Sunday, November 25, 2012

ADJECTIVES - Brought to you by Black Friday

Ok you know it isn't always easy being a writer when you are not really a writer.  I like to keep my blog posts a little fresh so here are a few MORE DESCRIPTIVE words I plan on using in my upcoming posts.
Adjectives — descriptive words that modify nouns — often come under fire for their cluttering quality, but often it’s quality, not quantity, that is the issue. Plenty of tired adjectives are available to spoil a good sentence, but when you find just the right word for the job, enrichment ensues. Practice precision when you select words.

Here’s a list of adjectives that may best describe your Black Friday Experience:

Baleful: deadly, foreboding
Bellicose: quarrelsome (its synonym belligerent can also be a noun)
Bilious: unpleasant, peevish
Boorish: crude, insensitive

Enjoy my friends! Use your WORDS!
ET This I Believe

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Christmas Tree Cutting Tradition

One of our Christmas tree traditions has been to cut down a real tree out at Bright's Christmas Tree Farm. As long as we have been able, we started getting real Christmas Trees.  I grew up with an artificial one which was okay but for some reason we began getting real ones with the kids. The first tree in my duplex in Stillwater Oklahoma in 1988 while I was still at OSU was a construction paper tree taped to the wall for my son to draw the ornaments on.  Okay so he was too young to do too much drawing but still it was the thought.

The second tree was in 1989 when we had first moved to Pennsylvania right after we had all arrived back from traveling through Europe. We had both boys at ages 3 and 11 months. We were dirt poor, no money from our travels and I had just began work in Allentown Pennsylvania.  We got a Charlie Brown Christmas tree which I think still costs us like $15 and made a yellow construction paper star glued to a toilet paper cardboard roll that we stuck on top of the tree.  We still have that star. Ornaments were few but we did have a paper chain and some popcorn on a string.  The popcorn kept falling off the string. We lived in a walk up row home near downtown so I could walk to work. My wife and I can still remember so vividly that year as we woke up especially early to make sure we saw their little faces when they came down to see all their presents. We waited forever and ever. We finally had to wake them up because WE couldn't wait any longer. (I think that was the last time we had to wait on them to wake up.) As a matter of fact, there were so many presents given by so many of our family that the kids had to take breaks in the middle because they got tired of opening them. (after all... presents for little kids are so easy to buy and so isn't that way anymore!)

There were many other trees after that.  If you have read my blog for long you will remember "The Christmas Tree" story.  If not, here are the links to the three part story.
The Christmas Tree
The Christmas Tree ..... Continued
The Christmas Tree ..... Finale

Once we moved down here to Virginia Beach we found it difficult to locate a tree farm to cut down our own tree.  After all we do live at the beach! We did like everyone else and went to the lumber yard or at one of those "pop up" Christmas Tree places that seem to spring up on every vacant lot available.

However there was one year that we were not able to buy a tree because there were not any available....that is by the time that we finally went out to look for one.  That was in 1999, the year of the Y2K.  I had quit my job and started my architecture firm IONIC DEZIGN STUDIOS the September before.  My wife had stayed home with the kids. We were dirt poor.....there is a common reoccurring theme here isn't there? We had refinanced the house to do some home improvements but with my little unplanned adventure taking place we used that money to keep the creditors at bay. Not sure those improvements have ever been accomplished....completely at least. The projects hadn't kicked in yet and the one and only project we had didn't pay the retainer until one week before Christmas. We had four kids, the oldest 13 and the youngest was 5. Christmas looked pretty slim that year before we received the retainer and my wife and I kept telling ourselves "It is the thought that counts" and "Presents don't make Christmas".......yeah right.

