Thursday, November 27, 2008

Thanksgiving Begins With Veggie Tales

That's right. At 6:00 a.m. I woke up to go to the bathroom and found that the Veggie Tales song "A Thankful Heart" was going through my head. I love that song. I'll try to post the lyrics later. But when I went back to bed, I focused on the line that says ". . . that's why I give thanks every day."

I've been thinking for several days about sharing a list of things I am thankful for, and Amanda's list was truly inspirational to me. I do have one problem with lists: I'm afraid of leaving something important out! But I'm not promising an all-inclusive list, nor will it be in order of importance. Gotta start somewhere, so here goes.

I am thankful to God

  • for bringing me and Judy together, making one life from two, and the abundant blessings that have unfolded ever since.

  • for giving us two daughters who reflect the love and compassion of Christ in everything they do.

  • for giving Jennifer and Amanda godly husbands of the strongest character, who love them deeply (and who tolerate their in-laws).

  • for my loving parents and the Christian teaching and influence they had on me from my earliest memories.

  • for the long lives He has granted them, with sound memories and reasonably good health.

  • for bringing Mama through a seemingly near-death experience and restoring her health to the extent she can enjoy such things as reading her devotions, eating out, and celebrating at family times.

  • for providing Judy with a healthy liver to replace her bad one and for her renewed life ever since.

  • for the way our time in the hospital bound our family together more strongly than ever and increased our faith.

  • for the many Christians, both known and unknown to us, who lifted us and our many needs in prayer during those months in the hospital.

  • for my brother and sister being such faithful caregivers to my parents during the years I've been so far away.
  • for each special member of my extended family and what they mean to me.

  • that in spite of disliking so many things about school and having a dread of speaking in front of groups, He gently steered me to become a teacher anyway.

  • for giving me a "dream job" teaching for 33 years and letting me know exactly when it was time to do something different.

  • for the Christian friends I was privileged to work with at Sandhills Farm Life which made it a dream job.

  • for a fifth grader named Gwin inviting me to church in 1975 resulting in my meeting Judy that very night!

  • for preserving my life through two car wrecks and numerous minor accidents, any of which could have been major without his mercy.

  • for Jesus's constant love, guidance, and reassurance. I could on forever about this!

  • that Mama, Daddy, and I are having so much fun sharing reminiscences by telephone--and that their memories are still so vivid at ages 88 and 94.

  • for placing a love of music in my heart and the privilege of sharing it with so many people of all ages in so many different settings.
  • that every member of my family is a lover of BOOKS!

  • for miraculously stretching our funds over the years so that we were supplied far beyond our needs.
  • that the joy of yard sales and thrift shops combined adventure with savings.

  • for "the peace that passeth understanding," that has allowed me not to worry, but to accept.

  • for revealing the beautiful truths of the scriptures to me in a living, vibrant, and personal way.
  • for giving me a love of "micro-history"-- His hand in my family heritage-- and "macro-history"-- His hand in events across the ages. This enhances my personal sense of purpose as I see myself as one small part of God's all-encompassing master plan.

  • for giving me and my family a love for the outdoors and an appreciation for the simple things.

  • for making me interested in so many things!

  • for the idyllic childhood I had, growing up in a perfect '50's neighborhood, with plenty of boys, plenty of woods, and plenty to do.

  • for always having at least one car that would run-- now that was a test of faith!

  • for the blessing of grandchildren to come, as blessings multiply geometrically!

  • for my life-changing experiences at Camp Cherokee and at UNC-Chapel Hill.

  • for a rainbow of friends that are as close as sisters and brothers.

  • for Judy's family adopting me in Christian love and for their guidance over the years.

  • that Jack and Thelma gave me a chance even though I was from Atlanta, went to UNC, and was raised as a Methodist! : )
  • for the wonderful godly pastors I have had.

  • that Judy loves to cook as much as I love to eat.

  • that we enjoy quiet trails, winding streams, rippling waterfalls, and hilltop cabooses.

  • That my "to do" list as a retiree seems inexhaustible! That's GOOD!

Since I honestly could go on and on, I thank God that this list only scratches the surface--and I can look forward with great joy to future blessings not yet imagined!

