Posted by: bree1972 | December 5, 2013

Where to Find Bree Now 12/5/2013

Bree’s Mackinac Island Blog and Bree’s Lake Blackshear Blog have been combined.

You can keep up with the Horton clan by clicking on Bree’s Connecting the Dots http://bree1948.wordpress.comCome on over . . . . and don’t forget to click on the “follow this blog” icon at Connecting the Dots so you’ll get a notice when posts are published.

Love ya’ll!

Posted by: bree1972 | November 27, 2013

A Thanksgiving “Top 10″ List 11/27/2013

Hello Everyone!

On Thanksgiving our table will be set for 8.  All of our children, bonus children and grandchildren are joining us – coming in the day before Thanksgiving and staying through the weekend.  Can’t wait to see them all and sit around our dining room table – making new memories.

We’ll also be remembering those who are celebrating the holiday in Heaven, and in spirit they will take their places at our Thanksgiving table.  We are all here because of them.

This will be the second Thanksgiving I’ve reposted this blog –  “A Thanksgiving Top Ten”.  There have been some changes since last year because – well, that’s what families do – we change as time passes. 

I’ll see you back here on Monday, December 2!

P.S.  For those of you who picked Thanksgiving as the day I’d show up again – you win!

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Not being a regular television watcher, I don’t keep up with much on the small screen (or the big screen, as so many of them are these days), but I do know David Letterman has a “Top Ten” list for just about anything of relevance in today’s world.  Sitting on the sun porch this morning, sipping coffee and watching our birds happily munch away at “Horton’s Fine Feathers Cafe”, I conjured up my “Top Ten” list of blessings.  Here’s what I’m thankful for – from cherished to most cherished.

Number 10:  Sunrises, Sunsets – and Everything In Between.  Whether in Georgia or on Mackinac Island, I pretty much miss sunrise each morning, choosing instead to snooze right through it unless I have an early morning appointment somewhere.  Thank goodness there are others less lazy than I who bound up, ready to tackle the day and verify for all of us late risers that the sun does indeed come up each morning – signaling the end of night and the start of another day that the Lord has made – just for us.  Between the sunrise and sunset, I’m thankful for every single moment I’m given – to love deeply and to live fully.  As I’ve grown older, the need to cherish each moment God grants me has grown.  The whirlwind of younger days has been replaced with an appreciation of the finer things in life – sun sparkling on water, trees budding in the spring, the kaleidoscope of leaves in the fall, the long stretch and curve of dirt roads in the country, the clip-clop of horses hooves on Mackinac streets, the natural wonders of the woods in the South and in the North, the song of birds.  My comforts now lie mainly in what God has made, not in the man-made, rapidly replaced “stuff” we invent for our pleasures.  Sunsets herald the end of another day, the peace of slumber, and the hope that the daytime hours were well-spent – and at least somewhat pleasing to our Maker.

Number 9:  The Joy of the Double-Nest.  Ted and I both know how blessed we’ve been to enjoy summers in Michigan and winters in Georgia.  When telling strangers about our life-style, we often heard the phrase, “You have the best of both worlds!”  It was true, and we’d give thanks every day.  Selling our condo on the island was a painful, but needed event this year. Double-nesting will soon become a blessed memory, but the changes we are anticipating for the coming year are exciting!  Mackinac will always be a magical place we will return to in the summer for at least a couple of months – for respite from the “real” world.

Number 8:  Retirement.  What a wonderful time of life!  When I was very young I once said, “We do it all wrong.  We should be free to enjoy life when we’re young – maybe from college to age 35 – then go to work and work till we die.”  Oh, the stupidly of youthful thoughts!  How could I have possibly imagined the joy that would come from having worked and done a job well, while my brain was clear enough to handle it.  As a young person, how could I possibly have known the joy of the “light at the end of the tunnel” that would flicker more brightly with each year – something to look forward to.  Retirement – the joy of free days to do nothing if that is my choice, the joy of volunteering, the joy of grandchildren, the joy of being old and feeling good and NOT having to go to work.  I sure am glad the system works as it does – not as I once thought it should.

Number 7:  Pets.  What would we do without them!   Bear and Maddie and all those before them . . . Bud, Shotzie, Calico, Whiskers, Tyler.  They fill our days with undiluted happiness, even when they are at their most annoying.  They bring us unconditional love while they live and heart-wrenching sorrow when they leave us.  Our lives would not be as joyful without them, and when my final hours on this earth approach, I pray I will spend them surrounded by family – and with a good dog’s head resting under my hand.

Number 6:  Friends.  I believe you can have only one BFF (“best friend forever” – for those not into the modern initials of the texting world) –  mine is Helen McCorvey.  I don’t mention her often, but she knows she’s the sister I never had and always longed for.  She’s there for me always, knows all my secrets . . . and loves me anyway.  We don’t talk or see each other nearly enough these days; but I know – and she knows – that a phone call would bring us running to each other to help with anything.  Helen taught me English when I was a Junior in high school, and one day she praised something I wrote for a special assignment.  That praise planted the seed for what I do today.  Over the years she’s been my teacher, my boss, and my mentor, and now she’s my best friend forever.  I love you to the moon and back, my sweet friend!

Close friends come and go throughout our lives, and I’m thankful for each and everyone.  The ones who stick through all the ups and downs are the ones I remember and the ones who hold such a special place in my heart.  They’re the ones I call when I need a pep talk or want to brag about my children or grandchildren.  They’re the ones, although I don’t see them for months – or talk to them for weeks – don’t hold it against me, and pick up the next conversation as though we only spoke yesterday.  In the close-knit communities of the lake in Georgia and the little island of Mackinac, it’s those close friends I’d long to get back to when we were away.  In a perfect world, I would have hauled them all back and forth with us each year.  Practicality prevented that, of course, but it sure would have made both our “nests” pretty much perfect.

There’s another group that must be mentioned in this friend “thankfulness” list – those of you who have become networked together through these two blogs – one in Georgia and one on Mackinac Island.  You’re such a loyal group – over 1500 strong in Michigan and over 700 strong in Georgia.  I’m thankful for each of you.  A few years ago, none of us knew each other, and most of us will never meet face-to-face or even speak on the phone.  Nevertheless, we are friends.  We care for each other through our mutual love of a place.  I think that’s pretty doggone special!