The check came in and we made it stretch by purchasing used bikes at the pawn shops and other miscellaneous things were bought to fill up under the tree.....tree.....tree.....what tree? There were no trees that we could find! We cannot have Christmas without a tree. What were we going to do? I had to creative to come up with a solution. At church we had made some cardboard skits for the teenagers and had purchased large 4 x 8 sheets to use.  There were a few left that had not been used.  With their permission, we swiped up the sheets and went back home to construct a tree. I cut the cardboard into the outline shape of a Christmas tree and then cut a single notch in the bottom so they could slide together.  It formed a sort of "pop up" brown Christmas tree.  Lights were strung on the edges were the corrugated was exposed and ornaments were thumbtacked to the panels WHERE EVER you wanted! Presents stacked up in between each wedge of the tree.  It was great. I have got to find some pictures of that tree someplace!

After that we found Bright's Farm out past Pungo near the NC border. Every year since, we have headed out to the farm and cut down our own tree.  We can walk through the rows of trees and find which one we like the best and cut it down ourselves.  They always offer to cut it for us but that would never do.....We have to cut it ourselves and drag it back to the car.  We do let them help tie it to the top of the car. After all I wouldn't want to lose it on the way back.....that would be something that would probably happen to us! It is always on the Saturday after Thanksgiving, not the Friday....The Bright's always go shopping on Black there it is.....our Christmas Tree Cutting Tradition.

As the years have gone by, the kids have been either away at school or .....just plain away. There are fewer and fewer of them to help pick out the tree. There were times when we brought friends of the kids as well. It is an adventure! Like all things we seem to do. Last year we went with our oldest son and his wife to pick out their first tree. That was fun.  This year it is only my wife and I.  The tree doesn't always get put up right away.....that takes a bit more effort.  The best thing about getting back home with the tree is MOM MAKES THE WAFFLES! Another great tradition!

Have a great holiday season my friends and enjoy your tree hunting adventures!
ET This I Believe.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Thanksgiving Traditions

Here we are again at another holiday time already.  Can you believe it is Thanksgiving already? Where did the year go? Our family has had so many traditions over the years (from when I was a small child) that it just becomes...well... a bit silly. I begun writing down some of these things in this blog so that my children...and maybe one day grandchildren would know about how it all began. And how goofy this whole family is. Okay maybe goofy really describes just me.

I looked over my old blogs to see what I wrote about Thanksgiving before and realized there was only one post.  If you would like to re-read it:

Thanksgiving is sort of a trial run before Christmas on all the food and festivities. Over the years we have morphed some of the traditions to better fit our own family and also what tools we have to make dinner with.  It is kind of like the story about the granddaughter was preparing a ham for dinner and they were following all the ingredients to cook a ham and had all the things in place but one odd fact about the traditional recipe was a big chuck of the ham was cut off.....why was that? The granddaughter called her mother and asked her about this recipe and what was she supposed to do with this chunk of ham that was cut off and why was it cut off.  The mother simply responded that she didn't know.....she just always did it because grandma did it for all those years.  So the mother called her mother, the grandma, and asked her why did we always cut off a chunk of the ham.  All the ingredients were followed and the tradition was to cut off a piece of the ham.  The grandmother just laughed and said, no silly that wasn't a tradition.....that was because that was the largest roasting pan we had so I had to cut a piece off for it to fit! they began.

The Thompson Cranberry Salad started long ago but I believe that our family cannot truly take credit for it. I know I added "Thompson" in front of it so we would clarify that it wasn't just any ordinary cranberry salad. Story goes that many years ago my great grandparents had worked for a wealthy family during the depression and it was one of their favorite holiday dishes.....not as exciting as "bringing it over from the ol' country". My oldest son said, "You mean we stole our family tradition from someone else...that sounds like our family." But we have made it special by never making any other time but Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day. The process has become a tradition, no one but "family" gets the recipe.  Everyone else calls it "PINK STUFF". Cutting the grapes, which takes hours, has become a sort of indoctrination into the family. We don't have the big grinder my mother had so we need to improvise on some of the kitchen tools. Most of the time this is always done the evening before.