Monday, November 24, 2008

I Was There With the Pilgrims

This post is one of the Thanksgiving stories I wrote with my children at school. Some notes are at the conclusion.
I was there with the Pilgrims: A Diary of Crossing the Atlantic

My name is Wendell. I was born and raised in Holland. But I am English, through and through. I know that sounds strange since I have never actually been to England. Tomorrow, September 6, I set out on the great adventure of my life. My father, mother, sister Felicity, brother Osbourne, and I head for the new world. My Dutch friend Petra, who is also 9, gave me this diary as a goodbye gift.

September 4.
Today I saw Petra for the last time this side of heaven. For I know in my heart I will never return. Father says to trust God to bring us safely to our new home, but many things can happen out at sea.

September 10.
After our ship, the Speedwell, began to leak, we lost much time returning. Some of my friends were fearful of going on with only one ship and stayed in England. I have still never set foot on English soil, but in a way, it is still my home. Do you understand?

September 23.
I feel safer on the Mayflower, but what if it should begin to leak? The shipmaster says we are many days from any land. I do not know how to swim.

October 7.
The storm is finally over. It was worse than my worst nightmare. I almost saw a man drown! My father helped draw him up out of the sea. I wondered if God had planned for that rope to be hanging overboard. It seemed like a miracle.

October 12.
I used to always love the sea when we were in Holland. But now I am sick of it. It is the only thing I can see, hear, or smell in any direction. I can even taste it in the air.

October 21.
Mother told me one of the women had a baby last night. It seems strange that the baby has never set foot on either Holland, England, or America. Its feet will first touch the wooden planks of the Mayflower.

October 25.
Father says another miracle has happened. No one knows why a giant iron jack was even on the ship, but without it, the main beam supporting the deck would have collapsed, causing the Mayflower to sink. I wonder if God knew the beam would crack. Does He know what will happen next? I wish I knew.

November 1.
Today is All Saints Day. Mother read to us from the Bible about Jonah being swallowed by a great fish, and how he was saved. She said this should give us faith that God would bring us across the sea safely because He has a great work for us in America. I don’t know how she found this out, but my heart tells me it is true. God has already brought us through danger as great as Jonah’s.

November 11.
I began to believe I would never see land again. But I was wrong. The crew dropped our anchor near a place called Cape Cod, and it is so beautiful. We had planned to settle near the Jamestown colony that was begun 14 years ago, but the winter ocean currents brought us to this area the Indians call Massachusetts. We cannot move to the land until houses are built, and that will be almost Christmas. So the Mayflower will have to be home for a while longer. But I was allowed to row with my father and other men to the shore, and my feet have touched the sandy soil of my new home—America. And now my heart tells me that nothing will ever be the same again.
Many events in this story are based on actual occurrences referred to in Governor William Bradford's journal. As a school writing activity, I found the style of a journal to be very useful. It combines both fact and imagination in first person narrative. It focuses on sequence, topic sentences, and supporting details. More than anything else, it personalized history for the students. Let me know if you want more of my stories on-line.

Even Though It's Monday . . .

I'm getting used to liking Mondays now that I've been retired a while. Not having lesson plans to prepare and being able to sleep in can sure help you get a different perspective. So I thought I'd do a Top Ten list of some of Monday's highlights.

Ten. I sharpened and cleaned my chainsaw and began cutting a road to the wood that will be next winter's firewood supply. Give me a Tim the Toolman ungh,ungh!

Nine. I went for a cholesterol check and was done in 5 minutes. My numbers are sure to be better than last time after a summer of healthier eating. I hope so, so I can keep eating butter-- especially Judy's sage butter!

Eight. UNC Tar Heels play their first game in the Maui Classic basketball tournament tonight at 10. IF I can stay awake!

Seven. I'm only a couple of chapters from finishing my current book, The Bourne Supremacy. Maybe I can start a new one right around Thanksgiving.

Six. I got another call about buying a copy of my book. That's five in the last two weeks. Looks I'll be reprinting sooner than I thought!

Five. I found a 400+ page on-line Google book called Pioneer Citizens of Atlanta. Although it doesn't tell much about my ancestors specifically, it describes virtually every building and business that was on Loyd Street. I'll be blogging about this after Thanksgiving. In the meantime, Mama and Daddy and I are having big phone conversations about old times every night!

Four. I located some of my Thanksgiving stories I wrote with my students, which means I may be posting one of them tomorrow or Wednesday.