Number 5:  Family.  Family is everything.  As an only child I always longed for sisters and brothers, and loved spending time with my first cousins (most of my aunts and uncles had large families).  Life being what it is, we’ve all ebbed and flowed into each other’s lives at different times over the years, and it is only since the deaths of the uncles and aunts that we’ve really become close again.  I’m so thankful for that, and I love each of them with a love born from the blood that courses through our veins.  We are kin.  They are my roots.

Cousins are very important in Ted’s family also, and I’m so thankful for Cathy and Charlie.  Although we lost Charlie this summer, after a courageous health battle which would have taken a lesser man many years ago, he will always be such a blessed memory to me.  We’ve added him to the list of those celebrating this holiday in Heaven.

Number 4:  Parents.  Mine were the best.  Tom Brokak called them “the greatest generation”, and I whole-heartedly agree.  As young marrieds, my mom and dad knew all about pinching pennies, and whatever they had was earned with long hours and lots of toil.  When daddy went off to war, mama went to work – and when the war was over, daddy came home and jumped right back into earning a living for his family.  My childhood was filled with love – but not the kind that spoils.  There were many “things” I thought I would truly die if I didn’t have – but I didn’t get them, and I’m still here.  We went to church together, and they taught me – through demonstration – their work ethic, which I’ve tried to emulate.  They loved me unconditionally, and of all the things I miss about them since they’ve left this earth, it is that unconditional love I miss the most.  I think about them dozens of times a day and talk to them all the time – just like they are here.  I will see them again, and what a joyous day that will be!

Number 3:  Ted.  When Ted and I married, my boys were 16 and 12.  What could he possibly have been thinking – marrying me when part of the “package” included two hormone-pumping teenagers!  But marry me he did, and we’ve never been sorry.  Ted brought a man’s 24-hour-a-day perspective to our home, and my young men thrived on it.  Even to this day, when we’re all together, I’m told of something that happened “back in the day” that Jason and Blake went to Ted with – not to me.  Does that hurt me?  Not one bit.  I thank God every day that we’re together.  Ted loves me, loves my children, laughs with me, cooks every night, volunteers because he wants to give back to the community, and is the most fair, unprejudiced person I’ve ever known.  He’s also the most stubborn man I’ve ever known and sometimes the most annoying.  I love him.  He is my rock.

Number 2:  Children and Grandchildren.  Our friend, Chris Ann from Michigan, called her daughters- and sons-in-law “bonus children”.  I’d never heard that term before, but Ted and I immediately claimed it – for in-laws AND each other’s children.  Julie, Ted’s daughter, is my bonus daughter, and my children are Ted’s bonus sons.  Sounds so much better than step-children, doesn’t it!

Jason and Blake are my heart, and God must have thought I was pretty special to bless me with these two.  Are they perfect?  Oh, please!  They caused every single gray hair I have to spend hundreds of dollars a year covering up.  But, as my parents loved me, so I love them.

Jason’s unflinching love of everything life has to offer partially rubbed off on me in my later years.  It was Jason who first pulled me onto a plane when I was well into my 40’s.  He couldn’t believe I’d never flown, and practically man-handled me into a tiny sea-plane in Panama City one summer.  The flight was almost half-over before I ever opened my eyes, but from that day on, I’ve loved to fly.  He can make me laugh even in the worst of a bad mood.  Jason is my favorite oldest son, and I am so proud of him.

Blake is the strong, silent type – until you get to know him.  Then he’s strong, and not-so-silent.  He is serious about his faith in God, has an abiding patience with life I wish I had, and can bring calm to most any storm.  He seems to care not a whit for creature comforts, preferring to live with a few necessities and go with the flow.  His years serving in China taught him a deep appreciation for other cultures, but he loves the United States and is so enjoying being back here.  Whether he will ever know earthly wealth is something only God knows, but even now he is one of the richest people I know.  Blake is my favorite youngest son, and I am so proud of him.

Julie – my bonus daughter.  If I had carried a daughter within me for nine months, I could not have asked for one more beautiful or sweet or loving than Julie.  She is a constant amazement to me.  I’ve watched and listened over the years as she and and bonus-son Matt have raised our precious grandchildren, Jordan and Matthew, and often wondered, “Where did she learn all this stuff?”  I think she could write a best-selling book on mothering, and I’d be glad to be her agent. Together, Julie and Matt make a great team.

Number 1:  God.  When I was nine I joined the First Baptist Church of Sylvester.  I was caught up in the annual revival meeting, and it seemed to be the “right thing to do” at that time in my childhood.  I was baptized the next Sunday, and my parents were so happy.  Did I have a clue what I was really doing?  No.  Oh, I called myself a Christian from that time on, but as years went by, I took all of it for granted.  Church was someplace I was expected to be on Sunday mornings, but when I left my parents’ home for marriage, other things became more important.  Children brought me back into the church because I knew they should be there.  Divorce took me away again.

Many years later, on a lonely road between our lake house and my job in Albany, early one morning in March as the sun was rising over a cotton field, I pulled over to the side of the road.  Blake had gone to China for the first time months before, and I could not stop worrying about him.  My every thought seemed to be for his safety, and it was affecting my whole life – my relationship with Ted, with friends, with my mother, with my job – everything.  One of the things I promised myself I would do when Blake left was to read the Bible straight through, and I started that process on January 1.  The more I read each morning, the more I realized my relationship with the Lord was not as it should be.  I knew I hadn’t made Him first in my life in years, and I knew I was miserable.  That morning, sobbing on the side of the road, I asked forgiveness for the sins of my life – naming them, at least all the big ones – and putting all the others under “and everything else I’ve ever done that I shouldn’t have” phrase.  I asked Jesus to come into my life that morning for the very first time – at least fully knowing what I was asking.  My next prayer was for Blake’s safety in China, and even before I could say “Amen”, a peace unlike anything I’d ever known filled me.

Do I still struggle with sin?  Oh yes.  But I know for sure now that when Christ died on that cross, he was dying for me – so my sins would be forgiven.  I know one day I will meet Him in Heaven, along with all the loved ones that have gone before. God is my anchor, and with Him, all things are possible.

God bless, and Happy Thanksgiving

Posted by: bree1972 | April 25, 2013

From My Heart 4/25/2013

All changes, even the most longed for, have their melancholy; for what we leave behind us is a part of ourselvesAnatole France.

