   Really—real apple wine.

I love apple wine.  Years ago my friend Michelle Ellison and I visited a winery in Old Town Spring north of Houston.   They had a spiced apple wine I became infatuated with.   It tasted like hard cider should (which really, when you read the description of fruit wines, they are truly ciders).   For all my snob friends,  I like sweet tea, too.   Just for the record. 

In the years since this first discovery of apple wine, I’ve tried and sampled it all over the U.S.   I use it in making my apple wine jelly (oh yum).   Last fall we decided to go wine sampling with our friends Ralph and Mary Swatzell.  We found an Apple Pie Wine at Stone Hill Winery in Branson.  It is just like that spiced wine I tasted and fell in love with so many years ago.

And now you know why a bottle of wine ended up in my advent calendar this year!

   Ho Ho Ho and Cheers!

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Heart Rocks in Owls Head

When my sister-in-law, Sherri Reed, and I started planning a “vacation of a lifetime” to Maine, we started researching where to stay.   We decided to rent homes and set up “camp” with day trips rather than going to different hotels. 

We managed, several times, to confuse ourselves on VRBO and HomeAway’s websites in our 101 phone calls (each of us hoping we were on the same website & looking at the same place: “Is that the house on the lake?”  “No, that house is in Kansas.”  “Oh, crud.”  And so it went. . . 

We gained advice from a FB group “State of Maine Photographers.”   The members of this page were very helpful and informative on best places to stay, where to visit and even places to eat.  After one venture on VRBO, we found this really cool place near the Owls Head lighthouse – it was a HomeAway home over an 1800’s POST OFFICE!   We asked on FB and the consensus was that several people had seen it and it was COOL. 

 So another Oklahoma-California phone call.   Hmmmm.  There was only ONE bathroom.  There WERE three beds, but one was on the first floor and the other two required climbing a ladder type stair.   Visions of middle of the night trips to the bathroom quickly discouraged us.  Probably.
So we looked at some other places.   But we kept coming back to the Owls Head Post Office.  But those ladder stairs.
 Maybe the house on Kezar Lake with three bathrooms made more sense.

But the Owls Head Post Office was so cool.

And the house on Sprucehead Island was really, really neat.  And the bedrooms were all on the first floor.  Three bathrooms.

But Owls Head . . .
Commonsense won and we picked the house at Kezar Lake for five days (Stephen King land!) and the island house on Sprucehead Island for the final five days.  Good choices both.

But we still sighed about the cool Owls Head Post Office.  And then one day, on our excursions we turned a corner AND THERE IT WAS!!!   The Owls Head Post Office!   Neither of our husbands had quite realized the extent of “want” that we had given this place.   Screams of “STOP THE CAR” rang out from the back seat as my brother in law slammed on the brakes. 

Sherri and I jumped out and started taking photos of the post office—and then a man walked down the steps from the rental!  Of course we started talking to him.   He and his wife were visiting from Iowa.  Nice man—he asked if we’d like to look inside???  As we plowed him down getting up the stairs, we were not disappointed in the place.   It was just as we had pictured.

SO—if you are ever going to Maine, this is an unabashed plug to stay over a working post office.   Just down the road is the Owls Head Lighthouse AND the beach to pick up the really cool Maine heart rocks.  

Perfect for a place that makes your heart rock.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

The Man in the Coon Skin Cap

When I was a little girl, my best friend, Ronnie, and I played Daniel Boone and Davy Crockett.  My brother even had a coon skin hat that he wore while hunting imaginary bears in the the backyard.    The tv show starring Fess Parker as Daniel Boone and the movie starring Fess Parker as Davy Crockett managed to confuse the two frontiersmen in my mind.  So when looking at a map of Tennessee I realized that we were going to be close to Davy Crockett Birthplace State Park--we had to visit.

This is a small park in northeastern Tennessee at the site of Davy Crockett's birthplace.   There is a small cabin similar to one that early settlers would have built.   The day we were there, the staff was dressed as the settlers would been during Davy Crockett's time.   