Three. I recorded six hours of old Twilight Zone episodes on SciFi today (thinking of you, Norwood).

Two. The old Toyota cranked successfully, which means the silicon I sprayed in the ignition last week must have eliminated some moisture. I won't need a new starter! Whee! Plus, I can drive it to Eastwood for inspection in December.


The ONE thing that gave me the whole idea for the list is that AMANDA found out today that Baby Talbert will be a G-I-R-L. I would have been fine either way, but it's an exciting step closer. If you know Amanda and Stephen please visit her blog by clicking HERE. You will be treated to the most wonderful ultrasound photos! Baby Talbert is actually giving a "thumbs up." I think Amanda correctly surmises that this child will hibernate during the cold winter and make her first appearance some ten weeks after Ground Hog Day.

I bet you'll agree, the first nine things in my list pale in comparison to Numero Uno. Judy and I are SO happy for Amanda and Stephen! And Baby Talbert is oh, so lucky!

Friday, November 21, 2008

A New Experience~Pre-School Singalong

Friday, I was a guest at Watch Me Grow Pre-School Academy, my next door neighbors. My good friend Mary Ann, who used to teach with me, invited me to do a musical celebration with the 2, 3, and 4 year olds. What a wonderful experience it was!

These kids were terrific participants, enthusiastically singing, dancing, and performing lively motions to songs like She'll Be Coming Round the Mountain, Shake My Sillies Out, Alley Cat, B-I-N-G-O, Old McDonald, and the Mexican Hat Dance. When we started, the children might have thought I'd have them sitting still the whole time. But they found out!

Everybody loves Chipper, my monkey pal. He was just in from Hawaii and was surprised to find it snowing in parts of North Carolina.

It's the Baby Elephant Walk! See a few "trunks"?
Freeze Dancing is everybody's favorite. These pre-schoolers were great direction followers. So was Miss Mary Ann.

All aboard for the Chattanooga Choo-choo!

Here we reclined in our imaginary boats for a peaceful drift down the Beautiful Blue Danube.

I pulled out my harmonica for Red River Valley, On Top of Old Smoky, and Polly Wolly Doodle as we became pioneers gathered around our campfire after a long day on the trail.

My rainstick was very popular and everyone got to try it out.

Boom, boom, ain't it great to be crazy?! Yes. Being crazy gives you permission to have more fun than other people.

One fun song which I had never done at school was Hey Lolly Lolly. You insert people's names and make up your own verses. Such as:
Hey lolly, lolly, lolly, Hey lolly, lolly Lord.
Hey lolly, lolly, lolly, Hey lolly, lolly Lord.
I've got a friend called Mary Ann,
Hey lolly, lolly Lord,
If she can't do it, no one can!
Hey lolly, lolly Lord.
Other verses featured Sabrina (gonna be a ballerina), Drew (you should see him boogaloo), and Ryder (he can capture any spider). What big smiles I saw. Children love to hear their name!
(If you'd like to know the tune, give me a call and try this in your own school class, Sunday School class, or even youth group).

Just like at school, I ended with John Denver's Friends With You. Everybody found a friend to hug.

Friends, I will remember you,

Think of you, pray for you;

And when another day is through,

I'll still be friends with you.

I'm delighted to say I made about 30 new friends today.

And all my new friends gave me a GREAT BIG GROUP HUG!

I couldn't stay for the Thanksgiving Feast so these nice ladies fixed me a to-go plate! It'll be Saturday's pre-game for State-Carolina at noon!
Like the sign says, children are welcome. But I'm glad they'll occasionally let big people in on the fun! I hope to do more of this kind of thing in the future!

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Thanksgiving II

Today it's time for a humorous look at Thanksgiving, based on my old school "quotations" activity. Here goes:

As the pilgrim lifted his knife to carve the turkey he said,
  • "Think happy thoughts, Tom."

  • "I'm sorry our friendship has to end like this."

  • "I know what'd be cool. I'll carve it in the shape of Governor Bradford's face."

  • "Well, it ain't honey-baked ham, but it'll have to do."

  • "I just can't do it! Well . . . yes, I can.

When the pilgrim got off the Mayflower he sighed,

  • "Doggone it, I forgot to bring my tennis racket."

  • "Boy I'm beat. Must be jet lag."