It’s been a strange winter for me.  I don’t mean the weather, although that’s been strange enough.  I mean strange as in introspective – not a quality I identify a lot with myself.  I’ve always been one of those impulsive, spur-of-the-moment people.  An idea will pop into my head, and without so much as three minutes of real thought, I’m off on some new project that usually turns out as well as it would have if I’d spent weeks planning each step.

Of course it doesn’t always work.  My readers can remember quite a few times I’ve said, “This summer I’m going to do (fill-in-the-blank) on the blog.”  And it just didn’t happen.  A perfect example is last summer’s “Dog-Eared Page” – Lordy, what a disaster.

A few of my impulses have worked out pretty well though.  This blog was an impulse.  I remember, as we prepared to return to Mackinac for our first full summer, saying to myself, “I think I’ll try writing about the season on the Island.”  I remember sitting down, opening the laptop, registering with WordPress.com and starting this journal of our lives that is about to enter its fifth year – 622 posts, over 650,000 visitors from all over the world.

An impulse idea that truly changed my world was when I said to Ted, “I think we should buy a summer home on Mackinac Island.”  After Ted stopped laughing, he sat me down – bless his heart – and shared with me all the reasons that was never going to happen.  I must have been temporarily deaf that day.  When he saw I was serious, Ted went through all the gyrations he always does when making any decision – whether it’s buying a vacation home or deciding the nutritional differences between whole wheat and white bread.  He studied all the resources available, made calls and wrote letters.  And after weeks and weeks of research, he said to me one evening, “Ok, I think we can do this.”

I remember giving him a big kiss, a bigger hug and whispering in his ear, “I thought we could!”

Last November, after we arrived home and had a wonderful Thanksgiving here at the lake with all the cousins, I arose one morning with a nagging thought that would not let me go.  I tried praying about it, tried to ignore it, tried to talk myself around it, tried to convince myself I was not really feeling what I was feeling.

But I was.

And what I was feeling was an intense need to nest.  When I was honest with myself, I admitted that the feeling had begun on the island last summer.  I felt as though as I was walking through the motions of living there.  Whenever I thought of something I wanted to do at the condo, my first thought would be, “But why?  I won’t be here much longer to enjoy it.”  The same thing was happening here in Georgia.  With all the work we’d done in the kitchen last spring, we left a week later and didn’t get to enjoy it for 5 months.  Yes, it was here when we returned, but I could look ahead and see similar events like that through the coming years.

I have no idea why this has become such an issue with me now unless it’s an age thing – a deep internal craving to be settled, to be nested-in for good, to be at home – truly at home – at this time in our lives.  Another factor is our grandchildren.  They’re in Florida now, and we’ve seen them at least once a month since we’ve been home.  But they’re not going to be able to come north this summer, so for the next 6 months we won’t see them.  That was often the case when they lived in Arkansas, but now they’re only four hours away.

I finally approached the subject with Ted a few weeks ago and was so relieved to find he’d been having much the same conversation with himself – not the nesting thing, but concerns more on the practical side.  Two houses are expensive to maintain, and nearly all our resources go toward keeping them up.  We’d both like to travel more.  We’d both like a home that we can make improvements on and be around all year to enjoy.

Over the last weeks, Ted and I have talked and soul-searched more than probably any other time in our marriage.  After writing down list after list of pros and cons, what we’ve decided on is this:

Step one:  This summer we will put our Mackinac condo on the market.

Step two:  When we return in the fall (or if the condo sells, whenever we return to Georgia), we will put the lake house on the market.

Step three:  When both have sold (we realize, of course, that it may be three weeks, three months, or three years before any of this happens), we want to relocate to the east coast of Florida somewhere around the Amelia Island/Fernandino Beach area.

As I just typed those steps, I am amazed at the calmness of my spirit.  It didn’t come easily.  As usual, when I am going through a turmoil of emotions, I first try to “go it alone”.  It was only after I got down on my knees and turned it all over to God that I found my peace.  My prayer was this: Lord, this is a tremendous change to think about in our senior years.  I ask, whatever Your will is in our lives, that You only open those doors.  If this move is pleasing to You, it will happen.  If not, it won’t.  We won’t force it.  We put it all into your more than capable hands.”

When I stood from my prayer place on my knees by our bed, the peace came like a warm breeze whispering over me.  From that moment on, I’ve been calm about what we are considering.

I know to most of my readers, and our friends and our family that all this is more than surprising.  My deep love for Mackinac has not changed, and I believe it will forever be my heart’s home.  I don’t intend to give it up. One of our ideas is to continue to spend a couple of months there in the summer.  But we will be coming as visitors, not as residents.  There is no part of me that longs to let go completely of my magical Mackinac.

Ted and I both deeply love our home and friends at the lake, and leaving here will be hard.  But most of our friends here are beach people also, and I have a feeling they will visit us much more often in Florida than they did in Michigan.

Finally, I’ve come to the conclusion over the years that Ted and I both must have a pint or two of gypsy blood flowing in our veins.  Hopefully, if all this works out and we land ocean-side, that gypsy blood will have thinned out enough for us to ignore it for the rest of our lives.

Why the beach?  Where I found my heart’s home on Mackinac, Ted’s heart has always belonged to the ocean – to sandy beaches and warm, tropical winds.  I love the beach also – not as much as my husband, but enough to think our lives would be rich, peaceful and fulfilled there.  The added plus is we would only be a couple of hours from our grandchildren.

So today is the beginning of the new normal for Ted and I.  We will pack up for Mackinac and move northward – just like the last six summers.  If the condo does not sell, we are planning a fabulous season on the island, and we’ll be back in Georgia in November.  If it does sell, we’ll be back earlier.

From now on, there will only be one blog – the one from Mackinac – although it’s name will change as our lives change.  From this point on, we will be focused on transitioning into our forever home.

I hope you choose to follow us on this journey.  You, my readers, have become friends not only to me, but to each other.  I love you all, and I’ve whispered your names into God’s ear on many occasions.  You are such an important part of my life – I don’t want you to go away.

I know this is a lot to process, but the writing of it has helped me put it all into even more perspective.  I can already fill the excitement of this next life’s journey taking hold.

Just as you followed me to Mackinac five summers ago, I hope we can take this next step together.

God bless.

Note:  Starting today, 4/25/2013, Bree’s Lake Blackshear Blog is being consolidated into the blog from Mackinac Island – until we return home in November (or sooner if the condo sells).  Please go there and sign up to “follow” me if you have not already done that.  Thanks so much, and see you “over there”:   http://bree1972.wordpress.com.