Watching a short documentary, I realized what I knew about him was more make believe than the reality.   He truly was an American hero who, even if it wasn't popular, stood up for what he believed was right.  Crockett opposed the removal of Native Americans from their homes to Indian Territory.  He called it "oppression with a vengeance."  This cost him politically--but he stood his ground.  Finally, telling those that stood with President Jackson and his politics, Davy Crockett left Washington, telling them "You may all go to Hell and I will go to Texas."   There, he met his fate defending the Alamo.

Directions to the Park



Can you imagine Davy & his siblings running through the corn field?

Split Rail Fence--road to river

A typical log cabin

The creek by the Crocketts' home

River/Creek by home

Staff dressed as early settler

Monday, September 4, 2017

The Night of the UFO

It was one of those dark nights where every star seemed to outshine each other.   My mother and I were driving home from the funeral of a dear family friend in Heber Springs, Arkansas.   We had spent the day with family and friends, and had left late in the afternoon, stopping along the way for dinner.  

I’m guessing that around 11 or 11:30 p.m. we turned north onto the Muskogee Turnpike (in northeastern Oklahoma) off of I-40.  There were no other cars or trucks on the turnpike—just darkness with the light from a lonely farmhouse every so often.  Mom was nodding off.   The only sound was the radio playing country music.

I started noticing some lights in the sky up in front of me.   My first thought was that it was a helicopter—definitely not an airplane as they did not seem to be moving.   But they were an odd, triangular shape outlined in lights—not a shape I would attribute to a helicopter, either.   As I drove north, they seemed to stay in the same place, hovering over the turnpike.  I woke Mom up and asked her what she thought it could be.   It seemed to be getting lower and closer to the ground. 

It sorta looked like this.   But more lights.  (Stock internet photo)
Combine the photo above & this & you will have a good idea of how "it" looked.  (Stock photo)
At this point Mom and I were both leaning close to the windshield trying to figure out “what in the heck is that?”  We started thinking “B2 Stealth Bomber.”   My Dad worked for Northrop Aircraft and was instrumental in the creation and production of the B2.      Whatever this thing was, it was a triangular shape sort of like the Stealth.  But the Stealth didn’t hover.  And it certainly didn’t go as slow as this “thing in the sky” was going. 
B2 Stealth Bomber (stock photo from internet)
 I turned off the radio and rolled down the car window to check on the sound—trying to determine if it had the signature “whomp whomp” of a helicopter.   There was NO sound.  All I could hear was my car.   Mom and I looked at each other.  It was still hovering just a little over “highway overpass height,” but getting closer to us.  “WHAT IS THIS?”   We looked at each other again.  

Where were the other cars on the turnpike tonight???  Not a car coming or going.   No other headlights but my own and the lights from the hovering triangle, which was now almost directly above us.

As we got under it, I instinctively put on my brake and slowed to a crawl.  It was directly over us AND ABSOLUTLELY NO SOUND.   It was almost as if the sound had been sucked out of the air.  Well, no sound until my Mom looked over at me and SCREAMED: 


At which point I stomped the gas and barreled down the turnpike doing 90 to nothing—hoping a Highway Patrol car would come along to confirm whatever we just experienced was nothing. 

Or was it?     OOOO eeee ooooo!

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

April 19, 1995 9:01 a.m.

I was there…but I wasn’t there.  How do I explain April 19, 1995 at 9:01 a.m.?  

By 9:00 a.m. the morning was already an hour into “work”—I was at my desk sorting through my “in” basket, determining what do tackle first, what was a priority and what could wait. I looked out my window at the Myriad Gardens—on a clear day I could make out a slight rise in the horizon that was Newcastle (the town where we lived).   I could hear the attorney whose office was next to mine on the phone.   The main attorney I worked for was on the other side of the building talking with another partner.  You could hear the sound of secretaries, legal assistants, and attorneys getting the day started—phone calls, dictating and transcribing dictation, discussions, copiers busy … general life in a law firm.

And then the floor seemed to roll.

And the ceiling seemed to bend down.

There was a rumble.

Then a sound I can’t forget.

And then the screams—“What was that?”  “Oh my God! Oh my God!” “It’s the Federal Building.”  “Oh my God!”