  • "If I'd just saved my money I could've come over first class on the Titanic."

The Indian (Native American) stepped up to the pilgrim and said,

  • "Hmm . . . you folks have reservations? Ha, ha, I don't think so. Us Injuns got reservations!"

  • "Chief Massasoit send me to buy 25 of them funny hats for big picnic Thursday."

  • "Chief Massasoit sends greeting to white men. Also, him want to know if you join us for big poker game Friday."

  • "You want two tickets to Braves game, cheap?"

  • "Say, you from England, right? You know my cousin Bernie?"

The turkey watched the Pilgrims start a fire and said,

  • "Now why do they need to do that? It feels perfectly comfortable in here to me."

  • "Hmm . . . let's see . . .smoke, fire, big pot, carving knife . . . let me outta here!"

  • "I sure hope they follow those Indians's advice and try boiled dog!"

  • "Hmm . . . must be making bean soup for Thanksgiving."

  • "Hey, man, didn't your third grade teacher say never to play with matches?!"

The pilgrim children crept up on the turkey and whispered

  • "If we're able to catch him, maybe we're good enough to be on 'Survivor'."

  • "Wow, he looks like a 30 pounder. Better use three sticks of dynamite."

  • "No kidding, we can teach him to roll over, play dead, fetch sticks, and bring in the paper."
  • "Now remember, we're not really gonna cook him, just give him a good scare. Get your water pistols ready."
  • "It's for his own good. We've got to kidnap him and hide him somewhere till Turkey Day is over!"
  • HAPPY THANKSGIVING! Seven more days, but only FOUR school days!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Thanksgiving I

This isn't like Halloween I, the movie, but there will be a sequel. I thought I'd better get in some of my Thanksgiving thoughts before folks start traveling for the holidays.

Something that has been on my heart for several years now is that society has secularized Thanksgiving just as much as Christmas. But Thanksgiving is not a big moneymaker for retailers, so food is the main thing advertised, not toys and gifts. Retail stores haven't taken God out of Thanksgiving and neither has the government. It's any of us who casually speak of how thankful we are for a whole host of things, but fail to specify that we are thankful to God. It's an easy mentality to fall into, similar to crediting the rain to Mother Nature.

A year or two ago, a columnist in The Pilot wrote an article titled something like "Who are you thankful to?" It reminded me again not to be guilty of thanking good luck, lucky stars, or just saying the generic "I'm thankful."
I'm thankful to God, and I couldn't even begin to list all the many reasons here. Of course, I'm thankful for friends and family and what they mean to me, but Thanksgiving Day has a way of getting me to look at the big picture: how every moment of my life has been lovingly guarded and guided (yet not controlled) by my heavenly Father.

I often think of actor Jimmy Stewart in the Civil War movie Shenandoah. When blessing his family's meal he says something to the effect of: "Lord, we thank you for all this food and for our home. You know we raised every bit of it on our own and did all the work ourselves. . ."

I guess any of us lucky enough to still have jobs (or retirement income) feel like we pay for everything ourselves and that we earned all the accumulated material wealth that is ours. But it's a dangerous fallacy to think we've accomplished anything on our own. Just a little reflection might lead us to credit God, giver of all good things. Most of us can look back to a time we had less, our health was not so good, or times were even more uncertain. I hope that even with today's uncertainties, you can honestly say you are thankful to God. . . for whatever!

Look at the Pilgrims for an example. Arriving in a hostile New England winter because of delays, they were cutting wood on Christmas Day, 1620. Shortly afterward, adults began to fall sick, probably from the poor hygiene and nutrition on the Mayflower. There were days that only 2 or 3 adults were healthy enough to continue laboring on their shelters. The ship became more like a hospital ship. By spring, more than half of their original number had died, predominantly adults. The survivors could have returned to England, but persevered in their faith.

I learned just this week that 14 years earlier in 1606, another group of English settlers had attempted to start a colony for the Plymouth Company, near the Kennebec River in Maine. They returned to England in less than a year, finding the hardships too great to bear. And most of us have never heard of them.

But Governor William Bradford of the Pilgrims documented everything we know about the Pilgrims, the hardships they endured and the faith in God that brought them through it to a time of plenty in their second year.
Governor Bradford had words for us, even though not all of us are of English descent.