Posted by: bree1972 | April 18, 2013

We Interrupt Your Regularly Scheduled Programming…

Hey y’all! It’s Lana from Never Enough Thyme with a message for you.

I know you were expecting to hear from Brenda today but, unfortunately, she’s having a little problem with her laptop. It’s in the clinic and since she’s going out of town this weekend and working with Bear on Monday, she won’t be able to get it back until next Tuesday! So just hang on…she’s coming back as soon as she can. And knowing Brenda, she’ll have something fantastic to share with all of us by next week.

In the meantime, you could always pay a little visit to my blog. There’s always something good cooking over there :-)

Posted by: bree1972 | April 11, 2013

A Sentimental Journey 4/10/2013

Joe and Kay McInvale had been our neighbors at the lake – two doors down – since we moved here in 1996.  At first they were weekend neighbors, keeping their house in Albany, where they moved as the last stop in Commander McInvale’s  34-year Naval career.  Joe was a World War II veteran and served in the Pacific upon enlistment, as well as the Vietnam Conflict where he served aboard the USS America in the Sea of Japan.

They eventually made the transition to permanent neighbors, and we became close friends.  Joe was an engineer and could design and build ANYTHING.  He and Ted were all the time working on “projects” together, and as a retired registered nurse, Kay kept busy gardening and volunteering at the hospital in Albany.

When Mr. Joe’s health began to decline a couple of years ago, their four daughters suggested they both move into an assisted living home in Atlanta, where Donna, their oldest of four daughters, lives – and that is what they did.  Last fall, while we were still in Michigan, Mr. Joe passed away.

Donna and Kay still come down and spend time occasionally at the lake house, and this past weekend they were here.  They mentioned they were going to ride over to Andersonville National Cemetery, where Joe was buried in October with full military honors.  We invited ourselves along, and on Saturday morning we picked them up and made the short drive.

Andersonville National Cemetery was established to provide a permanent place of honor for those who died in military service to our country. The initial interments, beginning in February 1864, were those who died in the nearby prisoner of war camp.

A few years ago we visited Andersonville, and I wrote a story about the the Prisoner of War Museum there.

A few years ago I wrote a story about the the Prisoner of War Museum at Andersonville http://wp.me/pF9Ya-rX.  To see the rows and rows of grave markers is always a solemn moment.

Kay and Donna walk toward the section where Joe is interred.

Kay and Donna walk toward the section where Joe was laid to rest.

The headstone stands in a newer section of the cemetery, where grass cover hasn't been established.  After this summer's rain and hot weather, the grass will be green and lush.

The headstone stands in a newer section of the cemetery, where grass cover hasn’t been established. After this summer’s rain and hot weather, the grass will be green, lush, and perfectly manicured.

Kay told us that one day she will rest here also.  The graves for veterans whose spouses wish to be buried with them are dug deeper, and the spouses are buried above their loved one.

Kay told us that one day she will rest here also. The graves of veterans whose spouses wish to be buried with them are dug deeper, and the spouses are buried above their loved one.

Kay and Donna

Kay and Donna

Over 20,000 veterans now rest in this beautiful, peaceful national cemetery.

Over 20,000 veterans now rest in this lovely and peaceful national cemetery.

Visiting Andersonville always stirs so many emotions.  Despair for the thousands who died here in horrible conditions, but pride that such an ugly part of the South's history has now been transformed into a place of honor for our veterans.

Visiting Andersonville always stirs so many emotions – despair for the thousands who died here in horrible conditions, but pride that such an ugly part of the South’s history has now been transformed into a place of honor and tribute for our veterans.

Rest in peace, Mr. Joe.  You are missed.

Posted by: bree1972 | April 4, 2013

Springtime at the Lake 4/4/2013

When Ted and I looked at the calendar hanging on the inside of the cereal cabinet door this past Monday morning, we saw four empty squares marking Monday-Thursday.  We grinned at each other and said – almost at the same time – “Woo Hoo!”

Ok, ok.  Ted has never said “woo hoo” is his life – but I said it for both of us.

With no doctor, dentist, eye exam, grocery or Pet Partner visits looming for the week, I did what I normally do this time of year . . . made a list!

Yep – it’s time for the six-weeks-to-go-before-we-leave-for-Michigan-list.  I’ve said it before, but I never made lists back in my younger days – I just remembered stuff.  Now, if it isn’t written down and checked off, it won’t get done.  Sad, but true.

Things on my list this year:

  • Deep clean the house (which means closets, drawers, cabinets, blinds, windows, etc.).  I divide the house into rooms and the rooms into sections.  Yes, I could do it all in a few days if I wanted to half-kill myself, but I’m hoping to be alive and well at the end of the “deep clean”.  So I just do a couple of things on the lists each day until we leave.  That way, the house gets sparkly, but I still have lots of “day” left each day to do other things, like . . .
  • Exercise and eat better!  I have been a very, VERY bad girl this winter.  I have not walked, I have not biked, I have not dieted.  What I have done is sit a lot, read a lot and eat a lot.  Even as busy as we’ve stayed and as on-the-go as we’ve been, there has been no real cardio exercise at all.  Therefore, I am one big lump of weak muscles and no stamina.  What does that mean come the middle of May on the first trip up Cadotte to our condo on Mackinac?  It means this old girl will be in a world of hurt.  Something has to change. And that leads us to the last thing on the list . . .  another list!
  • Start getting ready to close the lake house.  You’ve seen that list before – no need to post it again.  And besides – it just seems to get longer each year.  I’d think by now it would be shorter.  But it’s not.

So now it’s Thursday, and the accomplishments are starting to be checked off.  The house cleaning is on schedule, and so is the exercise.  I dug my Walk at Home tapes out of mothballs and dutifully marched three miles in 45 minutes around our den each day this week – except for the day I rode my bike four miles (I did that outside).  My chicken-salad-sandwich-and-potato-chip-lunches have been replaced by lean baked chicken, raw carrots, and whole wheat Gold Fish (I HAVE to have one salty, crunchy treat or I will NOT stick to this type of eating).  I’m hoping to keep it all going now that I’ve gotten through the hardest part . . . getting off the couch.

LAKE PHOTOS

It finally warmed up enough for Ted to drop the boat in the water and cruise to Booger Bottom like a true Ri'vah local.

It finally warmed up enough for Ted to drop the boat in the water and cruise to Booger Bottom via the ri’vah.