My father was always the creative individual who made up stuff all the time. I guess that is where I get it from. I should mention that he was also the goofiest person I ever knew as well.  I guess that is where I get THAT from too. I miss him during these times. Just wish my kids could have met him. One of the "after products" of making the cranberry salad is when we drain the ground cranberries.  It produces a very sweet syrup that as a young child we had always tossed it out (best I can remember) just too sweet to do anything else with it. My father, one time decided to mix in some soda with it. 7UP to be exact. It produced the famous cranberry drink we have with the meal.  Unfortunately it was usually only one glass because there was only some much to go around.

Typically the tried and true method of mixing the liquids is to slowly pour it into a separate pitcher.  However, if you don't drink it all you cannot save it because the soda will loose it's fizz. We have tried many different methods of mixing the drink over the years such as pouring the cranberry syrup into the soda bottle.....that produces a pink volcano!  we have also switched to diet 7UP due to all us diabetics in the a few calories.

Another one is the Party Mix. Not sure when this began but it is a spin off of the Chex Party Mix. The Thompson's of course make a bit of their own modifications to the ingredients one being Honeycombs. Mostly it is the assortment of cereals that are on the box but some additives. Other have chosen to add some of their own favorite cereals, but I stick with the original mix that Dad always made. Sometimes this doesn't get made just due to the shear size of all the food stuff we make. This year we forgot. So maybe we will make it in between the two holidays to keep up with some snacks.

This year the new tradition is heading out for a run on Thanksgiving Day morning.  My wife and I will be doing a 10K Turkey Trot. After all we need to burn off a few calories before the big meal. Is was a nice brisk run but we accomplished it. I did it just a few seconds over one hour....need to work on my time! This may end up not being an entire family thing but our daughter-in-law ran it with us this year too.

Enjoy your day and watch for some more posts on our traditions during the holidays.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Psalm 136 - Thanksgiving

Every year we are asked what we are thankful for. There are always so many things that you can respond to when asked that question. I often equate the response as one that resembles winning an academy award. Okay you have now won this award and you have 15 seconds to thank all the people you want.....and don't forget anyone. Yeah right.

I have always liked Psalm 136. Many years ago in Pennsylvania, several families got together on Thanksgiving and shared a meal at the church building. As a young Christian at the time I was asked to read a scripture...Psalm 136. When I read it I found many things. First it seems that no matter what you do, where you are, who you are....God's love is there for you. God's love endures forever.

Secondly, throughout all the chapter it seems a bit redundant with God's love endures forever over and matter what...his love endures.

The third thing I noticed about the scripture is that years later we were having the same meal again with many of the same people at the same building. However I had grown spiritually and learned a lot over the years.  We were getting ready to move away from our church family there in Allentown and move closer to Philadelphia.  I read the scripture again......funny thing it meant something entirely different. The words were the same, the meaning was the was just that the scripture had grown with me. I had moved on from milk to more meat. I changed, God's word never does...but his love endures forever.

My friends, remember to have a safe thanksgiving and enjoy each and every moment with your family.

Psalm 136

New King James Version (NKJV)

Thanksgiving to God for His Enduring Mercy

136 Oh, give thanks to the Lord, for He is good!
    For His mercy endures forever.
Oh, give thanks to the God of gods!
    For His mercy endures forever.
Oh, give thanks to the Lord of lords!
    For His mercy endures forever:
To Him who alone does great wonders,
    For His mercy endures forever;
To Him who by wisdom made the heavens,
    For His mercy endures forever;
To Him who laid out the earth above the waters,
    For His mercy endures forever;
To Him who made great lights,
    For His mercy endures forever—
The sun to rule by day,
    For His mercy endures forever;
The moon and stars to rule by night,
    For His mercy endures forever.
10 To Him who struck Egypt in their firstborn,
    For His mercy endures forever;
11 And brought out Israel from among them,
    For His mercy endures forever;
12 With a strong hand, and with an outstretched arm,
    For His mercy endures forever;
13 To Him who divided the Red Sea in two,
    For His mercy endures forever;
14 And made Israel pass through the midst of it,
For His mercy endures forever;
15 But overthrew Pharaoh and his army in the Red Sea,
    For His mercy endures forever;
16 To Him who led His people through the wilderness,
    For His mercy endures forever;
17 To Him who struck down great kings,
    For His mercy endures forever;
18 And slew famous kings,
    For His mercy endures forever—
19 Sihon king of the Amorites,
    For His mercy endures forever;
20 And Og king of Bashan,
    For His mercy endures forever—
21 And gave their land as a heritage,
    For His mercy endures forever;
22 A heritage to Israel His servant,
    For His mercy endures forever.
23 Who remembered us in our lowly state,
    For His mercy endures forever;
24 And rescued us from our enemies,
    For His mercy endures forever;
25 Who gives food to all flesh,
    For His mercy endures forever.
26 Oh, give thanks to the God of heaven!
    For His mercy endures forever.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

