Daddy's Christmas Angel

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Fortunate in a Damaged Area -- Americans Can Be Proud

This morning I heard that well over 400,000 Dominion Power Customers were still without  electrical power. Yesterday, the number was 1.2 million, so that was a big improvement. People in lower King William County (Virginia) may not get their power back for quite some time because trees fell across the lines in so many places along the main highway.

Although we live in the midst of countless trees, we were quite fortunate. The only tree that fell on our property was uprooted and dropped over into the branches of another big sturdy tree. Since it poses no danger for anyone at this point, this scarlet oak will remain as is for a while. We were surprised to see such a shallow root system for this mighty oak. Many homes and yards sustained damage during this storm that hammered our area with dangerous winds for over five straight hours. Unlike Hurricane Isabel we were spared the flood waters this time. Our power was out about 36 hours, so we are so much better off than many others who do not know when their electricity will be restored.

We all owe thanks to the many Dominion Power employees and community volunteers who are working day and night to restore services and safety. People helping people. Americans can be proud.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Do We Own the Land? Fire, Earthquake, and Hurricane

This has been quite a week in Virginia. I returned home with plans for doing a lot of write in between attending teacher workshops and meetings. We were met with a smoky haze and the news from a nearby neighbor that the previous week one day she couldn't see our house from her window because of the smoke. That smoke is coming from an uncontrolled fire in the Great Dismal Swamp located in southeastern Virginia. If the wind shifts in the right direction, we get the smoke. The smoke is not pleasant.

Then, earlier this week, as I stood in my art studio, some gigantic animal raced back and forth across our roof. I stared at the skylights, certain they would shatter at any moment. My husband was in another upstairs room and thought a large helicopter was landing on the roof. He also watched trees and the building sway during the commotion. All the while, in my studio, the angel wind chimes played a magical tune. Of course, since they hang against the indoor wall as decoration, I had never before heard them play. It all turned out to be a 5.8 earthquake. The only earthquake I'd felt before was a small shaking in California a few years ago. The skylights didn't break, but I had a funny, unsettling feeling for the remainder of the day.

"Remnants of a Storm"
Now, here comes Hurricane Irene, and we are right in its path. In 2003, Isabel dealt our community a terrible blow as hurricane winds blew directly up our three rivers at high tide. Many people living on the point of the peninsula where our town is located lost their homes or suffered severe damage to them. Our house is on higher ground, but I recall looking out the window at the height of the storm to see the Mattaponi River and West Point Creek united into one vast body of raging water. We lost many trees during that storm, including a tall oak and most of the fruit trees nurtured in our orchard. One tree, located close to our house, blew down but fell away in the opposite direction blocking a street.

What is going on? I wonder. Do we really own the land? Nature has control; we do not. Sometimes we need to remember that. Sometimes like now.

Just joined the Campaigner Challenge. Paying forward. I like the concept.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Getting There by Bus and Visiting Rhinelander

It's been a very long time since we've traveled anywhere by bus, so I was pretty reluctant when Olen suggested we use a bus during our trip in Wisconsin. However, we were in Milwaukee, and we needed to get to Wausau to meet our daughter. When we checked on renting a car one-way, we found it would cost over $200, plus we would be driving in a congested unknown city without our GPS. Since there was no train service to throw into the mix, I decided to reconsider. Olen had spent time researching Lamers Bus service in Wisconsin and wanted to try it out.

We truly enjoyed the five-hour bus ride to Wausau because we got to tour parts of Wisconsin we hadn't seen before. Some of the towns were university communities, so we drove through a variety of pretty areas. Our daughter met us at the bus terminal located not far from the hotel where were spent the night.

The next day en route to Upper Michigan, we stopped to tour Rhinelander. This is a pleasant community with a sewing machine shop in the midst of the downtown. Although I used to make many of my clothes using my Singer sewing machine, I had not seen machines for sale in quite a few years. The new versions, no longer Singer, fascinated and amazed me with their versatility and possibility.

Oneida County Courthouse MM Sikes
We had lunch at the Rhinelander Cafe and Pub, then decided to walk to the Oneida County Courthouse, a building with a truly impressive Tiffany glass dome. Built in 1910, the courthouse is worth a visit just to see the famous dome.

One of the Hodags MM Sikes

We discovered that Rhinelander is also famous for its Hodags. This fierce creature from folklore has gained quite a following there. Some of the athletic teams bear the name Hodag.

Ever seen a Hoday? There are a few different versions scattered around Rhinelander.

More to come ...

Friday, August 19, 2011

Turning a Trip into an Adventure

As the "Passenger to Paradise" I love to travel and to discover new places and adventures for my writing. It seems no matter where we go, some part of our journey turns into an unexpected adventure. Our latest trip to the Midwest was no exception.