I thought the ceiling over my desk was collapsing and I ran into the hall.    I remember thinking it felt like an earthquake but what was that explosion?  Had a plane hit our building?
Within moments (seconds) the entire firm was standing looking out the north facing windows of our building—looking from the 31st floor down at the Murrah Federal Building.  There were papers—the sky was filled with the papers that make up all the bureaucracy of our lives—filling the sky with the debris of the building.    And we stood there in shock.  What was this?  What were we seeing?
I ran back to my desk.  I remember thinking I wanted my family.  I called the Newcastle Elementary School and told the secretary, “There’s been an explosion in downtown Oklahoma City.   I don’t know what it is—but will you let Danny & Mika know I’m ok?  And the other kids whose parents are downtown . . .” 

I couldn’t get through to my husband in Norman.  The lines were already jammed.   Amazingly, my Mom in California had just walked into her living room and as she clicked on her t.v., she saw the report of an explosion in downtown Oklahoma City.   She immediately called me—I said I was ok and lost connection. 

We made a quick assessment and determined everyone in our firm was accounted for.   One of our “runners” had a mother that had been called in that morning for a meeting at the Federal Building.  A couple of people went with her to look for her mom.   They returned a short time later.    I remember her saying:

                “There’s a lot of people hurt.   But I think they are going to be ok.”
And the look on the two people who had gone with her as they stood behind her and shook their heads, saying “no.”   No, it wasn’t going to be ok.

My van was parked close, so I volunteered to take her to St. Anthony’s hospital to look for her mom.  Just getting out of the parking garage onto the street was a nightmare.   I remember all of the emergency vehicles going past us.   One time I literally stopped in the middle of the street because there was no way to pull to the curb as ambulances and fire trucks passed us. 
Once at the hospital, we discovered people everywhere.   The doctors and nurses and hospital personnel were lined up waiting for the incoming ambulances.   Her mom wasn’t on the list of patients brought in.   We started looking around and finally found her mom, in shock, wandering on the sidewalk outside the hospital.

As we tried to return to our building, a policeman said I couldn’t turn into the parking garage.  I thought he meant from the direction I was heading, so I went around the block and tried to come in from the other direction.  This time he stuck his head into my window and said, “LADY!  You are NOT going in there.  Go home.”   I tried to tell him I had to get back to work and he said “You are getting close to being arrested.  Go home.”   

I let our runner and her mom out of the van and drove to the south side of the Myriad Gardens and parked my van.   I started walking across the gardens—trying to get back to work.   I came to a pay phone (pre-cell phone days) and tried to call the office, but the call wouldn’t go through.   So I tried my husband again—and this time reached him.  

“WHERE ARE YOU?” he yelled into the phone.  I told him I was in the Myriad Gardens trying to get back to work but I couldn’t seem to get there—would he call our office manager for me and explain?  At that, my husband said, “You aren’t going back to work.   They think it was a bomb and they think there may be more.   GET OUT OF DOWNTOWN.” 

As I started, dazed, walking back to my car, a woman that I didn’t personally know but had seen in our building, asked me if I had my car out of the garage.   They had closed the parking garage & she couldn’t get her car.   She wanted to know if I could take her home.  By the time we reached my van, it was full of familiar faced strangers.   As we drove out of downtown Oklahoma City, we passed so many familiar faces.   Those people you see on the elevator, in the coffee shop—those people you don’t know but you see every day.   As we passed them, we were all saying things like, “Oh, there’s the guy with the beard—he’s ok;”   “Look, the pregnant lady that works next door is ok;”  “There’s that man that always reads his paper on the corner…”   We were searching for “OK.” 

It took quite a while to deliver all of my passengers to their homes and to make my way back to Newcastle.  To start hearing who wasn’t ok.  To start getting the phone calls.   I don’t think anyone was untouched.    The members of the law firm called to see if each of us was ok.   I thought I was.

I pride myself with being tough and able to handle things.  But the next morning driving to work I started to shake and then the tears.   I had to pull the car over.  The closer I got to downtown, the more I panicked.  I finally turned my car around and went home.  Most of our staff did make it in to work that day.  And the next day.  And the next.  Step by step we kept going.  And trying to help where we could. 

We lost so many beautiful lives that day and so many others’ lives have been changed.  And my life was changed because I was there, but I wasn’t there.   Three blocks away, thirty-one stories up.  But I can still hear the sound …