May not and ought not the children of these fathers say, "Our
fathers were Englishmen which came over this great ocean and were ready to perish in the wilderness but they cried unto the Lord and He heard their voice and looked on their adversity." Let them therefore praise the Lord.

Governor William Bradford

He's talking about US! Have a Happy Thanksgiving and think of all we have to thank the Lord for!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

American Education Week

It wasn't until I read Dr. Susan Purser's timely column in Sunday's Pilot that I realized this week is American Education Week. Her column is well worth reading . Of many points she made, I believe the most insightful is that "our teachers have made us what we are." That doesn't necessarily mean that we adopted the viewpoints, attitudes, worldviews, or politics (as a recent study confirmed) of those teachers. I have long felt that my philosophy as a teacher was influenced as much by my poor teachers as by those who excelled. I didn't realize this until I had been in the classroom a while, but I began to make many educational decisions by replaying remembered scenarios from elementary school, high school, and college. As I focused on putting myself back in the role of student, it was greatly helpful in eliminating ineffective or counter-productive practices. This was true in academics, discipline, and teacher-student rapport. Many things I had once endured became things I avoided putting my own students through. Not just to make their road easier--that's not the point. It was to give education a chance to be alive and nurturing, constructive and meaningful.

Rather than focus on the negative practices, I thought I'd list just a few teachers who did special things that endeared them to me and others.
  • Mrs. Allison Smith, my 3rd grade teacher, demonstrated the love and patience of a grandmother. It was the first year I didn't hate and dread going to school. Maybe that's why 3rd grade was always my favorite.

  • Mrs. Joan Borden complimented my singing even though she was just trying to goad the other boys into singing out. I knew I didn't have a very good voice, but it instilled in me the sense that everyone should have the right to participate, and enthusiasm counts.

  • My 6th grade math teacher, Mrs. Walker, was the first teacher who took an occasional day to do brainteasers instead of lessons from the book. I am delighted that this type of problem-solving and logic problems, which I call AHAs! has become an integral part of the curriculum. It's fun and it's real.

  • Mrs. Brengleman, my 6th grade language arts teacher, also played the piano for singalongs. I loved those days, especially the old songs. I was delighted that she let us sing "My Last Cigar." A lot of teachers would enjoy teaching more now if they could relax and be themselves, but there are many obstacles, unfortunately. I suppose this is why I was okay with teaching my classes "Great Green Globs of Greasy, Grimy Gopher Guts."
  • Mr. English, my 7th grade Geography teacher, scores twice. First, because he didn't think 7th graders were too big to be read to after lunch. He read Sterling North's Rascal to us, a book I could easily have read to myself, but probably wouldn't have. That was a time I looked forward to each day. And in my 33 years, I can't remember one day I didn't read aloud to my students. Teachers, don't ever think you don't have time for this! Research is on your side. Your students will be more relaxed and receptive when it's time to go back to work.

  • Mr. English also was beloved by all for playing softball, football, and basketball with us. That wasn't the only reason I played with my classes (I loved it!) but it made a lasting impression on me.

I realize I haven't even gotten to my high school teachers, but you get the point. If you are a teacher, student, or parent (or gonna be a parent!), take a little time to reflect on what your own educational experience has meant to you and what you believe today's youth are needing. I may be retired, but I'm spending a lot of time thinking about this!

Monday, November 17, 2008

Sorry I couldn't blog-- I had to go to The Varsity!

Well, the title doesn't tell the whole story, but The Varsity is part of it. For those of you who regularly check my blog, I apologize for not blogging since Veterans Day. I actually departed for Atlanta that morning and spent a wonderful few days with Mama, Daddy, and my brother Buddy.