"Looking Down from 40,000 Feet" MM Sikes
On August 8, we headed to Richmond International Airport with a planned destination at Wausau, Wisconsin. However, because the airport's long runway is closed for repairs, the regional jets have been forced to use a shorter runway. That means weight limitations, and that day about eight passengers were cut from each flight. When we realized we probably would not make it out of Richmond that day on the regional, we made a quick decision to inquire about a flight on another airline with a plane ready to depart for Atlanta in 10 minutes. On the other airline, we would fly into the Milwaukee Airport instead of Wausau. We made a snap decision to purchase tickets on that flight and just made it on the plane prior to takeoff. We changed planes in Atlanta and landed in Milwaukee in early evening without knowing where we would stay.

Along the way while flying at 40,000 feet, I enjoyed gazing down at the clouds. I kept thinking that in the not too distant future, we may be looking down from space stations orbiting high above the earth and seeing entire continents and oceans, not just clouds. It will be as routine as flying on commercial airliners today.

The General Mitchell International Airport is an attractive facility. We quickly found the hotel display area and started calling around. Although Best Western hotels had fallen into disfavor with us, I liked the display photos as well as the nearby location and decided to call. A pleasant young man named Ricco answered and because of the restaurants located within the hotel and the guest room overlooking the pool that he mentioned, I was persuaded to try Best Western. Ricco turned out to be the shuttle driver as well as the desk clerk who checked us in. His outgoing personality was an important determining factor which will make me consider Best Western Plus on another travel journey.

Moral of this story is when traveling, be flexible, be aware, and enjoy the journey. And, of course, be ready for any adventure that may present itself. More about this trip in my next blog.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Coming Home

We just returned from a magical trip to many beautiful locations in the Midwest, including Lambeau Field, home of the Green Bay Packers! We even journeyed up to the tip of the thumb of Michigan that sticks out into Lake Superior. I'll be blogging about these adventures in the coming days.

I'm sorry I didn't have time to line up blog posts during my absence, but time caught up with me and I couldn't do everything. Thank you to those who continued to visit my blog and found nothing new!

Thank you, Alex Cavanaugh, for the Liebster Blog award given me while I was gone. This recognizes bloggers with less than 200 followers. I'll pass this along later to some other bloggers. My goal is to gain more than 200 followers before the end of the year!

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Yoga, Being Present, Being a Writer

Grand Canyon area MM Sikes
For almost a year, I've taken a yoga class once a week. It's important to me for stretching, balance, and an overall feeling of well-being.

Tonight, at the end of the class where I tried to practice poses and more, I thought about how yoga and being present are related. As a writer, I always seem to be thinking and living in the future. Perhaps that's the way writers have to live their lives--writing, planning, and conceiving ideas for the next book. Sadly, we have to plan how to schedule and promote that next project. As workers and planners, we are never in the present. At least, it seems I'm not.

However, when I'm in yoga class, I have to be in the present, following directions for the stretches and poses. There, I am being in the present and living for the moment.

Living for the moment. What a refreshing concept!

Being a flower. Being a mountain. Being a piece of the magnificent Grand Canyon. Not thinking, not planning.

Being in the present! How good is that!!?

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Soul Survivor Book Review - A Child Remembers Past Life as a Pilot

For all my life, books about reincarnation have intrigued me. My mother was shocked by the interest of her young child in the subject. My grandmother was not. A couple of months ago,  my daughter Allison noticed Soul Survivor on the Amazon page with my reincarnation novel, Hearts Across Forever, listed as bought along with it. She ordered a copy for me.

Because Bruce Leininger, like my mother, was not a believer in reincarnation, I found this story compelling. Imagine a two-year-old, just learning to talk, with screaming nightmares saying, "Plane on fire! Little man can't get out!" James' mother was terrified for her child, yet captivated as she discovered more unusual things her child "knew" that he couldn't know. His parents were surprised by James' fascination with World War II aircraft, especially the Corsair.

Using the Internet, Bruce started investigating the word James mentioned, Natoma, and eventually found a World War II aircraft carrier by that name. When he discovered a group of World War II veterans from the ship who held annual reunions, Bruce wound up attending some of them under the guise that he was writing a book about the Natoma Bay. In his at first skeptical investigations, he discovered many things that James actually knew including the name of the pilot whose life James remembers that was killed at Chichi-Jima.

There are photographs of drawings James created of airplane battles as a three-year-old that he signed "James 3." Bruce tracked down the family of James Huston, Jr., the pilot who died the day he was expected to return home, including his sister Anne who was still alive. What little James remembered and told Anne amazed her--things no one else could possibly know.

I've read about cases suggestive of reincarnation before, but these children lived in India and other countries in that part of the world where the belief is prevalent. This is the first book I've encountered in the United States about a case of a child recalling a past life.

If you've ever wondered about the possibility of reincarnation, you'll want to read this book. I would love to see the ABC Primetime show that aired in April 2004. Perhaps the TV show will run a repeat or even follow up on what James is doing now.