We have a huge bed of azaleas in the front yard, and they looked really pretty one evening as the sun was setting.

We have a huge bed of azaleas in the front yard, and they looked really pretty one evening as the sun was setting.

The next day I walked out front with the camera to take a couple of shots of the azaleas in the sun.

The next day I walked out front with the camera to take a couple of shots of the azaleas in the sun.

Bear found a stick to chew on after he figured out I didn't bring his ball out with me.

Bear found a stick to chew on after he figured out I didn’t bring his ball out with me.  It was a gorgeous day on the ri’vah.

We've just begun to notice a slight tinge of green in the lawn.  With all the rain we've been getting, it won't be long before it t

We’ve just begun to notice a slight tinge of green in the lawn. With all the rain we’ve been getting, all we need is a week of warm temps and it will look like a green velvet shag rug.

My first photo attempt at a full moon . . .

My first photo attempt at a full moon . . .

same moon, cropped up close.

. . . same moon, cropped up close.  LOVE my new camera!

Places you don't want to see your husband.  We've had a lot of wind this spring, and Ted was on top of the boathouse nailing down tin that had torn loose.  I was very glad when that task was over, and he was back on the dock!

Places you don’t want to see your husband!  We’ve had a lot of wind this spring, and Ted was on top of the boathouse nailing down tin that had torn loose.

I was very glad when that task was over, and he was back on the dock!

I was very glad when that task was over, and he was back on the dock!  As you can see, all the rain has our lake still looking mighty muddy.

Back yard azaleas against

Back yard azaleas against the beautiful “spring green” of budding trees.

Kind of a crooked photo, but I was sitting in the swing and turned around and shot this over the back

Kind of a crooked photo, but I was sitting in the swing when I turned around and shot this. 

Early one morning, I opened our front door to let Maddie and Bear out and saw the full moon setting.  As I opened the back door to go out onto the sunporch, I was greeted by the sun rising through the mist over the water.  My thoughts turned to that old adage, "God's in his Heaven, all's right with the world."

Early one morning, I opened our front door to let Maddie and Bear out and saw the full moon setting. As I opened the back door to go out onto the sun porch, I was greeted by . .

. . . the sun rising through the mist over the water. My thoughts turned to that old adage, "God's in his Heaven, all's right with the world."

. . . the sun rising through the mist over the water. I sat down on the sofa out there and just watched in silence for a few moments as the lake came alive with the sound of birds arriving at the feeders, an early morning fisherman starting his motor somewhere up the river, and the gentle lap of water against the seawall. 

As the days warm and our minds turn once more toward going north, I find myself thinking more and more about our future years and what they may bring.  There is a part of me that has begun to long for the stability of a year-round residence, where I can plant flowers in the spring and still be there to cut them in the summer.  Maybe it’s my age and some primeval turning of my spirit more toward a permanent nest for our senior years.  I don’t know exactly what it is, but I find myself spending more time than usual trying to figure it out.

But then I think of giving up Mackinac, and the sadness I feel is so overwhelming I silently shake my head and say, “Not yet . . . no, not yet.”

Posted by: bree1972 | March 29, 2013

HE LIVES! 3/29/2013

Because He lives

I can face tomorrow.

jesus-easter-821662-tablet

Because He lives

All fear is gone.

jesus-christ-crown-thorns-827200-tablet

Because I know

He holds the future.

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And life is worth the living

just because

He lives.

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With love and the joy of knowing My Savior lives, on this beautiful Easter weekend, I pray God’s richest blessings for each of you.

wp94d8056f_05_062We ate lunch at Pearly’s Famous Country Cooking Restaurant – where the locals eat and where you walk up the counter, give your order, and watch them ladle up mashed potatoes and gravy, home-made cornbread or biscuits, fresh veggies, fried chicken, cubed steak, beef tips over rice. etc. – and wonder where in the world you will put all that food!  Then you miraculously find a table and join all the other customers who go there day after day for breakfast and lunch.  I mean that literally.  Every time we set foot in Pearly’s we see the same people, and I’m not talking about five or six of the same people.  I’m talking 20-30 of the same people.  Pearly’s is busy and somewhat chaotic – but the food is WORTH IT!

After sopping up the last drop of gravy with the last crumb of biscuit, and good Lord have mercy,  eating dessert on top of that (who turns down homemade banana pudding – tell me who?), we rolled ourselves out the door and headed for Radium Springs on the east side of Albany.

When I was growing up in Sylvester and only came to Albany to occasionally shop, the neighborhood of Radium Springs was the premiere place to live.  That was before the mall was built in the Northwest part of Albany and the city’s growth pattern changed forever.

In my early teens, my parents would sometimes ride over to Radium on a Sunday afternoon, and I’d wade around (I couldn’t then and still can’t swim) in the coldest water I’d ever put my toes in – until many, many years later when I first waded out a few feet into Lake Huron.  Radium Springs (the neighborhood) was named after Radium Springs (the springs) – the 7th Natural Wonder of Georgia, which pours out 70,000 gallons of clear, fresh, 68 degrees year-round water per minute.

ooooo

Radium Springs – once called Blue Springs – was once one of Georgia’s most popular resort spots.  After it was damaged by the floods of 1994 and 1998, it was restored and is preserved now as an ecological and environmental park.  Swimming is no longer allowed.

Radium Springs was well known to both prehistoric and later Creek Indians, who lived and hunted in the surrounding area while fishing in the crystal clear water.  By the time English settlers arrived in South Carolina and Georgia, the area around Albany was controlled by the Lower Creeks, and early accounts mention the springs. Explorers and later settlers marveled at the depth and clarity of the water.  Large fish could be seen swimming far below the surface and a large population of wild animals lived in the area around the spring.

Despite its long history as a local spot for fishing and swimming, it was an unexpected discovery in the early 20th century that made it a prominent resort. Testing revealed that the water flowing from the spring contained traces of radium, a chemical element discovered in 1898 in France by Marie and Pierre Curie.  Radium is 1,000 more times radioactive than uranium. It occurs naturally in certain types of earth and is extremely rare. Uniquely, it is luminescent and glows in a faint blue color.

Bathing in mineral waters was believed in the 19th and early 20th centuries to be a way of improving the health of people suffering a variety of illnesses.  Warm Springs, located 100 miles or so to the north on the slopes of Pine Mountain, was already a popular health resort by the early 1900s. Blue Springs was renamed Radium Springs as the first step in its development as a major resort.