ADJECTIVES - Brought to you today by the letter A

Ok you know it isn't always easy being a writer when you are not really a writer.  I like to keep my blog posts a little fresh so here are a few MORE DESCRIPTIVE words I plan on using in my upcoming posts.
Adjectives — descriptive words that modify nouns — often come under fire for their cluttering quality, but often it’s quality, not quantity, that is the issue. Plenty of tired adjectives are available to spoil a good sentence, but when you find just the right word for the job, enrichment ensues. Practice precision when you select words.

Here’s a list of adjectives:

Adamant: unyielding; a very hard substance
Adroit: clever, resourceful
Amatory: sexual
Animistic: quality of recurrence or reversion to earlier form
Antic: clownish, frolicsome
Arcadian: serene

Enjoy my friends! Use your WORDS!
ET This I Believe

My Birthday Gift

Getting older isn't always the most exciting thing...unless you are young then it is great.  Once you get past a certain age you really don't want to celebrate birthdays anymore. Like not having a birthday party will prevent you from aging. However getting older is better than the alternative!

I can honestly tell you that last couple of birthdays that I have had were very much unwanted. I was certainly feeling old and did not appreciate it at all. Yesterday I turned 47....almost a half a century, almost five decades....anyway you look at it, it is just a number. It is what you feel like and what you think about in your mind. If you mentally think of yourself as old, then you are.

This year I have taken some serious steps to improve my health and it has all started with losing some weight.  To date I have lost 41 pounds.  Yes I go up and down but not by much. I started running again, something I am not really that great at.  However I have been plugging away at the miles and slowly working my way up the miles.  My half marathon I did was over 4 years ago.  So far I have only worked back up to 10 miles. Yesterday I gave myself a birthday present. 11.4 miles......okay I was actually pushing for the half marathon distance of 13.1 but honestly I was dragging a bit. Regardless I am beating my goals I established for myself at the beginning of the year. I will certainly have the 13.1 distance down before January.

My family got me the perfect gifts of winter running gear....I hate the cold.  But I am determined to keep running all winter long.  Thanks to my family and thanks to all those who have been reading my blog posts and facebook posts encouraging me along the path. I plan on DOMINATING old age!

Stay healthy my friends!
ET This I Believe

Saturday, November 3, 2012

The Circle of Life

Well, we first heard about the circle of life from the famous Disney Lion King movie.  Our family, with all the young kids at the time, watched it over and over........and over and over. It seems that many times we reminisce about a past experience with our now grown children and use a quote from one Disney movie or another to recall the moment.

However the discussion of the circle of life never really entered into the discussions. The words of the song appear like this:

From the day we arrive on the planet
And blinking step into the sun
There's more to be seen than can ever be seen
More to do than can ever be done
Some say, eat or be eaten
Some say, live and let live
But, all are agreed as they join the stampede
You should never take more than you give

In the circle of life

It's the wheel of fortune
It's the leap by faith
It's the band of hope
Till, we find our place
On the path unwinding
In the circle
The circle of life

Some of us fall by the wayside

And some of us soar to the stars
And some of us sail through our troubles
And some have to live with the scars
There's far too much to take in here
More to find than can ever be found
But the sun rollin' high
Through the sapphire sky
Keeps the great and small on the endless round

This week begins another transition in our lives. Not sure I have grasped the total reality of everything that will take place. It has come the time for my mother to move in with us.  She is calling it an extended visit. The Circle of Life. For now we are letting her call it a visit but she needs someone to watch over her now she is at the age of 80. There is nothing wrong with growing old...we all do it. When we get older we begin to forget things, we have more illness, we have more medicines, we cannot get around quite like we used to.  Nothing wrong with is better than the alternative.