It was the first Veterans Day in many years I've actually been with my favorite veteran (Daddy), and we celebrated by eating at The Varsity the first evening. Their burgers, chili dogs, chili cheese steaks, fries, and onion rings are to die for! Back at home, I hooked my camera up to Mama and Daddy's TV and shared pictures from all of my and Judy's recent travels. I took my keyboard along and set it up in their living room for frequent musical interludes during my stay. Rain had been in the forecast, but actually held off until Friday, when I was returning to North Carolina.
The Varsity-- World's largest drive-in restaurant
Wednesday morning I got right on to some little chores Daddy had saved for me. I repaired a lamp switch, put new washers in a hose and moved it around back, picked up and piled fallen limbs, and blew leaves off the roof. The way leaves were falling down there, Daddy had blown off the driveway three times on Tuesday before I even arrived! There are still a lot more leaves to come. Wednesday afternoon we had a great meal at the Old Hickory House. We had enough daylight left to drive around in the vicinity of the old Loyd homeplace. We're trying to uncover some information that I'll discuss in a future blog. We had a lot of chat time that evening and family history got much of the attention.
Thursday, after a Chick fil-a breakfast, Buddy took me to the DeKalb County courthouse in Decatur where I investigated old wills and documents related to the Loyds and our relatives. I came up with a few interesting tidbits, a few dead ends, and enough new leads to whet my appetite for another visit there.
This is the old courthouse. My research was in the new one.
Our special dinner Thursday evening was at The Colonnade and it was exceptional, right down to the Key Lime ice cream pie! I loaded up that night so I could leave right after breakfast. Daddy shared one of the kitchen sink muffins Judy had sent him. I got out of Atlanta before heavy rains caught up with me and made it home before dark. Even since I've been back home, Daddy has come up with some things for me to investigate, so expect one or more genealogy posts soon.

P.S. Did you notice 3 of my 4 pictures pertained to food?

Festival of Christmas Trees

If you're not in the Christmas spirit yet, and bemoan the fact that all the stores are brimming with Christmas items before we've had our first bite of Thanksgiving turkey, I understand completely. However, I'd like to put in a good word for our Sandhills Children's Center located in Southern Pines. The center does immeasurable good for numerous children in our area, particularly many with special needs.

This past week the Carolina Hotel hosted the annual Festival of Trees, the primary fundraiser for the Children's Center, and I had the privilege of providing some holiday music Saturday evening. Below is a miniature virtual tour of some of the more than 200 elaborately decorated trees and other exhibits which were auctioned off.

No, I was not auctioned off. But I wanted to include this picture somewhere.
Nativity Scene Theme

Holiday Food Theme

Santa and Elf

Pirates of the Caribbean Theme (I love pirates, you know)

Toy Train Theme (very dear to my heart)

Literature Theme (Note: all books were signed by author)

St. Patrick's Day and Halloween Themes (at Christmas?)

UNC Tar Heel Theme

Children's Toy Theme

Christmas Village

This long shot doesn't begin to portray the vastness of the displays.

So Saturday night got me in the Christmas spirit a little bit earlier than usual. But if the trappings of Christmas seem to wear us down all too soon, we should simply set those things aside and remember the reason for the season!

I'm sure I'll repeat this many times in the days ahead, but. . . ahem. . .

Monday, November 10, 2008

Icons of Patriot's Corner

The Loyd yard is ready for Veterans Day.

Tomorrow is Veterans Day, 2008, and I'll get to spend it with my favorite veteran for the first time in 33 years--my Dad. Daddy was a flight chief in the 358th Fighter Group of the 365th Fighter Squadron. He was in England for D-Day, crossed the channel and followed Patton's army through France and into Germany. He knew the heart-stopping drama of the Battle of the Bulge, and the jubilation of VE Day (Victory in Europe). I'm so glad I recorded his war story several years ago, but he always has little tidbits that I haven't heard before. I also picked up more stories from the three reunions of his famed "Orange Tail" P-47 outfit.

When I was teaching, I developed a Patriot's Corner that featured icons of the Orange Tails. With my emphasis on patriotism and American history, this was a way to bring the stories a little closer to reality for my students. I received many favorable comments from parents and other visitors to my classroom. Now that I'm retired, I've designated a shelf in Jennifer and Amanda's old room as my new Patriot's Corner. Here are some icons from my collection.
One of my American Flags collection: "Don't Tread on Me."

An Orange Tails reunion photo, flight bag, and the American flag that flew over the state capitol, given to me at retirement.

Patriot's Corner

P-47 Thunderbolt with the "razorback" canopy.

One of my P-47 T-shirts and Orange Tails cap.

Tar Heel Hal was one of the most famous of all P-47s in WWII. The "bubble canopy" was an improvement. There's my souvenir mug, too.

Hope you have a great Veterans Day. We all have someone special in uniform that needs our prayers. Let's honor those on active duty even as we think of those who served in days gone by.