The resort, which included a casino and bathhouses overlooking the spring, a hotel named the Skywater, cottages, riding and walking trails and one of the finest golf courses in the South opened in 1927 and was an instant success.  Guests came by train to Albany from across the country to soak in the waters and enjoy the other amenities.

The Great Depression led to the closure of Radium Springs in 1939 and over the years it opened and closed several times.

The spring was still a popular swimming place for Albany area residents until 1994 when the casino and other historic structures suffered heavy damage in the Tropical Storm Alberto flooding. A second flood inflicted even more damage in 1998. Sadly, the casino was too severely damaged to save.

The spring was still a popular swimming place for Albany area residents until 1994 when the casino and other historic structures suffered heavy damage in the Tropical Storm Alberto flooding. A second flood inflicted even more damage in 1998. Sadly, the casino was too severely damaged to save.  The small, white rectangular sign on the tree on the right side of this photo shows the high water mark of the 1994 flood.

The property and remains of the spring area of the resort, however, were acquired by state and local governments and reopened in 2010 as a historic site and botanical garden.

The property and remains of the spring area of the resort, however, were acquired by state and local governments and reopened in 2010 as a historic site and botanical garden.

The park is located on Radium Springs Road and is open to the public Tuesday – Saturday from 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. and on Sundays from 1 p.m. – 5 p.m. It is closed on Monday.

There are gardens, walkways, interpretive panels, spectacular natural beauty and the ruins of the historic resort. The park is free to visit.

The walls of the original casino still stand.

The walls of the original casino still stand.

The area is surrounded by beautiful trees dripping in Spanish moss.

The area is surrounded by beautiful trees dripping in Spanish moss.

Looking back toward the casino from a man-made island.

Looking back toward the remains of the casino from a man-made island.

I honestly don't remember the Springs looking this beautiful back in the 60's.  And they probably weren't when hundreds and hundreds of people were there swimming, picnicking and sunbathing.  I think I prefer it as it is today.

I honestly don’t remember the Springs looking this beautiful back in the 60’s. And it probably didn’t with hundreds and hundreds of people there swimming, picnicking and sunbathing. I think I prefer it as it is today.

Next up on our road trip was a little plaza downtown named after one of Albany’s most famous sons . . .

Mr. Ray Charles

Mr. Ray Charles, born in Albany on Sept. 23, 1930. The revolving, illuminated bronze sculpture of Charles seated at a baby grand piano is the work of Andy Davis

The life-size sculpture sits on the banks of the Flint River, and as you approach the music of Charles welcomes you to this memorial.

fffffff

Georgia on My Mind was written in the 1930’s by Hoagy Carmichael and Stuart Gorrell, but it wasn’t until Charles recorded it in 1960 that it became a mega-hit. Nineteen years later it became the official Georgia State Song.  Although there are many recordings of the song by various performers including Louis Armstrong, Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald, willie Nelson and Michael Bolton, Georgia legislators stated clearly that it was the Ray Charles version that they were declaring the State Song.  Willie Nelson sang the song at Charles’ funeral in 2004.

In Charles’ later years, he contributed $3,000,000 to Albany State University.  He was the commencement speaker at the University in 2002 and was awarded an honorary Doctorate of Philosophy Degree.

Since we were there on the Flint, we walked down to the water's edge to take a pic of the old Broad Street Bridge, which has been almost totally demolished.  Construction on a new bridge will begin soon.

Since we were there on the Flint, we walked down to the water’s edge to take a pic of the old Broad Street Bridge, which has been almost totally demolished. Construction on a new bridge will begin soon.

Looking back toward Ray Charles Plaza from the banks of the river.

Looking back toward Ray Charles Plaza from the banks of the river.

As we climbed back in Ted’s truck one more time, we debated whether we were too tired to make our last planned stop.  But what the heck – it was right on our way home, so why not!

As long as I can remember there has been a Chehaw Wild Animal Park (no relation to Chehaw Village from yesterday’s blog except it’s named after the Chehaw Indians.

Do you remember Jim Fowler from Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom?  Well, he is also an Albany native, and Chehaw Park was originally laid out by the noted naturalist.  Although I never met Jim, both Ted and I worked for years in education with his brother, Big Bob Fowler.

Chehaw is a great place to spend the afternoon with kids and grandchildren, but what I enjoyed most about our afternoon there was photographing the animals.  My new camera’s BIG lens got quite a workout!

The alligators were enjoying the warm afternoon sun.

The alligators were enjoying the warm afternoon sun.

At first I thought this was a coyote, but it's a Red Wolf, and he was very interested in what we were going to do next.

At first I thought this was a coyote, but it’s a Red Wolf, and he seemed very interested in watching our every move.

A Black Rhinoceros, who refused to move . . . until we walked away.

A Black Rhinoceros, who refused to move . . . until we walked away.

The fastest runner in the animal kingdom - the Cheetah.  Not today though - this one was very sleepy.

The fastest runner in the animal kingdom – the Cheetah. Not that day though – this one was very sleepy.

The Colobus Monkeys were very solemn . . .

The Colobus Monkeys were very solemn . . .

. . . even though Ted and Ed gave it their best shot at loosening them up!

. . . even though Ted and Ed gave it their best shot at loosening them up!

The mighty Bison.

The mighty Bison.

These Servals looked almost like housecats, but I probably wouldn't want them as playmates for Maddie and Bear.

These Servals looked almost like housecats, but I probably wouldn’t want them as playmates for Maddie and Bear.

Several lazy kangeroos  . . .

Several lazy kangeroos . . .

. . . were sharing exhibit space with the haughty emus.

. . . were sharing exhibit space with the haughty emus.

My absolute favorites - the Meerkats . . .

My absolute favorites – the Meerkats . . .

, , , , where there is always one posted sentry (looks like a good idea too)!

, , , , where there is always one posted sentry (looks like a good idea too)!

I’m sure this was way more history than you wanted to absorb on a Friday evening, but I just couldn’t stop once I got going!

One personal note before I close this long road trip:  Ted took me to Chehaw Wild Animal Park on our second date back in 1988.  We spent a Saturday afternoon walking the paths, laughing at the animals, and, if memory serves, eating sno-cones.  Somewhere between the Emu and the Cheetah exhibits, I fell in love with Mr. Horton . . . . and the rest is history.  Hmmmm . . . maybe it was between the Bears and the Tortoises.