As a teenager, my grandmother (my mom's mom) came to live with us in Oklahoma for many years. Teenage boys are not the most energetic individuals about sensitivity. I had older siblings growing up and by the time I was in elementary school, most of them had grown up and moved away.  I had the house to myself. My mother and father worked in their tax business and I often times found myself home alone. Pretty typical for right after school. During the tax season, my parents often worked late in the evenings and I was home alone then as well.  It was either that or stay up at the office with thanks.

So when my grandmother came to live with us, my territory was invaded. It actually wasn't that dramatic.  I just had the rule of the house and now I had someone to chat with instead of being alone.  I wish I had taken the opportunity to write some of her stories down. It would have been great (now) to recount her life growing up.  She was the only grand parent I ever got to meet so it was special.  Looking back I can say that the only thing that really irritated me about her was when she took over the remote control.  Television was her life....isn't that so true about older folks.....the television is their connection to everything. She had to watch Little House on the Prairie or The Waltons. Those were not the favorite shows of a teenage boy. And back then we only had one TV. Isn't it strange that years later I marry a girl whose favorite shows growing up were just those!

My grandmother went up to my aunt and uncle's home in St. Louis for the remainder of her days and unfortunately I never got to see her again.  I never even made it to her funeral. A very sad accounting now that I think about it.  I missed out on a lot.

As a father, we have gone through the mass Exodus of all our four kids.  Okay, again a bit more dramatic than actually occurred.  It just happened.  My wife and I had our children pretty young and they just grew up. I can honestly say that I wasn't really sure that I was ready for that.  It has probably affected me far more than my wife. One by one each left for college or for the mission field and then marriage and now making their home. Currently two are married, one lives near us in Norfolk and the other in Colorado.  One is just finishing up a mission work in South America and will soon be headed back to Texas to finish up school.  I expect a wedding announcement soon.....I probably shouldn't say that on here....oops. And finally our daughter just announced her wedding plans for January.  Basically all of them no longer live in our home. It was always our intent to have them grow up and send them out of the nest.....what would be the alternative?

We are actually very proud of them all.  It is exciting to see them begin their lives and careers......and I am sure families soon too.  Don't call me grandpa yet.....however I believe that my grandpa name has already been coined as "PAPA T". A spin off of MR. T and COACH T from the younger days. At 46 my wife and I had found ourselves as empty nesters. As first, tragic.  After we got used to it...okay, after I got used to was kind of nice. We could go anywhere at anytime....nobody to report to...except for MAVRICK.

As a son, now yesterday I spent the day home from work preparing my daughter's old room for my mother.  It is painted a bright cheerful turquoise.  I cleaned the room, made adjustments for the lighting and heat, and prepared the bathroom for her needs. This will be a transition for us but I think it will be very nice. Different but nice. There will need to be time for all of us to make adjustments....even the dogs....they need to learn how to get along and share their bones.

Later this weekend, we will get her a cell phone, set up her computer with Facebook and an email account (she is baulking a bit at me on this one but I think it will be good. We need to keep her mind busy and active.  TV will not be her only outlet. She can connect with friends and family from all over.  It wont be that complicated....she is a smart lady, just hasn't had the need to use it in awhile) We will be making a few repairs around the house, many of the things we were wanting to do anyway.  I just need to get them accomplished now.

I am excited, and mommy is here. After all the years of her watching over me and taking care of all my needs, I get to help her.....It is The Circle of Life.  I don't intend on wasting these moments.  This will be a great Christmas! Take care my friends.