Thanks to good friends Sally and Ed Feagin for accepting our invitation to what turned out to be a marathon exploring day!

Thanks to good friends Sally and Ed Feagin for accepting our invitation to what turned out to be a marathon exploring day!

Resource for history on Radium Springs: exploresouthernhistory.com.

Cabin fever must be getting to Ted also.   We were drinking coffee the other morning, and out of the blue he said, “Let’s call Sally and Ed and see if they want to go to Albany today.”

Now Ted and I go to Albany all the time – for doctor/dentist/eye appointments, haircut/hair dye (me only on the hair dye), working/grooming Bear, to shop (groceries/clothes/books, etc).  In other words, we basically do everything in Albany except live there.  So I wasn’t really rushing to say, “OK!  Let’s go to Albany!”

But Ted had read something online about a memorial marker at a place called Chehaw Village and was curious to check it out.  Its location on New York Road, which we travel all the time, was really what got his attention – and mine too after he told me.  Neither of us had noticed any such memorial marker in all the years we’ve been going back and forth on that road – not unusual for me, but my history buff husband is another story.  “Let no historical marker go unread!” is one of his mottoes.

Sally and Ed said “yes” when Ted threw in a few more interesting stops + lunch – and by the middle of the morning, we were on our way.

Once in the car and on New York Road, we decided to stop at another spot we were all curious about – a rather large shrine-looking monument built a few years ago in the middle of a large cleared area off the highway.  We’d all passed it a million times, but had never stopped because there was a chain across the driveway to the monument.  This time we didn’t let something like a little chain stop us!

The We pulled up to the chain - fastened between two large pillars and got out.  I wanted to take a photo without the chain, so Ted removed it (just saying that in case we were trespassing and someone wants to know who took down the chain).  But really.  Why build something like that in the middle of nowhere if you don't want people to stop and see what it is!

We pulled up to the chain, which was fastened between two large pillars and got out. I wanted to take a photo without the chain, so Ted removed it (just saying that in case we were trespassing, and someone wants to know who took down the chain). But really. Why build something like that in the middle of nowhere if you don’t want people to stop and see what it is!

You have to admit it gets your attention!

You have to admit it gets your attention!

From the wall inscriptions inside, we learned Charles Crisp had built the monument to commemorate the integrity, honor and loyalty of the people of the South, who endured great hardships in their struggle during the war years 1861-1865, and after the war faced a harsh and bitter rReconstruction Period with dignity and fortitude.

From the wall inscriptions inside, we learned Charles Crisp had built the monument there on Grey Moss Plantation “to commemorate the integrity, honor and loyalty of the people of the South, who endured great hardships in their struggle during the war years 1861-1865, and after the war faced a harsh and bitter Reconstruction Period with dignity and fortitude.”

Curiosity satisfied on that site, we clambered back in the car and drove on.

We almost missed the Chehaw Village sign because it was tucked under beautiful trees filled with smoke-colored moss.  A broken-down chain-link fence surrounded the designated area.

Ted pulled the truck in through the open gate and parked.

Ted pulled the truck in through the open gate and parked.

The history of the site is extremely sad.  In March of 1818, a group of General Andrew Jackson’s weary soldiers had stopped in the Chehaw Indian village at this location while traveling from Tennessee to Florida. The local chief, known as “Major Howard” among the whites, fed and provisioned the men, and subsequently, many Chehaw warriors joined Jackson’s troops to help pursue the Seminole Indians.

A month later Captain Obed Wright of the Georgia militia, on learning of a skirmish between white settlers and two Creek tribes—the Hopaunees and the Philemmees—“immediately sent or went to the Governor and obtained orders” to destroy their towns. Instead of attacking the marauding Hopaunees and Philemmees, however, on April 23 Wright’s men attacked the Chehaw village that was in no way responsible for the reported violence against the settlers. There is no definitive account the massacre, but historians agree that Wright and his 230 militiamen burned the village and viciously murdered innocent men, women, and children.

When Andrew Jackson learned of the attack, he was both shocked and angered and viewed the incident as shamefully disloyal and extremely dangerous, with the potential to turn the friendly Chehaws, who were described as “at a loss to know the cause of this displeasure of the white People,” into enemies. Soon after he received the account of the massacre, Jackson wrote to William Rabun, the then governor of Georgia, calling Wright a “cowardly monster in human shape” and demanding that “Capt. Wright must be prosecuted and punished for this outrageous murder.” Secretary of State John Quincy Adams followed up with another letter to Governor Rabun, telling him that “The President of the United States has directed that Captain Obed Wright should be prosecuted for the murder of friendly Indians.

Wright was eventually arrested by one of Jackson’s agents but broke parole and escaped to Spanish Florida before he could be tried. Wright was never heard from again, and no one was ever held responsible for the massacre of the Chehaws.

The monument

The monument stands silent vigil over the land where the Chehaw village sat on that horrible day in 1818.  None of us could believe we’d never noticed this site before or knew of its history.

I’ll be back on Friday with Part II of this road trip, which will include a visit to Radium Springs, the Ray Charles memorial on the Flint River, and Chehaw Wild Animal Park.  Come on along!

Posted by: bree1972 | March 13, 2013

Ri’vah News 3/13/2013

WAITING ON SPRING

Except for the ri'vah, things are still pretty brown here in south Georgia.  But, as I walked around the yard this afternoon, I found plenty of signs that Spring is just around the corner.

Except for the ri’vah, things are still pretty brown here in south Georgia. But, as I walked around the yard this afternoon, I found plenty of signs that Spring is just around the corner.

A few of our azaleas are blooming . . .

A few of our azaleas are blooming . . .

. . . and we're hoping they'll still be around at Easter.

. . . and we’re hoping they’ll still be around at Easter.

Buds are everywhere!

Buds are everywhere . . .

. . . and the pine trees are filled with pollen pods.

. . . and the pine trees are filled with pollen pods.

Each of these little spires will explode soon into millions and millions of pollen particles that will coat every surface with yellow and wake up all our allergies.

Each of these little spires will explode soon into millions and millions of pollen particles that will coat every surface with yellow and wake up all our allergies.

I think I'll stay focused on the flowers!

I think I’ll stay focused on the flowers!

RECERTIFICATION

Every two years each of the Pet Partners teams must go through a series of tests to prove we are still qualified to do the work we do.  This past Sunday a group of us were scheduled for re-evaluations, and I spent the 45-minute ride into Albany talking to Bear about what he needed to do to pass all the tests.  What I should have been doing for a few days before that was studying what I needed to do to pass all the tests!

There are around 25 "stations" or "scenarios" we have to pass together.  We must each have all "1's" to be certified.  All "2's" mean we are certified as Complex, meaning we will be able to work in any environment, no matter how unstable.  We were certified as Complex two years ago, but this year things didn't go exactly as planned.

There are around 25 “stations” or “scenarios” we have to pass together. We must each have all “1’s” to be certified. All “2’s certifies us as Complex, meaning we are able to work in any environment, no matter how unstable. We were certified as Complex two years ago, but this year things didn’t go exactly as planned.

As the evaluator told me after the testing, it's much harder to get a perfect score when you're being re-evaluated than when you're first tested.  After two years of working with our dogs, we pretty much know how they are going to react to anything.  I know Bear is pretty much "bomb-proof" - nothing bothers him.  And because of that, when we played out the scenario of having three patients (one on a walker, and two shouting to each other and waving their arms around) approach us and all want to pet Bear at once, the evaluator gave me a "one" because she felt I should have been a step closer to my dog.  That was the only one either of us got, and it kept us from earning the complex rating.  I was crushed - not for me, but for Bear.  I knew how much the patients in Behavorial Health love him and how well he connects with them.

As the evaluator told me after the testing, it’s much harder to get a perfect score when you’re being re-evaluated than when you’re first tested. After two years of working with our dogs, we are fairly certain how they are going to react to anything. I know Bear is pretty much “bomb-proof” – nothing bothers him. And because of that, when we played out the scenario of having three patients (one on a walker, and two shouting to each other and waving their arms around) approach us and all want to pet Bear at once, the evaluator gave me a “one” because she felt I should have been a step closer to my dog. That was the only one either of us got, and it kept us from earning the complex rating. I was crushed – not for me, but for Bear. I know how much the patients in Behavorial Health love him and how well he connects with them.  Bear was perfect, but I had messed it up for him because I was overconfident of how he would react.

Normally, it would be another year before we could be re-evaluated, but because another evaluation had been scheduled for this weekend for those not able to make it last Sunday, I will get a chance to redeem myself.  Bear, I promise I will do my best this time.

Normally, it would be another year before we could be re-evaluated, but because another evaluation had been scheduled for this weekend for those not able to make it last Sunday, I will get a chance to redeem myself. Bear, I promise I will do my best this time.

A FEW SCENES FROM SUNDAY’S EVALUATIONS

Buster, waiting for his evaluation.

Buster, waiting for his evaluation.

Yes! We have cats!  This is Linda and her Eli, who she carries during visits.

Yes! We have cats! This is Linda and her Eli, who she carries during visits.

Little Sir Winston waits to be released from a "Stay" command.

Little Sir Winston waits to be released from a “Stay” command.

Gracie, waiting her turn.

Gracie, waiting her turn.

WHY WE DO WHAT WE DO

Bear spent last Friday in Albany at the groomers.  We then worked on Saturday, were evaluated on Sunday, and worked on Monday and Tuesday.  That was four trips to Albany and one to Leesburg – a little over 350 miles.  Even though we were tired at the end of each day, and even though I had to fight to keep a hot spot below his ear from spreading and had to be vigilant in watching that children’s and patients’ hands were directed away from that ear, we would not have given up one moment of the time we spent “working.”

A few of the beautiful children who attended "Reading to the Dogs" program at the Lee County Public Library on Saturday morning.  Each child (and/or Mom and Dad) would sit with us on a quilt on the floor and read to Bear, who I must say was very attentive!

A few of the beautiful children who attended “Reading to the Dogs” program at the Lee County Public Library on Saturday morning. Each child (and/or Mom and Dad) would sit with us on a quilt on the floor and read to Bear, who I must say was very interested and only went to sleep once!!

When I first joined Paws Patrol – the Albany chapter of the Pet Partners Program, I never would have dreamed how much fun and how much satisfaction I’d receive from sharing Bear with children, hospitalized patients, mentally and physically challenged folks of all ages, and the beautiful senior citizens we visit in nursing and assisted living facilities.

Our group recently walked into a lady’s room at the hospital, and she was sitting up cross-legged in her bed, literally rocking back and forth with excitement that the therapy dogs were there.  We’ve entered the front door at nursing homes and had wheelchair-bound seniors shout, “The dogs are here! The dogs are here!”

Yesterday I watched one elderly, grumpy man being wheeled down the hall at a nursing home, shouting “No!” to every question his harried nurse asked him.  She stopped a minute to admire the dogs, and Bear chose that moment to thrust his big head into the man’s lap, burrow in as close as he could without climbing into the chair with him, and literally nose his way under the man’s hands.  The man seemed shocked to find a furry, golden head in his lap, but it only took seconds before he was talking quietly to Bear, his gnarled fingers fingering through the soft hair and scratching behind Bear’s ears.  “I used to have a dog like this,” he said.  And Bear and I stayed a few extra moments with him while he reminisced.

Such small things . . . .

  • Having Buddy or Dewar (two of our smaller dogs) lifted into the hospital bed of patients unable to sit up.  Their little bodies scrunch up close, and patients are able to touch them and feel all that love coming to them right through the bed sheets. 
  • Having people’s minds changed about their entire attitudes toward dogs.  The nurse who takes us room to room at the hospital was terrified of dogs when she was first assigned to us, and we wondered, “How is this going to work?”  Now she is one of our biggest fans and looks forward to each visit.
  • Having patients waiting for treatment in Oncology become so focused on one of our dogs that, instead of dreading the next 30 minutes, they’ve spent the waiting time in a very happy place where nerves have been calmed, and blood pressure has lowered.

Each of the humans in our Pet Partners teams know how blessed we are to be a part of this program.  As for our dogs . . . they just know they get to put on a nifty vest, give unconditional love and – in return – receive long strokes along their spines, pats on their heads and sweet words whispered in their ears.  Can a dog ask for a better life than that?

___________________________________________________________________________

I’m taking my laptop in for some much-needed maintenance tomorrow and hoping nothing major is in the works.  I’ve been experiencing a few glitches in the past couple of weeks, so I’ve decided to be proactive instead of waiting for it to explode.  Hopefully, I’ll have it back by the weekend.

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